Sunday, April 5, 2020

Pan 14 - Ain't No Sunshine

Why is 'ain't no sunshine' part of my Pandemic series?

Well, yest as I was washing dishes, my radar picked up the song playing behind Diksha's closed door......and what would have been a moment that would have been like 'noticed and passed', grew larger.

She peeped out to say "your song ma.....heard?...... and Bill Withers passed away yesterday". And in response to my look, she goes on "no, not of covid, he was 81, and died of some heart thing".

While I asked her to replay twice as I went back to my dishes, my mind would no longer be contained. It was one of my favorites, in a collection that was not just cherished, but listened to like a million times.

And sure enough it brought up feelings of nostalgia......and nostalgia in it's essence, deep feelings of happiness and of sadness that can take you over.

So a post in tribute to Bill Withers ....  Thanks and Rest in Peace.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Pan 13 - Sparrow on our terrace

This was one of those simply amazing moments

Ones that can occur even in the midst of difficulty and turmoil.

At first I couldn't believe my eyes, I checked and rechecked to see if I wasn't mistaking a munia, or flower bird, or bulbul.....but no it was definitely a sparrow.

And what's more I saw another the next morning, and this time for long enough to get a picture.

I wasn't as excited even when I saw three peacocks on my terrace (yes, that happened once, but then while that was thrilling, seeing how close I live to kbr, guess it still doesn't amount to amazing)

So why is this amazing?

Because sparrows have completely disappeared from the city, for years now, likely over twenty  years......and they were an integral part of our growing up days.

This one appearing was like so, almost indication of how quickly things can quickly does the earth deep is this impact......that kind of thing.

Seeing more stars in the sky has a logical and simple enough explanation.....less smog.

Hearing more birds does too......more silence around... more time to listen, and maybe happier birds too.

But the sparrow.....that is such a wonder.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Pan 12 - Lamp of gratitude...

At this point the underlying, or rather overpowering emotions in the air sit on the spectrum of uncertainty, fear, anxiety, frustration, sadness, worry, boredom......and yes also amazement, wonder, gratitude

Likely more, maybe way more, of the difficult emotions than the happier ones.... essentially because so much change in so little time doesn't allow for processing time.

For this post, I'm picking gratitude.

I realized this as I lit the lamp this morning, and I was overwhelmed with the feeling.

Diksha testing negative was only the immediate and visible part of why. There's so much more to be in gratitude for...... at the micro level and macro level.

Starting from her even being back with us, for dhruva being here too, for my parents being able to cope, for ravi helping them out as much as he is, for being able to connect with family and friends and know they are safe........

for the government showing the kind of leadership and solidarity, for the essential supplies chain continuing to keep us provided, for the grocer remaining open under the circumstances, for medicines being available, for the garbage guy still coming to collect the garbage.......

and a special call out to my kirana guy who even with his shutters down, was willing to give me 'ensure' from the back door for dad...

for the net and phone that have become our connect with the world outside....

for that experience of more birds...and more stars in the sky

and that list goes on.

On the way back from the hospital diksha didn't want to stop anywhere, but I was like "I need match boxes deech". And she's like "ma, how is that an essential item"

I needed it to light the lamp.

I don't have a religious altar at home..... the lamp in my drawing room symbolizes my hotline with the universe. Any conversation happens through it....and today it got named lamp of gratitude :)

Like I heard in a recent's about shifting from 'I feel gratitude' to 'I am gratitude'

Can we continue to feel it in 'complete empathy and acceptance' even as we see life unfold in unprecedented and mysterious ways. 

Can gratitude and acceptance become core.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Pan 11 - The Covid test

Based on inputs from the doctors in family, we headed to the 'Government Fever Hospital' in nallakunta........koranti hospital as it's locally called.

When I told diksha we were going to 'fever hospital', she was like "what??? there's a hospital called 'fever hospital'?". 

Well, there is. While it's called the 'Ronald Ross Institute of Tropical and Communicable Diseases', all old hyderabadis will know it as 'koranti dawakhana' or 'fever hospital'.

