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And the most satisfying thing I did was to tell the men who dared to remotely instruct me on how to live in this new world of quarantine, to shove their fake concern up where the sun doesn’t shine.
So, those who know me also know that I consider it unfair to call myself as a single mother.
For one, we are co-parenting, which means that my married ex-husband is very much a part of my life when it comes to raising the kid. To add to that, his wife also helps out when it is an absolute necessity. When I say an absolute necessity, it is usually when I have to choose between the Devil and my ex-husband’s current wife to have my son over, and the Devil says he is busy.
Secondly, my parents stay pretty close to my place, which means that my Dad picks my son up from school, takes care of his homework, brings him back to my place, and hangs out until I get back home from work.
Third, but not the least, in all of this, I also have a wonderful partner; sensitive, intelligent man who has managed to keep me reasonably happy in our four and half years of togetherness. Who also occasionally supports me by being with my son, feeding/walking my dogs, when I am late from work and hate having to ask favors from options 1 & 2. In all fairness he does spend 3 days a week, every single week at my place, so this is the least he could do.
You don’t have to tell me, I know, I am blessed.
So, when Corona virus hit our nation, and the prospect of working for months from home in a self disciplined quarantine came into picture, I wasn’t worried. I knew my parents needed to be home, their home. Because mine, with my kid and dogs could never be as sanitized as theirs could.
And we had asked our help to stay quarantined as well, but that was okay, because I knew that I had the support from my ex-husband and current partner. If not one, the other one would definitely come to my rescue. I also knew that with their help, I could run errands for my parents. They needn’t have to step out of their home for anything.
And then came 24th March, when our PM proudly stepped on the podium and addressed the country. When he announced the 21-day lockdown starting midnight.
I remember getting off a work call to see missed calls from my parents and partner; long messages from them announcing the lockdown. I was a little shocked, but even then I knew it could be handled. Between me and my support system of two men, I could manage anything. I walked up to my ex-husband, who had just come home after 15 days to spend time with his son and dogs, and told him about it.
My voice low, and concerned; mostly for my parents who suddenly seemed a lot more at risk than they had until then.
“We are going on a 21 day lockdown from midnight.” I said.
“Oh shit.” He said. “I need to get home to my wife. We will go and stay with Mummy.”
“Oh…yeah. You’ll be stuck for 21 days if you are here.” I said.
“Yeah… why don’t you ask your parents to stay with you? They can help out with Simba and the dogs.” He said, packing his things and hugging his son.
“No…I don’t want them to come here with the dogs around. They are less exposed in their own home.” I said.
“Fine. I need to get some groceries and go home.”
I watched him walk away. He could have offered to keep my dogs, so that I could bring my parents home. But he didn’t. Hell, he walked away without asking if we even had a packet of milk, or how much cash I had with me.
And then after he left, I called my partner confident that right about then he would be packing a bag to come stay with me, especially considering he lives alone in Bangalore.
“I feel so far away from you now.” He said as he picked up.
“You can come and stay. I don’t know how I will manage work, cooking, cleaning and getting groceries, alone.” I said, a pit forming in my stomach. Somehow the way he said those words, I knew deep down what his answer would be.
“No…no, I don’t want to trouble you. It will be too much work for you.” He said.
“Umm…I mean you’ll help right.”
“Sure I will, but 21 days with me, Simba and the dogs…you will go crazy.” My brow furrowed, I knew what he meant was 21 days with Simba, the dogs and me; he would go crazy.
“Okay. I…I don’t want to force you.”
“Yeah babe. It is better this way.”
Well, of course he had also decided for me, without checking if I even had a packet of milk, or cash in hand.
And then my Dad called, before he could say anything, I said, “Dad, I want both of you to stay there. Any groceries, medicines or deliveries you need, we’ll either order it online or I will deliver it.”
“Okay beta.” He said. “Do you have groceries for at least the next three to four days? We have lots of milk, rice and dal, should I come there and give it.”
“No…no. I have everything. And please, please don’t step out. Tell me what you need.”
“Theek hai. Lekin koi baat ho, tu bata dena. I will avoid cops and come sneakily, okay.”
I wanted to cry; my Dad was the only one who would risk a deadly infection just to support me. But my sense of unreal detachment then, only made me grimace.
After hanging up on my parents, I stepped out, in a state of utter daze, stumbling from one grocery store to another, men and women clawing over each other to get that packet of milk and me standing there wondering how the hell am I going to manage for 21 days, all alone.
That night I slept in fits. My carefully constructed illusion had developed cracks, and the more I thought about them, the more they widened. I still didn’t cry, not because the situation hadn’t dawned on me. I knew that this had not been the worst thing to happen to me, nor would it be last terrible thing to happen. In fact if I looked at it clearly, it perhaps wasn’t so bad now, was it. Truth is never bad, just painfully real.
So the next day, I woke up knowing for the first time in my life I had utter and complete control. No one to tell me, how to manage my kids and dogs; what to eat, what not to eat, how many times to take my dogs out for a walk, what to cook, what to order, to clean, make the bed. No one to walk into my house whenever they wanted to, stay however long they wanted to, and leave whenever they wanted to.
The first thing I did was to create a timetable for my son and taught him how to wash the vessels, fill in the water bottles and make the bed.
It has been a week now, and I will be wrong if I say I do not have moments of extreme sadness when I think about how my illusion came crashing down. But I also know now, that I am better off managing MY kid and MY dogs, on my own, in MY home; even if it means, that I am a one man…oops one woman shop.
From cooking to cleaning to grocery to hauling large cans of mineral water to managing two hungry dogs and a hangry preteen; while simultaneously dealing with a volatile work environment, for the first time since my divorce I truly am a Single Mom.
So, when I was rereading this post, it sounded a little petulant. A privileged princess complaining about the men in her life not appearing when she summons them. And with everything going on now, it does reek of privilege. But then again, I wanted to write this, to put it out there; even if it doesn’t help anyone, penning this post helped me.
It allowed me vent out my emotions that I had largely refused to confront in the past week, and understand the intent of both my ex and my partner. I also know that had this strange virus not invaded our lives, I’d have lived life blissfully unaware.
If you are wondering that what would be the fate of my relationship with them after the quarantine, I’d say we get back to being normal, not because I will get back to being the delusional ostrich that I was before, but because I know now that people may come and people may go, but the only person I can every rely on would be me.
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