My Quarantine Diary: Reflections On Days Spent With My Family And Myself In A Lockdown
It feels strangely comforting and discomforting to have time for yourself and your family and yet do so little these days
A day during the lockdown seems quite pacifying until it does not. Under usual circumstances, while you’d really wish to take some time off your strenuous routine and just stay in to reconnect with yourself, you are perhaps flabbergasted now that you have been presented with the opportunity.
Personally, I am finding it difficult not being exposed to the everyday traffic din, which has been so embedded in my life, somewhere in the background like a dull ache. How do you get away from something that’s been so familiar to you forever? But now that it’s gone, don’t you feel startled that you wished to be granted relief from its familiarity, in the first place?
As I walk out to the verandah, I am surrounded by a stinging quietness. If I happen to stand there for a bit too long, the thoughts inside my head grow louder and become almost deafening. To be honest, I feel that retrospection is entertaining, but only as long as there is some loud diversion, distracting you from time to time.
Inside, I am stuck with my family. Watching your life slow down interminably makes you realize things you wouldn’t normally care to mull over.
My father sits down on the floor, hurling out loads of old things that were crammed inside forgotten cupboards. Quarantine, it seems, is a golden opportunity to dismiss the ancient and make room for the new. And so, he finds innumerable bills, paperwork, cards, photographs, mementos and a bunch of things ripe with the essence of my childhood and teenage years.
I scour through the things, and I come across a bulky white envelope, wrapped in cellophane. It contains small paper cards and tokens on which I had scribbled in my broken handwriting, which was yet to form fully. They are addressed to my parents—birthday messages, Christmas greetings, childish shenanigans, juvenile complaints, honest confessions and worldly representations of fatuous dreams.
I find other tokens too, addressed to me from my parents. What surprises me is that my seven-year-old-self was exchanging letters with her parents living under the same roof. Now, however, even though my confessions are far more worrisome, I do not find the voice or the words to express myself. Communication is the key to connecting with people, but what happens when the bridge is burnt?
As I make my way through the memorabilia scattered on the floor, my mother’s voice wafts in from the kitchen. She is singing. My father then hands me a piece of paper with names scribbled on it from top to bottom. He explains that they were names my mother considered for me before I was born. I recognize her handwriting and see my current name at the top of the list.
Heart-deep as I am in this nostalgic whirlpool, I now see my father stand up. And as if in a surreal vision, I hear and see my mother’s singing voice pave a path for my father, as he moves farther and farther away, carrying the box of my childhood memories with him.
Truth be told, the lockdown has provided me a long-awaited solace—and ever since, I have been trying to condense a year’s worth of thoughts on paper. Every day I sit, pen in hand, hoping against hope that it will start to glide as soon as the perfect words come to my mind. Those words do not form, and I spend hours on end staring at the blank whiteness, dwelling in a desperate silence—is this the dreaded writer’s block, then?
So, each night I lay in my bed feeling pathetic about not having done anything productive. And I try to convince myself that we can always cling to hope when everything else fails.
The lockdown has provided me solace, true, but it's become equally harder to concentrate on essential things. (Image used for representative purposes only.)
I tell myself that this is the time to channel my concentration into doing something useful. But I simply cannot. My mind is disturbed with the sufferings around me—people dying trying to get home, nearly half the population down to their last penny of savings? People at this time have been reduced to mere statistics, which tends to fuel fear every passing day. I tune my ear to the news in hope of hearing something heartening, something to hold on to, but all I hear is a manifold increase in the number of infections and deaths. In the face of such a massive global crisis, my worries about my own anxieties and a silly writer’s block matter little.
The afternoon passes. With the onset of evening, the news channels inform us that the numbers have risen. I stare at the sky long enough to see the sun disappear, as a frightening silence engulfs me again.
These days, I utter a prayer to no one in particular, every night before going to sleep—a prayer born out of helplessness and despair. I drift off to the tune of Harry Styles’ ‘Sign of the Times’. The lines “We can meet again somewhere/Somewhere far away from here” keep coming back to me—and I wish, each day, that we wake up the next morning in a place far from where we are now.