Balcony musings


At 5.30 p.m. every evening, I stand on my balcony and observe the neighbourhood. The sky is blue with cotton puff clouds, and the gentle evening breeze teases the trees. But down below, there are fewer people and vehicles on the road. There is an unprecedented strangeness to everyday living.

Courtesy – Photo by Miles Rothoerl from Pexels

Mundanities like shopping for bread, toilet paper, groceries and other simple tasks – that one did unthinkingly earlier – have now taken on new avatars. From bigger life questions about career prospects, investments and children’s education, we are preoccupied with questions such as – When to go shop? How many masks do we have? Has everybody sanitized their hands? Do we have adequate food supplies to ensure that we don’t go out often?

How could things have changed so quickly? Not even two months back, the Covid situation was unfolding slowly. Who ever thought that it would crash land thus on all parts of the world! Has any place been spared, has any community been spared? Life has become all about numbers now. We keep reading and reviewing the spike in the number of cases, trying to make sense of terms such as flattening the curve, circuit-breakers and the number of deaths. We have transitioned into virtual living, connecting to work, school and friends through our devices.

The annals of history romanticize the wars of old, where soldiers went to the battlefield, and ruthlessly fought the enemy, understood his every move and used that knowledge to vanquish him. Those wars needed manpower, they needed men to go out and fight.

This is a bizarre war, where soldiers are required to stay at home. The enemy is stealthy and has crossed battle lines and infiltrated our camp. We know that this enemy strikes at the powerful, the famous, the old and the weak, without mercy. We can combat this only by fighting solo, from the battlefields of our living rooms, by not giving the enemy a chance to gain strength.

Let us stand on our balconies and observe the world, let us clap and cheer for those who have taken up this cause, so that we may all be safe. Let us thank the government, the hospitals and all front-line workers for doing all they can. Let us stand on our balconies and not step out. Let us watch the enemy lose strength and fade into oblivion.

The Family Fingerprint


In many Bollywood movies of the seventies and eighties, there was a recurring theme of children or twins, who were separated in childhood, and who were then reunited at the end of the film. Many situations in the film usually brought about this reunification, however, one of the main factors that helped in bringing the family back together was a ‘family song’. When the said children in the movie became adults, and attended a party or wedding, one sibling entertained people at the party by singing the family song…and the other sibling, who was also at the party, completed the lyrics and thus, the family was reunited.

In our home, there is this one song that all of us love, and I often joke that if one of us is ever lost, the others would have to sing this song, and we would all be reunited, just like in those movies of old.

This got me thinking. Just like this song, every family unit has its own family fingerprint.

Image courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

The family fingerprint is a crisscross of emotions, behaviour patterns, feelings and likes and dislikes that characterize each family. Every family has early risers and late-nighters, coffee lovers and tea lovers, bookworms and movie lovers, obsessive cleaners and clutterers. The family fingerprint also has strong threads of unconditional love, hugs and prayers that support all these idiosyncrasies.

If one were to code all these details, each family would have its own distinct biometric pattern. A bundle of quirks that bind us together in inexorable ways. That special identity, which alone gives us the strength to go out and face the world.

And right now, as we stay at home and spend more time together, this family fingerprint only gets quirkier. Another phase, so much to learn.

The new normal


Just like people all over the world, our family is also trying to adapt to this new norm of staying at home. Thus far, we each had our own lives, our own routines, our own meetings, assignments and to do lists. We met at breakfast or scrambled for the bathroom or went around the house shouting and squabbling or teasing, looking for last minute things before leaving home to meet the challenges of our everyday lives.

Now, in this new world that we inhabit, there is no crazy rush in the mornings. By 9 am we have all drifted away to our own rooms and work tables to exist in a virtual world, where online lessons and meetings rule our days.

I tread silently through the house and navigate the kitchen like I am a spy. But then, the inevitable happens. A steel plate crashes to the floor and….the ting ting ting reverberates across the house and enters the virtual world that my family inhabits.

My son pops out and hisses…my husband says shhhhhh. I mouth a sorry…and get back to my work. As I pass through each door, I hear long conversations happening and periods of silence. I gently open the door to signal that lunch is ready.

At lunch time the virtual dwellers come alive in the real world and we have animated discussions about food, and discuss how the Covid situation is unfolding. Thirty minutes later everyone is back to their rooms, their minds travelling to new realms, as their bodies swivel in the chairs.

It is time for coffee. When I enter my husband’s room, his chair is twisted at an odd angle. Without realizing that my husband is on a call, I walk in and hand him his cup of coffee, only to realize that my hand is visible on a video call, with 16 people watching. I am mortified, and make a quick exit.

Courtesy – shutterstock.com

Later, I ask my husband why he was sitting at such a weird angle that I couldn’t see his screen. Then he says, “If I sit straight, all our suitcases on the cupboard are visible on the call…so I had to twist so that the background was the wall.” Aha…another new thing to think about.

All these days, we brought home bits of our lives from the outside into our homes. Now, in this new world, we unknowingly share bits of our lives and homes with the outside world. We become conscious when family members are around. We worry about Wifi and charged devices.

Finally after 6 pm, the virtual world begins winding down. The family troops into the kitchen in search of chips, chocolate, ice-cream. They raid the fridge and complain – “Is there nothing interesting to eat?” Dinner time is somehow different as we seem to be talking more. After dinner, we have time for a quick family board game.

The sky is dark, the stars are out. We pray for all those suffering. We pray for a solution. We pray and call it a night.