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Quarantine. What a strange word. I don’t think when Conan Doyle wrote The Poison Belt, in the early 1900’s, he ever imagined that the world would descend into a similar situation some 100 odd years into the future.
In The Poison Belt, the gruff Professor Challenger, predicts that the earth while on it’s path will enter into a belt of ether which will render the atmosphere poisonous, thereby asphyxiating every living creature on the planet. He calls his colleagues and brothers in arms into his house, stocks himself with supplies of oxygen, and starts his long and arduous wait till the air cleanses itself.
A pandemic as we see today is not exactly like a toxic pollutant present in the air, however the vigil and the general lockdown seems to be uncannily identical. Like the clever professor, we are also stocking ourselves up and waiting this out, in anticipation that, one day, maybe couple of weeks/months down the line, we will emerge from our homes, to see the world around us changed.
Did you know what a pandemic was, till it stood at your doorstep? I confess, very vaguely. Yes, I googled the term, read articles, did my research and became aware of the fact that this was being referred to as an anomaly – A Black Swan event (something I am still two minds about). I would assume this is the case with most of us. We had no idea what this year would entail when we started off barely 3 months back. And here we are! But the why’s and the when’s apart, what changed as a direct consequence to this, or is even changing as I write, is human life or the quality of it.
Today morning, like the last 10 days, I woke up to an oddly clear blue sky. It is odd because, in my city, a clear blue sky is lost phenomenon. Till about a couple of months back we were easing into a rhythm of going out of our homes wearing N95 masks. The air pollution was peaking post the festivities and the AQI indexes were off the charts. We are surely not unfamiliar with apocalyptic doomsday predictions here. Cautious parents had started to worry about their progeny’s lung capacity and germophobes like me, had started hoarding expensive air purifiers. I think hoarding never really goes out of fashion for us. We hoarded masks, air purifiers, now hand sanitizers, groceries, food items but just not adaptively toilet paper. If it were possible, we would reserve our quotas even on air supply.
Nonetheless, except for the clear blue sky, what else am I luxuriating in, you would ask? Contrary to popular belief, not ample of free time. Despite what social media seems to paint this phase as, a veritable federal sponsored legitimized holiday package, most of us, and thank God for that (economically and for sanity) have jobs to keep us going. Working from home is useful and convenient, however, it is quite effectively binding. When you are not honking on the streets or rushing through the peak hour metro traffic, you tend to become much more productive at work, and sadly take shorter breaks.
But I am also luxuriating. I am luxuriating in repetitions. Or quality of pause. In the seamless reset button. When you strip away these comings and goings of our daily lives, what you get is a lot of static. Or Ether in Professor Challenger’s words. I rearrange my plants daily, place them in the sun. Some of them are sprouting new leaves, some have gained an inch in height. The routine is unusually satisfying. Seeing something grow is a marvel. I am luxuriating in being able to read the prologues and content pages with much more care. Being able to read a forward, take a pause and then begin. But then I would turn to books not just in a pandemic. However, in a pandemic, with a special kind of love.
I know that this too shall surely pass. We will splash back into the waters where dolphins seem to occupy our coveted airtime. It is surely nature’s choicest trick, that humans remain constrained while the so-called lesser beings roam free. It is funny though, that after ages, even if momentarily, the tables seem to have turned on our species.
Yes, I am not oblivious to the fact that it is chaos out there. And chaos is a ladder, sometimes only for the privileged, who have access to the first rung. Conditions are applied to human lives as everything around, systems, processes, checks and balances crumble like dominoes. While being mindful of the fact that I am writing this with my feet on the privileged rung, I hope that what this time will teach us, is a bit more humanity. A little more empathy.
Till then let’s take this time as a lesson being drilled into our collective consciousness. Like the handwriting books given to kids at school, so that when they learn to write, they don’t spill over the lines. Maybe we could, in time, learn to live in harmony without intentionally or unintentionally creating simulated disruptions, that spill over lives.
Image via Pixabay
Manojita loves to write alongside her regular 9-5. Flair for language, poetry, art etc
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