26 May, Dehiwela, Sri Lanka

By Kaushalya Kathireson

My maiden voyage after over two months of staying home: the tuk-tuk trip had been booked using an app. I was heading out to run some errands – track down a particular medicine for my father, of which most pharmacies didn’t have stock;  get new flip-flops both for him and me, my dog having destroyed our old ones midway into lockdown; and buy a few items – of the ‘this and that’ kind.

A message alerted me to the arrival of the tuk-tuk.

Mask – check

Hand sanitizer – check

Bottle of water – check

Cloth bag that had another cloth bag in it – Check (So I could wash them on return, plus avoid plastic bags)

I asked Janith (name changed) if he was alright making multiple stops. He nodded his head in affirmation. And so, it began.

The view of the road ahead was through a plastic film – a new form of protection inserted in tuk tuk taxis, shielding driver from passenger and vice versa – giving the whole outing a clinical quality. Masks on also meant minimal conversation. The variety of masks was the first thing I noticed – plain coloured and printed cloth ones; some looked like they were padded with additional filters, the blue surgical masks, a few N-95 masks, handkerchiefs and t-shirts tied across the face. While most covered the wearer’s nose and chin, others dangled precariously from the one ear, or hung at the neck.

I thought being out for the first time in 2 months would feel grander, but the novelty didn’t last long, soon I was preoccupied with my to do list.

Plus, a new plastic cover on the tuk-tuk seat also meant that bumpy roads and speed breakers had me sliding from side to side, my shoulder dangerously close to touching the sides of the tuk-tuk if I didn’t brace myself on time. I also hadn’t anticipated a crash-course in the art of tucking back escaped hair strands (a basic feature of tuk tuk travel) while maneuvering minimal face touch.

I also realized that I use a lot of hand gestures when giving directions. But the mask meant muffled voices and having to lean forward when speaking, which in turn meant my pointing fingers were bouncing off this new plastic obstruction. I wondered if the other travelers also had the same experience, and if so, how many hands had touched this separator? Maybe I should sanitize my hands once again. 

The stop at each pharmacy involved sanitizing hands before stepping in, showing the prescription on my phone, then waiting for them to check stock. 6 pharmacies later, still no luck – one suggested that I go to the state pharmacy, Osusala. By this point, Janith was as invested as I was in finding this medicine for my father and we were both on pharmacy look-out.

I finally managed to buy the medicine; next it was slippers. Stopping at a shop on the way, I rummaged through my bag for the piece of paper with the outline of my father’s foot – he didn’t know what size I should get, and I didn’t want him travelling just for this. The shop assistant and I spent a couple of minutes deliberating; my father had traced his foot on a paper that was too small, the top and bottom of the outline were missing. We finally settled on a size, then card payment meant another round of sanitizing hands, not just for me but also the cashier.

Buying the masks and the other necessities was a much shorter process. As Janith dropped me home, I thanked him for being so accommodating and waiting at each stop so patiently.  He nodded his head in the ‘no problem’ kind of way.

Then it was straight to the shower: the clothes I was wearing, and the bag were all washed right away and put to dry. The water bottled rinsed, the phone and wallet wiped down.  Though the entire trip took just over an hour, the whole process felt much longer, it reminded me that getting used to the bigger change also meant getting used to so many small things that I hadn’t really thought of.

I don’t recall my first tuk-tuk trip, I doubt if any of us brought-up in Sri Lanka do. But this one, the first tuk-tuk trip after a lockdown, I feel like it’s going to stick with me for a while.

P.S. – the slippers didn’t fit.

25 May, Kohuwela, Sri Lanka

By Shalini Jayasinghe

Tomorrow curfew will be lifted on the paradise island.

A cat is snarling and hissing at the main door. A water monitor is chasing it, flicking its tail to and fro. The clock strikes four. The wild cat begins scratching fiercely, not knowing that he is at the wrong door.

We call our neighbour to ask if it is their cat. She said it was not, but to chase it away with a broom or a bat. We may be more terrified of the cat, than the cat is scared by the water monitor. I think the water monitor doesn’t like to share, if the cat is caught he will be eaten up whole. After all, there is no easy food delivery for the water monitor these days.

