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While Covid Warriors on the front-line provided life support to many ailing patients, I also believe that children and senior citizens have been the significant others of 2020.
From Aarogyasetu apps we are now inching towards Covaxin and Covishield. Beginning of 2020 was dismal but 2021 brings some hope. A sliver of light in the darkness lurking all around.
With due respect to the Covid Warriors and the front-line workers who spent relentless days and nights, providing life support to many ailing and infected patients, I also believe that children and senior citizens have been the significant others of 2020. No park walks, no meeting with friends, no socialising, laughter, sports, evening walks, or get-togethers for either the new broods or the mature ones.
My uncle’s entire family had tested positive, except for himself. Jutted into a state of urgency, borders were drawn and behold a new life was at the beckoning. Akin to the ‘tasks’ in most reality shows, my just-retired uncle charted detailed KRA’s and stuck it on the fridge.
The first job was cooking – an Achilles heel. Finally, when the Samaritans came to rescue with ‘Covid-19 food delivery’, the cleaning and garbage disposal task rose its fangs. He went bonkers again. While the municipality came with coloured bags to clear the Covid-positive junk, my uncle ran out of steam measuring the temperature, blood pressure and pulse of the 3 positive members. Poor guy was running around like a headless chicken, catering to each one and yet being on guard.
Keeping away and safe from the neighbours’ sneers, he stopped stepping out at his balcony. His ‘shadow quarantine’ was no less. Besides he had to attend to all phone calls from the distant relatives, listening patiently to sermons on what to do and what not to do.
A man who had never been to the kitchen even for a glass of water (yes, patriarchal privilege, I know, but still important because he wasn’t used to it) was expected to tell a kachi haldi from adrak; a laung from kali mirchi, a mulethi from dalchini, for preparing the heavenly concoction of kaada. Because even if Uncle had missed it, his back crawling well-wishers wouldn’t let him. A little voice crept up and said – Boy! I guess being positive was better.
The day his family members were tested negative for Covid-19, he called up my father and said, “Brother, this is not what I had envisioned for a post-retirement period. Didn’t you tell me that I will be assigned a special throne? And I will have a battalion of attendants buzzing around me, catering to each of my demands and wishes. What happened to that?” My father smirked, “Dear that was a different era!”
He was helpless and furious. In the ripe of his age, when he should have been in the comfort and love of the younger family folks, he was running errands. An idyllic and utopian retirement plan came to a massive standstill.
As children of the ’70s and ’80s, our parents are enjoying the second inning of their lives. And clearly, my parents have omitted 2020 from the grey calendar of their lives.
The last they stepped out for shopping and merry-making was in Feb 2020. The last they hosted dinner was the first week of March 2020. The last they went for the regular medical check-up was in the second week of March 2020. It’s now a year; cooped up inside their home, lonely and deprived.
Food, safety, medicines, entertainment were never short in supply. But love was. Socialising physically was. Hugging loved ones was. Visiting the park with loved ones was. Feeding loved ones to the point of death was. Massaging grandchildren was. Reading along with the grandchildren was. Cooking their heart out for their grandchildren was.
Coming from a large family, where even a birthday celebration looks like a wedding event, my parents lived through this void with shrouded pain, hopelessness, but kept their resilience afloat.
Th pandemic was really bad for them. At this age, they had to tweak lifestyles to fit into the new normal. Hand sanitisers which were such a non-Indian culture gimmick, were lined up at the entrance and outside the house. Oblivious to the benefits of milk cutter vinegar, overnight it became a friendly assistant in disinfecting the vegetables.
My father’s crisp grey hair has grown into long sage-like locks, whereas for my mother, her black had turned to coarse brown and soon whites crowned her. She had stopped looking into the mirror, whereas my father leisurely brushed his tresses and occasionally shaved his beard. My mother couldn’t accept the tri-coloured look and father couldn’t stop scratching his nape. A potential topic for contention between the two senior citizens. Even the television could not help. Who would like to consume the cacophony of the an educated elite they could not connect with? Series on Amazon and Netflix were too insolent for my parents, who preferred being social….
6 months into the pandemic, when the lockdown began easing a bit, I was in the middle of my child’s on-line school and I got a call from my parents, not their usual time to call. I panicked and called them the next available moment.
“Haanji, all ok?” I asked. With the shyness of a baby asking for a candy they spurted out with such urgency as though everything had to happen NOW – Can we meet our relatives? Can I go to the dispensary to collect my indented medicine? Tap is leaking, can I call the plumber? I have to sign some retirement papers; can I go to my ex-school? We have run out of some essential groceries, can we step out to buy? Much to their disappointment, all was virtually accomplished without their moving a finger. They immensely missed the vibrancy of the physical space.
Along with the ritual of reading the Bhagwat Gita in the evenings that they have been doing for some time now, they have also mastered their skills on:
My parents were made conversant with the now commonly used start-up courier services in the NCR. They downloaded the apps, and next time all their candy-type desires were fulfilled by the courier service. Their minds boggled up at the creative ideas young India is brimming with. Online shopping became routine, the app for daily milk delivery was explored, online banking became a cakewalk.
And then I was the easy victim – what worthy thing did you do except for writing this?!
Giving red roses was never the norm for their generation, but sharing of washing vessels and mopping the floor romanticised the lockdown period for them. Of course, stacking the wet…errr dry vessels wasn’t my father’s KRA and my mother would wait in the wings and catch him at the wrong foot! My videos about two ageing parents gracefully dancing to the songs of Mohammad Rafi would only add fuel to the fire.
Pandemic crippled their mobility and filled them with anxiety. Yet, as the year passed by it left behind many new learnings and memories. Today, when I see them enjoying their maiden visit post the pandemic to their brothers and sisters place, their smile is uplifting, and says it all.
Image source: shutterstock
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