A Lockdown Story

Here is a lockdown story. In July 2020, when the lockdown was slowly being lifted until 8:00 p.m. the husband and I ventured out in the car to shop around for a new bicycle for the son. It was an uneasy feeling. There was police force all around and people were roaming without masks in the suffocating summer sizzle, congregating around juice counters, and paan shops.

It was already 7:45 p.m. and the fear in the air was comingling with the viral threat. Police personnel on motor bikes were ordering roadside hawkers to shut shop before the 8:00 p.m. curfew. There was this tired looking man carrying some plants on a rickety bike. I could hardly see what plants he had. I noticed a curry leaves plant that I wanted, even though I had already ordered one from NurseryLive.com.

I hadn’t got out of the car until then, considering that I fall in the comorbidity category but something clicked and I went and bought this plant from that person. I asked him to keep it in the car trunk. He handed me some change and I was so afraid. While I fumbled for my sanitizer bottle, a policeman was hitting his lathi on the poor man’s bicycle. He quickly scuttled away.

It was dark. I hadn’t checked the plant quality. I wasn’t bothered. I just wondered how these daily wagers and people without regular income were making ends meet. For around 10 days, I watched the curry leaves plant settle in it’s new home, while I also kept a watch for Covid symptoms.

In September 2020, our State opened on weekends; until then we had weekend lockdowns starting Friday, 9:00 p.m. When the lockdown was finally lifted, there were no feelings – what to do with the opening up, where to go? But if we don’t go out, poor people like that plant seller, for whom hunger was a bigger fear than the police, than Corona, will continue to suffer.

We are a developing country. Though we also have some of the richest businesses in the world, a majority of our population struggles to make ends meet. These poor people are the ones with the biggest hearts. That evening, that plant seller on a bicycle gave me a healthy curry leaves plant for just Rs 60/-. Today, it flourishes and provides, and may it do so for a long time.

The 13th Wedding Anniversary

Us!

Today, my husband and I completed 13 years of wedded life. The world changed drastically within a quarter of our last anniversary. We didn’t know it would. That is how sneaky change can be and this one had the power to remold lives, to test relationships, and to create upheavals in all households. It was a true test for a lot of things – how workable your family relationships are, how supportive your workplace is, how good your immunity is, how patient and perseverant you are, and how your children can behave in the face of adversaries.

Inspiration: TinyBuddha

I am proud to share that our relationship has emerged stronger and better in the past 8 months of a global pandemic as we navigated the uncertainties, until we realized this was the new normal. From developing a brand new routine and sharing the housework, to marking our own little work nooks while figuring out online education novelty for our 10 year old, to refraining from snapping and hollering at each other and giving space even when our world was confined, to sharing the common goal of keeping the spirits flying high, our weld-lock is the cliched Fevical ka mazboot jorh.

To 13 years and more, and to the year of the pandemic that we will reminisce when we are gray and old and be glad that we didn’t get to each other’s throat in 2020. We passed the unique test of the year.

How did we celebrate? This anniversary was on a weekend and in any other year we would be celebrating by eating out, may be travelling, or meeting friends but we had to keep it low not only because of the pandemic but also because I have an allergic cold, courtesy the smog and the sudden dip in temperature.

The 13th Wedding Anniversary – Homemade Piping Hot Breakfast

The morning started the way it usually does in our household with me concocting a breakfast, literally, magically out of nowhere. So, here is what my foggy mind laid out as an impromptu breakfast – My signature orange chutney (sweet), cooked tomato chutney (my own recipe), kala channa-aloo gravy, and bedmi puri.

The 13th Wedding Anniversary – Barbeque Nation Lunch Buffet Spread at Home

Lunch, we supported a local restautarant by ordering a Buffet in a Box – the entire vegetarian buffet and non-vegetarian starters from Barbeque Nation. We spread it out and called it fit for a king and queen.

The husband says this is the anni-virus-ary that we will remember for years to come!

