I am an extrovert. At least that’s what is apparent about me.
So when they declared the lockdown, it was pretty bad for me. I mean, here I was, barely four months into my breakup with whom I thought to be the love of my life, and was barely coping by going out, and staying out for entire evenings. Somehow that kept my sanity up, besides this guy I was talking to. Fairytales or nightmares could have ensued, but none of that obviously happened. Instead of love, lockdown happened. I could have done without lockdown.
But then Corona would have none of it. I wish I had half the drama this virus has. Miniscule piece of sass. I wonder how smug it feels. I know I would feel very smug if I was this feared and dreaded. But that is probably only my perception because I have been such an inconsequential thing in the scheme of things. I mean I am thirty, and all I can do is write. Well, moving on.
Since March, our lives just changed. Back in January, with the new year coming in with its usual vodka-shots of optimism and whipped-cream hope, Wuhan was a small province in distant China, and Corona was a pesky little virus, which surely was not a threat to us at that time, personally. Because nothing ever matters until it begins affecting us personally. Be it climate change, or poverty, or genocides, or heartbreak, or pandemics. I did not even know Wuhan existed, a virus made it known everywhere.
In the pre-Corona era, I was meeting a few of my closest friends almost every day, going to my favourite coffee shop with custard-yellow walls, for my staple order of cranberry cold brew, cheesy onion rings, and spicy barbecue wings, and feeling the winter wind in my face, my hair, healing slowly in this city I call home, and love. I was going practically every day to Radhu Babu, a small tea-shop, with the best and the most potent tea in the world. That tea can make a Dementor happy. I was dieting, walking ten kilometres on most days, losing weight for the first time in my life. I had given up on sugar, carbs and on my taking my body for granted.
Lockdown stopped the walks, the cha, the coffee, the adda, the city throbbing life back into me. The parameters on which I functioned changed overnight. Suddenly, Wuhan wasn’t distant, Italy wasn’t in another continent. I feared for my life, and for the lives of everyone close to me. Including the ex whom I ended up texting in the pandemic panic. People were dying of what came on as common cold. Scary. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have texted him. But well I did, and cannot undo it now.
We ushered in lockdown, by banging plates, and bursting crackers, because as a country we are multicultural and loud, and don’t understand that love for the government is not love for the country. But I will just talk about what roughly translates into “speeches of the mind”. No, not Mann Ki Baat. Who would be interested in my speeches anyway?
Here I am, lying in the dark, listening to the playlist I had carefully curated for my commutes, while I think of what to write next. I wish I knew when it’s fiction, and when it’s too real. Maybe the lines blur, like the perfect way you solve a difficult calculus problem in a dream, but it’s so real, that it feels more like a memory rather than a dream. I miss calculus, more than I miss my ex. And I miss my old life much much more than calculus.
Bryan Adams was crooning “Please Forgive Me, I Can’t Stop Loving You”. I am like, you have no idea, how easy it is to just stop loving me. But then the Beatles come on, and my feet tap because the Beatles make me happy, like sunny days in monsoon do.
Anyone who’s worn a mask knows how it feels. I will not add to your misery by recounting mine. So here we were, pretending away like Broadway actors, masquerades, charades, parades. And suddenly, we were handed these masks. You cannot even tell if there’s a smile behind the mask, or a smirk, a snigger, or a grimace. I pretend there are only smiles. Primarily because it makes me feel good. And in the current scenario, feel-good situations and things are rare.
I am glad that I was always prolific at daydreaming. My superpower, actually, before you call me jobless, like my parents are prone to do. Try daydreaming, it requires concentration and effort and enough imagination to convince yourself it is a real-enough probability. I have daydreamt myself into movie-theaters, had enough of the overtly sugary popcorn and insipid Pepsi, to drive me next down the Teesta into Darjeeling, into bowls of smoking thukpa and pork momos and mountain-winds on my face, and guitars playing.
In my head, guitars always play in the background in Darjeeling, you can taste Beatles songs in the Keventer’s hot chocolate. Darjeeling makes tea feel posher than wine. Sometimes, when I am probably just about to taste my custard cream roll at Glenary’s, my phone rings stupidly. Imbeciles are they who break into my reveries. Sometimes all the grey mists and peekaboo mountain sun of my dreamscapes make me daydream of love, my hand in another’s, understanding as perfect as the chutney is to the momos, happiness lighter than a fairy-pastry. And then, reality dawns.
This pandemic has made finding love completely impossible. My chronic anxiety doesn’t make it easier, as I fear the disease too much to venture out to meet another person. Covid must be Cupid’s nemesis. Also, at times, I am using the virus to just escape meeting and dating new people. Perhaps love is just not what I am looking for. I am not scared of love, never been, maybe I am waiting for it to happen to me, like it should, without any overt effort from my side. I don’t want to put myself up on a dating website. Don’t enjoy the attention. Probably I am an ambivert after all. It took me a virus to learn about myself. I marvel at my own imbecility.
Or not. No, not the marvelling bit, but the imbecility bit. I keep thinking of how everything fell into place. How everything always does. Invariably. Initially, when lockdown started, I felt trapped within my skin. I had been escaping precisely this since the breakup. My own skin. My own feelings. The nakedness of my thoughts. I chose the frenzy, the songs, the burnt calories as ways of escape from myself. But the universe always has other plans for me. A virus had decided my fate. Myself was what I would get, want it or not. And live with myself, is what I would have to do. All my escape chutes were sealed off. And I was all I had.
Needless to say, my anxiety spiralled. A month went by in just figuring out what I would do with myself. I realised I am not a Netflix and chill kind of person. Cannot take the seriality of web series. I still like books more. Just don’t have the attention span for anything anymore. So I put in time, trying to stretch swathes of it, between my fingers, like a cheesemaker. It often broke, or my fingers ached. Started with simple things like a skincare routine. Wrote poetry. Sometimes put on lipstick and sang a song in my terrible voice and uploaded it for the heck of it. These things had never mattered before. These were the things I had taken for granted. Now, I found joy in them. I danced, giving two hoots to my size. I was not happy, yet much happier than I had ever been with myself.
As the months progressed, I found peace. Strangely from within the most tumultuous place I knew, my own self. No, it did not happen in an ‘Eat Pray Love’ way. It was arduous.
There were sleepless nights, tearful ones. It had become a habit to force myself to close my eyes just as the sky reddened with dawn. It was difficult to wake up before afternoon, but I did. I persevered. I took care to care for my skin, and then went deeper, till I took care of my soul. I still cannot sleep like I used to before November. You can outgrow the trauma, but all the effects of it don’t leave you as easily as your ex could. And that is okay. That is a reminder that I have been through what I have been through, and I exist, not in spite of it, but because of it.
I binge-ate on days and starved myself on others. I cried myself sore on beautiful afternoons aglow with sun and cloud, and sometimes, sudden unbidden bouts of rain. Lockdown made the birds sing more. Or maybe my ears were finally listening. But my head had heartbreak, birdsong and sunshine. My heart healed. Everything around me conspired to heal me.
My time stretched better between my fingers. They let it sit too to set. My fingers found themselves to be natural at cheesemaking. And because my time is cheese, and there can never be too much cheese, I don’t ever have too much time on my hands either. In short, I am never bored. Worried, sad, angry, happy, peaceful, yes, but never bored.
Would my time stink if I left it unattended too long? Or would it age like a good blue Stilton? I am yet to find out, and I am willing to wait.
Cover Image from iStock by Getty Images.
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