3 June, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

By Mugdha Sinha

I remember having woken up with a mild headache, which went unattended as I generally avoid recourse to medicines. By mid-afternoon, however, I was compelled to pop a paracetamol in harmony with the Covid-19 protocol of medicines. But it didn’t prove effective against self inflicted cumulative stress brought on by an onslaught of webinars and gigantically enhanced screen time, an unavoidable attendant of the lockdown; more so, as after the third phase, our sarkari offices were open with reduced attendance – no public, only staff and pigeons allowed.

The headache accompanied me to the office, along with the PPE kit, as just another piece of paraphernalia.

Sitting at my office desk, all masked up with a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi on the back wall —compulsory in most government offices, with a tag line to reminds one that, ‘the best way to find yourself, is by losing yourself in the service of others’. I continued to juggle a slew of message, being in charge of responding to the needs of migrant labourers, stranded as they stood in cities due to the sudden announcement of the lockdown, far away from home, without proper food or adequate means. The headache was beginning to descend to my temples and I could feel the throbbing in nerves above my ear.

But I was too caught up in mulling over how the graphic audio visuals of the migrants’ lives were being served to us through an a la carte of social media platforms, with utter disregard for the privacy of their lives, because poverty is a much bigger curse than the pandemic can ever be. The virus only kills you once, while penury bleeds you dry, bit by bit, stripping away the last vestige of dignity, throwing us naked to a virus with voracious appetite. We live in a much divided world.

And yet virus has for once, engineered a great homecoming. My headache had by now become viral and I decided to leave for home, eat, pray, sleep, pretty much like Elizabeth Gilbert’s sojourn from Italy to Bali via the Osho Ashram in Pune. Attraversiamo – let’s cross over I said and was back to the safe confines of my home, almost as if by abracadabra. But I needed to bathe and wash my clothes, before I could eat.

The household chores have descended on us, as the scaffolds that hold up our households are snatched away by the requirements of social distancing. Behind every single, successful woman, is a maid who doubles up as Ma. I miss mine- both Ma, in Mumbai and Gattu Bai ji, a few apartments away, separated by a laxman rekha drawn up by an invisible virus.

An afternoon siesta together with the pill, dulled the headache. I decided to make my tea and have it too. Between sips I gaze at the sky through the window of my study, where, every day, I watch with great interest the setting sun, and at night the moon, stars and constellations through my telescope. This isolation is not new for me, having lived alone since I first moved from a small town to a college in Delhi, got a job, and continued to live on my own, ever since. The freedom of being alone has grown on me like pepper grows on a tree, sybaritic and symbiotic.

It’s was close to dinner time and I was still trying to distract myself from the headache, as it refused to recede. I ate noodles for dinner. Sleep evaded me, insomnia laid hold. My hands were itching to paint and I gravitate towards the Buddha quite by serendipity, it becomes a befitting ritualistic oblation, for the Buddha Poornima as I painted long into the night.