And strangely enough 'koranti' is the localized word for 'quarantine'. for which this hospital was established all of hundred years back, in what was then the city's outskirts.

While I've passed it a thousand times going to my mom's and ammamma's place of work which was further down the road, I hadn't even seen this massive name board ever.

Infact ammamma had told me a story of how during the plague they had created a shelter  in the area, with a lot of tents, which was mandatory for all people who lived in tiled houses as they would invariably have rats in their rafters....and how some of our relatives had to also move.

My mum also recalls how they would bring the clothes of infected people and burn them at a lake in front of their house, also in the same area (this must have likely been the spanish flu)

Anyways, to come back to the present.....

As we drove there with those tight covid masks on,  I'm telling diksha "how on earth did you wear this mask for all of twenty hours ma........I'm sweating within it.... so much so I think I'm drinking my sweat", and she's like, "chiiiii maaa, just stop talking no" :)

We entered the fever hospital with that tight knot in the pit of the stomach.....guess it represented a mixture of apprehension and anxiety.........not as much of covid at that point, but of just a 'government hospital',  we've all heard enough to feel that way I guess, right?

We drove into an iron gate........down a long driveway (guess that fits for isolation and quarantines), past a spattering of people in coats and masks......and then really old looking boards which read; 'malaria ward'..... 'small pox ward'......the knot getting tighter......and then took a left to ward VII as directed, and drove into a nice parking lot. (an urban relief even amidst covid :)

The hospital itself is a sprawling complex of single storied buildings......old yes, but otherwise nice. The isolation ward we went to had about twenty beds, with new mattresses on each of the beds, the fans were new and working, the bedsheets were old and worn out but visibly just back from laundry.

The bedsheet on diksha's bed had a potent looking stain on it.......and I went hunting for another bedsheet to cover that. Those are also scary moments as you don't know what you can touch and what not. 

Sure it's not your five star corporate hospital, but it's nothing like what people are posting online. People don't seem to have the maturity to reset expectations depending on context. It only reaffirmed to me that people who think negative will be cribbers no matter what, and unfortunately they are the loudest and most visible too.

Infact, as diksha waited for her test, I even braved a peep into the bathrooms, everyone's nightmare right.......and while old, it was yet clean.

And old means really really old....when I was searching online for how old, I found a Hansindia article saying it completed hundred years  in 2015

While everyone in the premises, the doctors, the nurses, the lab assistants were all in their hazmat coats, and talking through their masks....I found each of them pleasant, friendly and efficient.

(While Diksha was the only one in the ward when we went in, within the hour a large bunch of people came in, and I learnt from one of them that they were a team of airport employees who have been doing the passenger covid checks.....and one of their colleagues had tested positive, and that's why they were all asked to take the test)

At first a doctor came in and took a detailed report of diksha's symptoms and some medical background. And then diksha had to wait a while for the lab assistant. Those were her rather tense minutes I think, as she was like "ma, ask them if it will hurt". (it took effort to not let my tears escape)

The test itself is a swab taken from deep inside the throat and the nasal chamber. Not painful at all.

And then it was waiting for the results......twenty four nail biting hours, a twenty four hours that we spent away from talking or even thinking covid.

She tested negative. omg, omg.......the relief experienced is near impossible to describe :)

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Pan 10 - When the sneezing began......

This was Day 4 after Diksha's return....... 25th March.

Very much in 'home quarantine'......and even before we could fully settle into the self isolation drill looked like life had more in store for us.

It started that evening, with Diksha sniffling....... we attributed it to journey fatigue.

Next morning she started to cough......... we hoped it was a common cold.

By evening she was running a fever. I searched for a thermometer I haven't used in years. I found one. She checked and it read 100.5. 

I said, "no deech, can't trust these digital ones, may be a battery malfunction...let me find another". I actually found one... the old fashioned mercury one. I prefer the old ones. So we checked again. It also showed 100.3. 

It could still be a common cold (flu) we thought.

