See You On the Other Side of the Pandemic.


See You On the Other Side of the Pandemic.

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

It’s tomorrow. Everything is better. Back to normal. We have escaped this horrible, horrible thing. We have come out of this wiser, sadder, and more appreciative of what we have. That office colleague we bitched about for three years? We missed them. You say hello, he replies with a big grin on his face. He has now decided to keep a moustache. It suits you, you say. Thank you.

How was life, you ask. I survived, he says. Good. Same here. You go back to your desk. Your chair is still there. It feels like you haven’t sat properly all this while. You open your laptop and head directly to the pantry. Old habits die hard. It’s time for some coffee. Your boss is standing at the coffee machine, waiting for his cup to get filled. You greet him. “Sleepy already”, he taunts you. You laugh. You missed these taunts.

Pubs are filled again with laughter, and after a few drinks, some of us cry. Maybe because of the sheer joy of being able to order another pint. Or maybe because some of us lost our close ones. But good, crying in front of your friends is good. It relieves you. It’s on the house guys, says a cheerful voice. Drinks, they are on the house for the next one hour, the pub owner says. He too missed people, you think. This day is not about profits for him, it’s about the business. He realises why he joined this in the first place. Hanging out with people was the reason. Making them happy. Profits can start from tomorrow. Today is for togetherness. Another new chapter.

You sleep. Tomorrow will be normal again. Second day in a row.

Restaurants are filled again with families. Don’t waste food, beta, a father tells his son. He now realises the worth of food. Dad, why can’t we see the stars in our sky anymore. because things are back to normal, son. That’s our normal. Not seeing the stars. Some of us have gone home, to be with our families. I am so glad you are alive, mom, I was worried beyond imagination. Nothing will ever happen to me, she says. Touchwood, you say. Your return ticket hasn’t been booked yet. You want to spend some more time with them.

Cricket is back on the menu. Jadeja is diving around. You are watching it with your friends, CSK will win again this year. It might be the last time Dhoni is playing. End of an era. It’s time for the likes of Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw to take Chennai forward. Start of an era. The Premier League is also back. They have given Liverpool the title. Won fair and square, I guess. Nobody is complaining. Maybe because everyone is just happy to have the football back. The banter has started.  Because things are back to normal now. No more surprises.

No more negativity, no more writing about the pandemic, or anxiety, or death.

It’s 6’o’clock, you leave your office. Catch the train back home. Oh man, I missed this bloody train. No more social distancing, just give me your bag uncle, I will hold it while I enjoy reading on my kindle. The chaos is back. This feels normal. It’s a little less crowded though, you think. Hope not all of them died, you wish secretly. No they haven’t, you convince yourself. Back to reading.

You reach home, the guard at the gate greets you. Kaise ho? Bas sab badhiya. Magazine aayi thi koi? Nahin, he replies, smiling. He is smiling for no reason. And so are you. This is the first time the society gate has opened in months. This is his office, you realise. He has every reason to smile.

You open your apartment door. It’s normal. You look out of your window, the neighbour who was always on his balcony isn’t there anymore. He is inside, watching TV. Back to normal, you guess. You miss seeing him though. You start reading the book you ordered from Amazon, which is back to delivering “non-essential” things. This is the first package you have opened after months. What a privilege, to get books delivered to your doorstep. It actually smells nice. The book smell thing is real, guys, maybe you should write something about it.

Why can’t we see the stars in our sky anymore? Because things are back to normal. Our normal.

And so, you start writing. And this is the first time you have written about a normal subject in months. No more negativity, no more writing about the pandemic, or anxiety, or death. Back to normal. Let’s see if this normal lasts. You are unable to collect your thoughts. It’s okay, you tell yourself. We have been through worse.

You sleep. Tomorrow will be normal again. Second day in a row. Amazing. Can’t wait to wake up and go for that 12 noon meeting at Social. Maybe you will order that breakfast tray. You haven’t had proper breakfast in so long.

Alarm rings.

Good morning. Finally, the morning is actually good. This phrase has a deeper meaning now, or so you think. I am coming for you, breakfast. You meet that neighbour downstairs. You look at each other and smile. Guess he too missed seeing you.