It’s Friday. The end of the week. I’ve been working endlessly from home due to the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s either the laptop or domestic chores. I’m really not looking forward to the weekend because that means more time indoors, more cooking, more chopping vegetables, more sweeping, more doing the dishes, more mopping the floor, et cetera. How I long for freedom from all these errands and a nice hot pizza or a chicken meal at a swanky restaurant with friends and add a chilled beer for effect!
As I look at my laptop and plan my next task, I cannot help but fret about the dishes I need to wash before the day ends. It’s hot and I’m fatigued, physically and mentally. My right knee and wrist hurt from all the standing and doing dishes and sweeping. Only for a moment, I lose myself in a dream -- of the times when the maid would regularly and efficiently ensure the house work was all done. My mind lit up as I thought of the Fridays gone by when I would be gearing up for the weekend and planning what to wear for brunch with my friends.
As I was reminiscing, the doorbell rang and I was startled! Who could it be now? At a time when nobody is meant to cross the ‘Lakshman rekha’ of their homes, who dared to walk up three flights in this summer heat and disturb me from my reverie! I opened the door and was part angry and part pleasantly surprised to find my maid Sunita standing at the door. I shrugged and said, ‘Sunita! What are you doing here?’ She replied, ‘Akka, I came over to collect my salary for the month. You see, I don’t have Paytm or a bank account. And I really need money for groceries.’ Sure I was miffed that she was jeopardising us both by stepping out of the house at a time when the virus is lurking around, but mostly I was relieved to see her. Because my body was in pain. I was mentally in no state to run even a single new errand! So I decided to make the best of the opportunity and requested her to quickly help me do the dishes, while I rush to my room to bring my wallet to pay her.
I returned to the kitchen and to my utter bewilderment, I saw not Sunita, but the ‘ghost of my grandmother’ standing by the sink and washing the dishes. I was dumbstruck and tongue-tied, but mustered up some courage and asked, ‘Where’s Sunita’ What are you doing here’? She continued working without responding. Then languidly opened the cupboards and glanced at how much groceries I had hoarded. She turned to me and said, ‘Aren’t you a lucky girl! You have all this food you can eat for the next couple of months. Sunita is at the door, why don’t you give her the salary and some of the groceries and send her home otherwise you might also catch that virus?’
By now I was irritated because only I knew the trouble I had to go through to stock up for weeks! And I was sure Sunita didn’t carry any infection. She looked just fine to me. So I dismissed my grandmother’s plea and marched right to the door to pay the maid and also to ask her to finish some of the other work. I handed over a crisp Rs 2,000-note to Sunita and, as she received it, she casually let out a powerful sneeze! I could see the droplets in slow motion as they fell upon my hand. The next moment, Sunita collapsed on to the floor right outside my door.
Stupefied by what had just transpired, I turned around and saw my grandmother nonchalantly clearing the cobwebs. Then she spoke. ‘In our times, we had to do a lot of the work ourselves. We didn’t have maids at our beck and call. Back in the 1940s, we didn’t even know what freedom was, leave alone having the privilege of going to a restaurant!’ At this point I was like, ‘Dude, what is she going on about? What freedom is she talking about!’ I sarcastically said to her, ‘First of all what are you doing here? Aren’t you dead? Shouldn’t you be resting in peace’? She said, ‘Yes, I died during the freedom struggle and I sure do rest in peace knowing that our efforts paid off and we freed the country from an external power for a better life for future generations. We had no technology, no groceries, no domestic help, no education, not even a good night’s sleep as we feared being thrown into jail for no reason at all.’ I cheekily said, ‘Hey, grandma, that was during your times. These times are different! We have all this stuff you know...’ And I grappled for words as she smirked and her voice dwindled as she said, ‘Yeah, you have all this stuff and these times are different...’ and then, in the blink of an eye, she disappeared behind the kitchen curtains.
I felt paralysed and I looked at my wrist and there it was! A red coronavirus prancing about the length of my forearm! The next thing I knew, I found myself, eyes wide open, in my bed with the laptop on my right wrist and the rest of me in disarray! For a few moments I couldn’t move and then I realised that all this while I had dozed off and had been dreaming.
But was I glad it was only just a dream! Now I’m all rejuvenated and ready to attack the sink full of dishes before the end of this day. And as I walked towards the kitchen, I noticed a faint figure washing hands at the sink. It was the grim reaper!
Missing something or yearning for something which you once used to have before COVID-19 gripped the world and changed your reality? How are you dealing with it? Are you feeling burnt out? What have you learnt from this experience? Is the lockdown affecting your emotional health? Share your stories and experiences below...
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