She did a lot of steam inhalation and salt water gargling. Put her on wikoryl and dolo.

We monitored with bated breath and fingers crossed.....for two days.....the fever was going down in the morning, and coming back at night. The cough was getting worse. Her cold was bad. The symptoms were ominous.

It was time to sit up.

We spoke to doctors.... doctors in the family, doctors among friends...... and the opinion was unanimous and clear; she needed to be taken to the government hospital for a covid test.

There was a phase where I was indecisive. Guess I was looking for excuses. I'd read about waiting for seven days before getting worried,  treating it at home till it gets severe...  stuff like that was interfering with thought process.

The stress was like the proverbial elephant in the room. We were both fluctuating. The thought of exposing her to a crowd during the test..... the thought of 14 days quarantine in Gandhi hospital...they were making our thinking nebulous.

While 27th evening I went to sleep with the decision of waiting two more days, 28th morning I got up with complete clarity.

Be it good sense, be it our sense of responsibility, be it fear, be it collective consciousness........whatever.....we knew we needed to do it.

Decision made, we were ill equipped in even knowing what to expect. I was like "pack a bag deech, you may not be allowed to come back if you test positive....and I'm not sure you'll have charging points and the best you take a couple of books's fourteen days after all"

She browses my book shelf, rejects all my suggestions....and picks what?

'For One More Day' by Mitch Albom......a philosophical book that explores mortality as central theme
'Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind' by Yuvah Noal Harari

I could only stand and look on....with a cauldron of emotions within.......with anxiety, with fear.... with admiration, with respect.......... and most of all with tenderness and love ...........overflowing yet invisible ......and all from five feet away.

Her emotions we can only imagine. If anything, her choice of books spoke volumes.

What was visible on surface, for both of us, was a pragmatic, no nonsense air......and we left, backpack, sanitizer and masks in tow.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pan 9 - Mother Nature to her Kindergartners

The evening, a few days back, that diksha and I chilled over vodka made for some fascinating conversations.....we meandered into the general, the intimate, the musical well as the abstract levels.

When it was about covid, as it invariably gets to these days......and I was gingerly bringing in the larger concept of 'course correction' and 'earth intelligence'.....she took it to a whole different level with this:

this was like mother nature telling her kindergartners "ok children, time to sit back in your rooms and think about what you have done"

She'd heard it somewhere she said.....and I thought it was just so simply and so beautifully put, that it stayed with me.....enough to dedicate a post to the line :)

Monday, March 30, 2020

Pan 8 - When washing dishes becomes meditative.....

That's as 'present' as it gets.

What faizan does in half hour, I think is taking me an hour or more.

The difference? for her it's a job, plus she has the expertise.........for me neither. Over the last ten days it has grown into an activity of 'being in the present'

Plus, cleansing is potentially meditative (pun intended)

Meditation is no easy ask. Keeping the mind free of thoughts comes with a lot of practice, and honestly, though I've been at it for years, 'the stillness' or 'trance' or 'connect' or what have you...will still come when it wants to and not when it doesn't. You just can't make it happen.

And when one is in overwhelmed space, as I've been over the last couple of weeks, it's becoming more and more challenging. I haven't given up, but the body just takes over, and it's so tightly wound right now, that the simplest meditative tool of calming is also not working.

And that's when dishes have become cheat code :)

Steel and glass lend themselves to cleansing so beautifully. Atleast visually (thankfully we can't see the microbes :).

The whole process of starting with a sink full of dirty dishes, and ending with a tray full of sparkling dishes can actually be enriching, especially if you surrender yourself to the process. 

It went from being a chore, to a space I actually found fun and engrossing..... not to speak of the fact that the more stubborn ones like the cooker and frying pans are actually looking nicer than in the pre-covid era :)

Who'd ever think a picture like this would come onto the blog. Well....'life's changed' is not for's today symbolizing 'messy and meditative'.

That's when you realize that the choice is not just in 'what you do', but also in 'how you do what you do'.