By Manik Sharma Apr. 19, 2021
For the longest of time, my family has tried to cajole me into living closer to home. But I’ve always wanted “freedom”, a life away from my parents. Now as the second wave surges and I battle a fever, I long for their care and their reassuring voice, something my social networks just can’t provide.
Life comes full circle they say. Sometimes it does so in the dreariest of circumstances, with the grin of a rather mean prophecy. The country is on its knees. I write this through a strain of fever and crippling body pain. There is no kidding about the anxiety and fear it comes with. All this melancholia, this anxiety has made me realise a humbling fact – that my individual freedoms, my breakaway lifestyle from within confines of family home serves certain purposes that when challenged by life so dramatically, seem weak and futile. I live a night’s journey away from my family, and though it is also for their safety that this distance should be maintained, inside, I long for their care, their reassuring voice.
It contradicts what I’ve argued for against my
family – a life away from them.
Being under 45 in India right now is a different kind of anxiety. You know there won’t be access to vaccines anytime soon. Because we live the way we do, we don’t have a solid social network, the kind our parents regularly fall back on for care and assistance. I used to think that money, its powers of persuasion were good replacement value for the intimately built bridges that our parents tend to profess as your last hope. “Saath mein char log khade chahiye” is a statement I’ve heard countless times from my father who criticises the way I shun social contact or lasting relationships with friends or cousins. Social media followers and friends aren’t exactly the same thing. All that given, it’s safe to say the ones I still count on for making that sacrificial dash to save a life or even offer care is my family.
Most millennials and Gen Z who work in cities and satellite towns are migrants who have stepped away from home to earn a living. This experience also radically changes their view of lived realities, the freedoms they come to take for granted, the menial tasks they start to consider their daily accomplishments. Because we literally “get it done” by clicking buttons and overpaying for pretty much everything on a day-to-day basis, we’ve come to acquire this false sense of comfort that crises must also similarly be negotiable. That it’d take the same click of a button, the emptying of a digital wallet and delivery of love and care. Obviously, life, or at least its crises don’t work that way.
On the contrary they attack and challenge the most basic of human
instincts – the notion of care, love, and support.
Being a millennial usually translates to taking pride in instinctive daftness. We love confronting the future without a plan in hand, and anyone who tells us to get one, gets an earful about just how uncool or implausible it all sounds. Winging it, is kind of the motto and it brings with itself a false sense of grandeur and defiance of having made past rudimentary obstacles before you encounter something truly humbling.
This is not to say that our lives are cakewalks, but we’ve made a culture out of suspending tomorrow as an afterthought and living in the today. For the longest of time, my family has tried to cajole me into living closer to home. What they channel as concern, I have always interpreted as interference. Sure, there is some of that too. Families aren’t perfect, and Indian parents especially don’t get the idea of familial boundaries or the fact that we too, may at some point, want to embrace adulthood.
That said, it’s the adulthood of earning and paying or leveraging luxuries that millennials, including myself, seem most competent at. None of it echoes the concerned map-making that our parents regularly encourage us to do. The notion of being prepared for the worst-case scenarios that our brains and our hearts conveniently shun for the gratification of assuming we have it all figured out. When the reality is, we’ve figured squat. Having seen my parents handle many a health crisis at home, I’ve realised I simply don’t have the stomach for responsibility, or even fighting this battle on my own.
All I long for right now, is the comfort of my
home, and the warm presence of my parents who seem made from a different salt
altogether, considering the calmness they exude and convey despite the yawning
distance between us.
The pandemic will teach us many things. Those who survive it, will certainly emerge with a new perspective on life, one that takes shape right at the edge of a calamity. It’s also a moment of shattering clarity, I guess, for it easily separates assumptions from actualities. That I assumed I could waft through the crisis on my own is one that I’ve picked up most recently. We can fool ourselves into believing a lot of things but when it comes to humbling calamities like the one we face today, all the heart yearns for is familiar faces, familiar corners, and the reassuring words of a parent that “everything will be fine”.
Manik Sharma writes on Arts and Culture.
He tweets at @Manik1Sharma