The Lure of Power

Globally, the lure of power is something I can never understand. Men of ripe age wanting authority over a divided people, in a raging pandemic, faltering economy, and destroyed environment. There must be something about power and the privileges that makes one want to embrace the worst possible stress and constant criticism and scrutiny, every single moment of their remaining life. Is power an addiction or is it just a way of life? Why is it so difficult to hand over the baton to another, with grace, dignity, and sharing of experience?

The desire to control people and land has been an age-old one, as ancient as the stars that make us up. There is always this one person dominating the family, the tribe, the clan, defining religion, molding the laws, having the final say in disputes, and eventually leading the men to war and conquest. All good till it lasts, till it serves the people but the desire to cling on to power only grows. Unsatiated, it invests on itself the Divine right. God has the power, so has man. Power is indestructible, so is the man wielding it?

Over the years, philosophies tried to evolve and keep power holders and religion or religious influences separate from each other. But we are still in a world where religion continues to influence politics, and so do so many other divisive factors. Does the power of “Power” lie in keeping people divided?

If you ask me, the real power is in leadership that embraces planning, guiding, listening, braving it out for the weaker, and taking everyone along. How difficult that can be? It can be if power gets into your head and makes you a megalomaniac. I was reading the other day that the more inferior a person feels, the stronger the desire for unbridled control.

A friend mentioned that she has noticed people craving more control as they grow older. Do they believe that power is the privilege of age? Who knows what goes in the minds of people who can only think in terms of subjugation of others and privilege for the self. One can only debate the adage that money cannot make one happy is true. Even with all the money in the world, the desire for controlling the souls and lives of people seems to give the highest rush.

As a down-to-earth person, with limited ambitions, but a compassionate view of life, which I seek to nourish, I find the power-race in our world disturbing, confusing, and absolutely incomprehensible. I think the corridors of power can be crowded and noisy with fans, followers, advisors, sycophants, but the real challenge is in deciphering whether you are lonely at the pinnacle. Every person at the peak of power need not take the lonely high seat. It takes just a step down to be a part of the people and lead the soul of the community, be the power of the people. Maybe this is Utopia and for all that we know Utopia is also not perfect!

The Walk of Life

This lush photograph was taken by me in April 2019 during a walk in front of the Hyatt House in Parsippany, New Jersey. It is a reminder of how things have changed in the past one year. The office I was visiting in that locality has closed it’s physical presence.

Had it not been for the pandemic, I could have revisited this beautiful location in April 2020. The plan, the trip, did not materialize as meetings embraced a digital avatar. Looking back, this photograph and the words are a reminder to take that walk, enjoy that beauty, have gratitude for the good things, and most importantly capture the moments.

Why Blog Again?

More than a decade back I started a blog and also a novella. Both got lost in the haze and the maze of Life, as it happened. Social media also was a culprit as it usurped my blog.

I still write but it is almost all on Facebook. I tried my hand at Instagram but it was not my cup of tea. Twitter poetry was my refuge for some time but the basic problem with any form of social media creativity is that it becomes stale. Content is driven out of the queue and out of the mind, with the next work of art, the next influx of thoughts. Words are precious, as precious as the thoughts and memories that make them up.

Over the years my writings are many but all over the place. The question is – do we want the stats, the instant gratification, or do we want to write – for the self, for posterity. The answer as the say, is loud and clear, blowing in the wind.

This year, when my 10-year old son asked me about blogging, I encouraged him to start his own. It was a starting point, almost like a message from the Universe. While helping him set up and write, I recalled my own days of dedicated blogging. The followers were few, but the thoughts were neatly chronicled.

So, I have decided to blog again, in a new blog space and will collate most of my previous works, specially poems and stories in the brand new – https://bluepenstrokes.com. There will be newer writing, too, bold, beautiful, and a hopefully better tribute to the creatively absurd mind.

And the novella – I am hoping to revive it. Watch this blog to see how the draft evolves and read excerpts.

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