Sunday, 10 May 2020

Joyce Job, Prose 500, 2020, Shortlist

Screen-Light-Fireflies

A few months back, I didn't want to leave home. I canceled all my plans, quit my job. I broke up with my boyfriend and blocked him from all my social media accounts. I stopped talking to my best friends, ex-colleagues, even my family. All-day long, I stayed inside my room: sleeping, thinking, regretting. Depression runs in the family, yet still, everyone wished to cover it up, as if ignoring would make it to go away.

So, on the 23rd of March, 2020, when Kerala declared a lock-down due to Coronavirus spread and a day later, India followed the lead and did the same, it didn't really bother me. Come on, it's just another day in the gutter right, the ungrateful brat in me voiced.

I watched the everyday news broadcasts: state, national and international ones. Updated me with the latest details of the spread: the total number of active cases, number of deaths, number of recovered patients. I didn't bat an eye when we couldn't attend Sunday masses or Easter at church. I didn't miss the once-in-a-while visits to Varkala beach with my cousins. I scrolled through and liked the numerous quarantine-special-updates my friends posted from their homes: cooking, workouts, bottle arts, make-up tutorials, book recommendations, movie reviews, everything.

Then Vishu came; Malayalee's new year. Memes trolled the yellow flowers "kani konna," unlike its regular habit for blooming on time during the lockdown-canceled-Vishu. Then again a new set of memes saying, "How secular Corona is," came in; after Easter and Vishu, Corona was all set to wreck the Ramzan celebrations too.

My dad got retired, sister got promoted, and brother attended classes - everything through zoom meetings and online sites. My mom constantly stood near the window, wishing the lockdown would come to an end soon. Otherwise, she spent her time making masks for the family, relatives and neighbours using her old tailoring machine. Her health only allowed her to do so much. But I... I just scrolled through my mobile phone or veggied out in front of my laptop watching Netflix. I spent my late evenings, staring from the balcony at the stray dogs searching for food in the streets or children from the neighbouring house playing badminton on their house premises.

Then, one evening, it rained out of the blue... The power failed. All five of us sat in our hall room carpet waiting for the electricity to come. Sister was on her laptop, replying to work emails. Brother, father and I were on our mobile phones. Mummy just stared at us. This continued for a few minutes. Then all of us stopped, we looked at mummy. She looked at us for a one full minute, that dead-scary-stare. Then... she laughed at all of us, her four little-screen-light-fireflies. All of us laughed, at themselves than on others. We laughed at the boring little people we had become.

"Antakshari?" My mom asked still smiling. "I bet I will beat you all! I still remember those old melodies you all have forgotten."

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