When I was seven, my baba used to tell me a story of how he got lost in a dense forest while he went trekking. He would start like this, “It was a dark, dark forest and I took the wrong route. I did not lose hope though. I kept on walking and walking until I saw the road.”
Every time he told me the story, I would simply ask him, “Weren’t you scared baba?” and he would chuckle and say, “fighters aren’t scared of anything!”
This story had been a mantra for me whenever things went wrong. I would never ask him how it changed him simply because I was too scared to even imagine that. The only thing that counted was the fact that he was alive. I knew he would add the last part for effect and stare at me for a reaction. The narration was so interesting that anyone would fall for it.
Staying away from home would include a pandemic chronicle which is very hard to explain. Did you burn your Maggie again? Are those map- sized Rotis still kept in your kitchen? You admit or not but the real cooking is only learned when you stand beside your mother and watch her do it. ”Put the onions carefully till they are golden.” she is used to say. Now, it seems like some Bollywood music played in the loop whenever I am cooking.
You miss your home. You miss someone pushing you out of bed. You miss your mother telling you to wash your clothes or comb your hair. You miss home so much that you wish you can just go running back there. But then you know you are stuck and people like us are supposed to be fighters and not lose hope. There are times when you have absolutely nothing to do so you watch the fans and ceilings above. There are times when you are too tired to just wash the dishes and you want to keep them as it is. There are times when you just want to become your version of Picasso and paint your whole world. Your phone calls from home are like reading out scripts laced with assurances, normally on food. You don’t tell them but you miss them. You fix a date, telling them when you will return again. You talk to the cockroaches and the spiders in the room and you will be shocked to know their version of freedom. They say humans are too often at home and they aren’t getting much privacy. I think freedom has different meanings for all of us.
Your miss your office and wonder how it looks on a Friday afternoon. Is the bhaiya still keeping your cigarette brand? Is the street dog you fed still alive? Is your mother still watching those ridiculous serials? Is baba repairing the old radio again or has it stopped forever? You wonder and wonder and realize a lot of things. But what if I tell you I am not complaining. Is it weird? Maybe. I know staying away sucks but finding yourself in chaos is something you cannot deny. This lockdown, made me realize many things and had me write a list of things I would do once the storm is over-
- I would spend more time with my parents. On a video call today, I saw baba’s grey hair and wrinkles and it made me cry a little. I saw my mother’s tired hands and it made me realize that I haven’t noticed them lately or asked them much of anything. I promise to ask them more. May be about their new hobbies or the latest topic that they are fighting on.
- I will appreciate my colleagues more. I will tell them even if they have ridiculed me at times I have actually missed being with them. I have missed the chai- breaks, their stupid one-liners, and their constant liking for Punjabi songs.
- I will try to enjoy the laughter of people without their masks and finally check their faces more. I will be kind to the animals and smile at the babies.
- I will treasure hi-fives, hugs, and even handshakes. I will be grateful to people more.
- I will thank the you-tubers for putting the recipes because if it wasn’t for them I would not have tried doing things on my own! I would order less from restaurants and value home food.
- I would look at my phone less and look outside and appreciate nature more. I would thank the stars and the moons for existing.
Till then, let’s not get lost in the dense forest. And even if we do, we must remember to overcome it with courage and be a fighter at the end. I have realized that it is not about me but about some million people who are with me fighting together in the battle.