THE QUARANTINE OF 2020

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Every morning, for days now, I’ve been observing the process and patience of nature. As I sit by the window sipping tea, my gaze is fixed on the Yellow-flame tree outside. A pair of great egrets had built a nest and soon I spotted three little heads popping through the branches. It was a joy to see new life. However, what interested me was how beautifully unhurried and serene the process was. They say life doesn’t come with a manual, but it does. Just look around.

2020 has been nothing short of revolutionary so far. It has brought humankind down on its knees in the most ‘unprecedented’ way. One after the other, countries have gone into lockdown owing to the dreaded Covid-19 Corona virus. This must be the first time in history that everyone is, quite literally, in the same boat and speaking the same language.  Status, hierarchy, political differences, religious differences, everything has melted away, at least for now. People are more compassionate and empathetic towards each other.

When the lockdown was announced in India, the collective panic of the nation was felt like a tangible thing. I felt it too, but only for a few minutes. It is important that fear, sooner than later, gives way to acceptance. Back in school, I remember painting a motivation card and placing it on the television set. It read: Hope for the best, be prepared for the worst. This quote had a profound effect on me. People might see me as an idealist, but for the longest time, I’ve built myself on the idea of acceptance. When faced with a dire situation, my first question is: “What is the worst that can happen and how will I handle that?” It instantly calms me down, because I realise that life doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle. In any difficult situation, allow yourself to feel the fear and panic fully, let it rattle you, then take a deep breath and think about how you can best handle it.

A friend recently asked me how we can maintain hope and optimism in the midst of such tremendous panic. The quarantine of 2020 has given us a lot to reconsider: how we live our lives, how we must conduct ourselves, what is really important, what are our strengths and weaknesses, how we can rearrange ourselves and how we must use technology to our advantage. The onslaught of conflicting information is overwhelming. The loss of life is disturbing. So, my first step was to cut out the unnecessary information and focus on things that sustained me. That done, it has been heartening to see how human spirits shine during a crisis. There is so much to learn. If we eschew the victim mentality and adopt a warrior mindset, we are bound to win.

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Lent, for the past couple of years has been a significant time for me. This year, once churches closed down, schedules got disrupted. But the season, that ends today, has turned out to be more profound than usual. We have realised so much in this short time. People who matter, the ones who care about you and the ones you worry about. The frivolity of titles and luxuries that don’t seem important, because all we need to survive right now are essentials. Above all, there is deep gratitude for all that we have received in abundance. Nature has provided us with so much, but it is only when our breath is threatened by a virus that we recognise the blessings we have taken for granted.

Let us not blame anyone or demand proof of a God that we can relate to only by faith. We are called human ‘beings’, so all we essentially need to do is learn how to ‘be’. Let us stop running around and slow down. After all the signs, do we, who call ourselves educated and thinking people, need more proof?

It’s Easter Sunday tomorrow and what better day to send out a message of hope and renewal to a world that is desperately looking for a ray of light. Nothing lasts forever. This too shall pass. However, and this is important, let us not lose faith. Let us allow the experience to heal and redeem us.

 

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CLOSURE

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The weather is too beautiful not to be missing her. When a cool orange glow lights up the evening sky and bounces off window panes, I find myself sipping on tea and lost in thoughts of her. Tea-drinking was ceremonious to Marie. Even on her busiest day, she would always make time for a leisurely cup of tea. Sitting on her couch, squinting at nothing in particular, lining up the thoughts in her head…that’s how I remember her. There was so much she wanted from life and so much she wanted to give back. Marie was my mirror, my reflection; a strong, warm soul with a highly raucous laugh. Now there are only memories, empty spaces and echoes.

People come and go. But soul-sisters are a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. Marie and I met as most people do, in accordance with destiny’s plans. It seemed like an ordinary friendship at first. But when we started completing each other’s thoughts and understanding the in-between silences, that’s when it got eerie. That’s when we realised that our connection ran deep.

There was this one time, when I needed to travel on my own. I was young and naïve. I tried putting it off because I had never travelled alone or lived apart from my husband. She just said one thing to me: “You need to do this, Ren; not because you have to go, but because you choose to”. That was my one way trip to emotional independence. She was always trying to pull me through.

When I lost Marie to a terminal illness, the tears did not come as expected. They came a good two years later. Out of nowhere and without any warning. It was late evening; the lights were dimmed, there was music playing and I was nestling a drink. That was how we rolled back in those days too. That was how we defined leisure and camaraderie. And just like that, I broke in half. The sobs came hard and left me exhausted. But strangely enough, they healed me too.

That night, it was as if Marie came and gently removed the bookmark from our chapter and urged me to move on. She was big on finishing what you started. Like always, even though a hallucination, she took my hand and led me to myself.

At about that time, I wrote a few lines but never dared to share it. I’m doing it now because someone somewhere might need a connection. Someone might need hope and courage; because losing a loved one can mess up your mind in a big way.

They say there are six stages of grief – denial, anger, fear, guilt, depression and lastly, acceptance. Different people might deal with it in different ways. But closure is important. And acceptance is key.

 

STAGES OF GRIEF

 

I ain’t devout, prayed very rare

Went to church once, found my angel there

She left too soon, I wasn’t ready

It left me hurt and all unsteady

I refused to believe that it was final

What it was, is pure DENIAL

Saw her lifeless, no smile no more

My tears were dried, my heart was sore

Her daughter stood by, just a teenager

All I could feel was rage and ANGER

Then they put her six feet under

The candles were lit, it seemed like a blunder

How could I live without you dear?

My heart was gripped with chilling FEAR

I brooded for months over what went wrong

Could have supported more, could have been strong

My mind was boggled with a lot of filth

What I felt was searing GUILT

The skies got cloudy, the birds didn’t sing

My moods were morose, I’d lost my wings

Got all worked up, felt frustration

Sank into pits of dark DEPRESSION

One night then, I dreamt of her

She smiled at me, and smiled some more

Are you fine love, I asked her then

She nodded her head and held out her hand

I hugged her close, she wasn’t in pain

Her heart was strong, her face radiant

She made me promise, I’ll move on then

Finally there came ACCEPTANCE

 © Renica Rego

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