A showgirl sans audience

Locked in all alone in my apartment, no one’s coming, no one’s watching me, I can do pretty much as I please. I can don my finest clothes and walk around, or I can choose to wear nothing. I can be on bed the whole day and laze around. I can read or watch TV through the night and get up at noon. I can sing, I can dance, I can scream (as long it doesn’t reach my neighbours), I can be a mess, or I can be perfect. Who cares? No one’s here to judge and comment on my choices. What freedom!

A regular day at work before COVID

Yes, that was my initial feeling of glee (in these gloomy times) when the lockdown was first announced. But alas, it was short-lived. I blamed it first at having to work from home. “If I didn’t have to open the laptop at 9:30 every morning life would be so much better,” I grumbled to myself. Then I realized my weekends were no better. So obsessed I was with cleaning every nook and corner of my apartment, cooking a perfect meal that I managed to have lunch only at 4 on weekends. After that, I would be too exhausted to do anything, usually not in such a great mood.

Lockdown, which in some ways has been a break for many, has been utterly exhausting for me. I go to bed planning the next day’s chores “I have to be up by 7 and clean the balconies, chop the veggies and then close a proposal before the 10 a.m. call,” I would mutter to myself at night like a prayer. I would jump up in the morning and chide myself for waking up late for there’s so much to do. I pushed myself almost to the brink – the house had to be perfect, meals cooked, all the tasks done well ahead of time. I even dress up every morning for office (my living room now) or a call, that’s something I actually enjoy.

Many moods: work from home

In the evening when I would finally relax with a cup of coffee, I would look around me with some pride and satisfaction. I would look at myself in the mirror and smile. But then, the feeling of being let down and being under-appreciated would come gushing back. My friends who sometimes are not able to call me every day, my colleagues and acquaintances who don’t seem to appreciate me adequately would be frowned upon. For, strangely enough, I would feel like a martyr. “I am doing so much from morning till night (all for myself, on my own accord), and no one cares.”

Many moods: work from home

But why should anyone care? Why should I care whether anybody cares about what I do within my four walls? But unfortunately, I do. I guess we all do, whether we like to admit it or not. We have a bit of a narcissist strain running in us, we are all bit of show-offs. We love to be acknowledged, we love to be appreciated, we love all the attention we get. My life is my show, my performance and I am the protagonist or the showgirl. Not having an audience for our show has perhaps been one dilemma for people like me, who are locked in alone. Though I was a little ashamed when the realization first dawned on me, it’s not such a bad thing, I guess. My urge to show myself off is something that is driving me along as I wait eagerly to catch up with my friends and family once this is over.

Now that I have accepted the fact that there’s a showgirl in me who’s missing not having an audience around, I am much more at peace with myself, I am much happier. I have stopped blaming others for not being there, I stopped being hard on myself. The showgirl does as she pleases, she smiles at herself often, she ponders, she relaxes. And most of all, she takes good care of herself, for when she steps out again, she would like to put her best foot forward!

The Eternal Traveller

I am a traveller. I travel forward and backwards, to the future and the past, while I try to grapple the present. Yes, I live in the present too, very much so, embracing it, trying to make sense of it at times. From my present, I take nostalgic trips to my past, for my past made my present. My present wanders into the future, at times dreamily, at times with trepidations, for one day the present will melt into the future. And what will that future be? What will that future hold?

The eternal traveller in me, living in the present, is sometimes torn between the past and the future. Don’t get me wrong, I am as excited about the future as anyone else, a future where technology has merged all boundaries, a future that promises trips to the outer space. Exhilarated times we live in that is marching forward so fast, with the so much conviction. Looking ahead with my head held high, as I stride into the glorious possibilities, my past somehow slipped away. The journeys to the days gone by became rarer and rarer, a distant memory that seemed to have been lived by another me, a different me!

Probably, in all of us, there’s an eternal traveller like me. A traveller who has been so blinded by the prospects that the future may hold, that the limitations were completely forgotten and overlooked. The cost that we have been paying seemed but a small price as we willingly, happily let our present melt into the future, away from the past. So engrossed were we with the marvels of AI that we forgot the charm of a good conversation. The virtual world seemed so enticing that we took the real world for granted.

Most of all, we forgot those songs that we sang under the mango tree, as we swayed on a makeshift swing made out an old tyre, on her enduring branches.  We forgot the Bakul tree with her fragrant flowers next to the gate that was mercilessly chopped to make room for the new house. We moved away from nature, cleared forests and endangered the wild, our factories pollute the air with harmful gases. For we want fancy cars, hi-tech phones and flashy clothes more than clean air to breathe in. Our concrete jungle feels safer than the cool shadow of the forest. We arrogantly believed that the world has been created just for us and we could do what we please, kill and chop, make and break to clear the way for our march to the future.

Of course, we talked about climate change. So much money has been spent on those climate change conferences, world leaders deliberated upon the grave issue but did little. Nature hit back in her fury to put the puny humans in their place. There were tsunamis, forests fires, volcanos and earthquakes that killed many, damaged and ravaged our properties, our land. Yet, we refused to learn.

Then came a tiny virus that brought our lives to a standstill. The march to the future came to a sudden halt. We were kept locked up in our homes like wild animals we keep in the zoo. There’s uncertainty and confusion all around as we try to figure ways to counter this virus. Of course, technology has come to our aid. Social media and the virtual world have us helped stay connected in these unusual times. Limitations of the technology also glare at us now, as we long for the human touch.

As we stay locked in, nature has heals. The air is clean, the grass is green, the sky is blue and the rivers flow merrily into the sea. When I look up at the starlit sky at night, I remember the girl sitting on her terrace trying to catch the falling stars.

All it took was for a virus to endanger humans, for the world and all the other life forms in it to flourish!

As we halt, with nowhere to go, it’s time for us to ponder, to look back, to introspect, learn lessons from our past before we rush ahead. Will this virus change us for good? Will we finally learn to care for our planet and nurture the environment in which we thrive? Only time will tell.