20 March, Bangalore, India

By Sruthi Krishnan

The date looks so prim on the top of the page, like the way my mother stacks steel glasses, one on top of the other, space, and repeat. The day began with a call to my mother. Last night the Prime Minister had asserted, with insistent finger wagging, that people who are older must stay home. I called to check, just in case, you know.

“Hi ma, how are you guys doing?”

Grunt of assent.

“You are at home?”

 “Where else?”

I swallowed a sigh.

I mulled over surveilling my parents with cameras and GPS trackers so that I never need call to ask about such things. Maybe I have been brainwashed by the productivity cult – like clockwork I call to ask about physiotherapy schedules, shirtless men on opposite building terraces, or stalkers (all stories for calmer times). These ‘how are you’ calls stump me. Whatever phrase I use, whether I modulate from dulcet to chirpy, by the end of it I feel like the ungrateful child who features often in my mother’s WhatsApp forwards (again, stories for another time).

I could have told her the news, with a capital N – I was one of the dots pinned on the contact trace of someone who was found COVID positive yesterday. Someone had just come back from a foreign country and had attended an event, which my colleague attended too. The next day, we (as in everyone in the organisation where I work) met my colleague.

The event was one of those edge cases in Bangalore – it was scheduled just before the government cancelled public life. Reading the Facebook post of the event organisers yesterday that someone in the event’s audience was COVID positive made the whole situation a shade darker.

I posted said post in my organisation’s WhatsApp group. I work in a research organisation with minds that sieve through the mass and mess of data to glean threads of order. Lists of varying lengths popped up in response to my message – who should be contacted, when, what should be done.

After I finished my phone call with my mother, a friend pinged – ‘Yo. How are you’ and I promptly told her about the News. My friend is an artist. We spoke of why people do things that on hindsight is not a good idea (future generations note – hopping off a plane and popping into a concert kabhi karo na). What was the reason, why did they not reason — ‘reason’ is such a malleable word, noun or a verb, the situation decides. My friend excels in hosing down the judgmental cloud that (sometimes) descends over me. I felt calmer (as it is always the case) after chatting with her.

I worked. We are designing a game to talk about challenges multi-cultural candidates face in small and medium industries. I had to design one part of the game – an excel sheet, my thoughts, my colleague’s responses on chat. We over-wrote on each others’ cells, giggled a bit. I wondered, will the game take place, will they cancel, what will happen, and then shut down that voice, and continued. Finished a solid chunk.

I read the news, Twitter, Facebook. Messages popped up – some giggly, most grim.

I cooked. The plate looked colourful – yellow dal, white rice, orange subzi, and green chutney. We ate.

I read the news, Twitter, Facebook. Messages popped up – some giggly and most grim.

Spoke to a friend. Her father, a politician has been home for more than 22 hours after 22 years. (Of course, it is line I made up, but, you get the picture.)

I watched the rain. Just sat at a window and saw the rain sliding off the limbs of trees and licking leaves. In the evening sun, the trees seemed to have sprouted green crystals.

I stopped reading the news.

I decided to sing. Only for 15 – 20 minutes, lest the throat gets stressed.