The cat eventually goes away – no trace outside.

There is a mosquito troubling me now. I worry about dengue. Inside, clean drains, clean gutters, but outside on the street, there is only a dirty drain where the water monitor lives. His tail like a blade, said to be able to cut through you.

A bird flies into our house through the window. He is caught inside with us – a red-vented bulbul. We are scared it will peck us. It sits on the electric wire, then flies onto Sumudhu’s graduation photograph, and sits there some more. I sit here too, waiting for it to fly far away out of the window.

I am looking forward to a long outing tomorrow. These days I walk down the lane with my granddaughter. Little Amisha wears her shoes joyfully, for a short walk to see rain water flowing from Praveen’s neighbouring drain. Amisha gets excited and shouts “water, water”, as if she has seen a waterfall. I say to her “water, water, everywhere, not a drop to drink”. When we come back into the house Amisha says “water, water” and her Dada gives her some iced water to drink. She gulps it, as if she has walked through a long desert, and is now back on a paradise island.

We have had nature come into our house during the past two months, instead of us going outside to see it. We have loved nature coming to us, we’re still a little bit scared though.

24 May, Dubai, UAE

By Mrudvi Bakshi

For the last 15 years, I have been celebrating Eid with my childhood friends, who are more like an extended family to me.

A group of five, fondly known as the ‘Famous Five,’ we usually spent the day food-hopping.  We start by devouring some sheer khurma at one’s place, followed by traditional hyderabadi haleem and shahi biryani at the others’, finishing the food marathon with the lip-smacking meethi seviyan.

Being the only non-Muslim in the group, I enjoyed extra attention from everyone’s families and the chance to pack copious amounts of these delicacies to bring back home for my own family to relish.

After the binge eating and spending time with each other’s families, we would usually step out in the evening to take a stroll across old Dubai, reminiscing our childhood days and catching up on all the latest updates in our lives.

This year though with these circumstances forcing many of us worldwide to stay indoors, I must confess waking up feeling oddly strange.  For the very first time, I will not be celebrating the festival with my group.

We quickly exchange wishes on the morning of Eid — not wanting the present circumstances to sabotage our pleasant memories of the festival — we decide to make the most of this day from our respective homes. 

After some discussion, the plan is for each of us to prepare our favorite Eid dish and sit down for a Zoom call later in the day, enjoying our preparations together. 

No sooner is this mentioned that I instantly know that I will be preparing seviyan. Not only because it is a personal favorite but also because the dish is loved by my family, giving me a solid reason to prepare it.

I’d like to rate myself as an average cook and wanting to give this my best shot, diving right in to one of the easiest recipes I find on YouTube. I use soy milk instead of regular full-cream milk, not because I’m a health freak, but just because I reached for the wrong container in the fridge.

One hour and several trials later, I have successfully prepared the dish much to my liking and brought back some great memories.

As planned, at 6pm all five of us are ready with our dishes on Zoom. Slightly disappointed about having to do it this way, we quickly bring in our preparations and rave about them (cause why not), wish our families and later settle in to watch a movie together virtually.

It definitely felt different, but honestly I couldn’t have asked a better way to end the day. Also, it adds to the list of celebrations due once all this comes to an end.

23-24 May, Sri Lanka

By Sunila Galappatti

 I wake from stranger than usual dreams. 

In one of them, Newcastle United — the home football team of a beloved city where I lived fifteen years ago — had just won a major trophy. But I couldn’t find anyone to celebrate it – all the streets and rooms I looked into were empty.  In a stairwell I ran into my old boss, Artistic Director of the theatre in Newcastle at which I worked.  With a tilt of his head, he reminded me why no one could gather at this time.  Or was he, I wonder now, telling me that after all this the theatre had to close.

In the other dream, things had evidently eased.  My husband and I were sitting the office of a doctor we took a calculated gamble not to see in lockdown – evidently it had now become safe enough to go. The doctor and I both started speaking at once – I to fill him on the months-old past while he began to offer a thoughtful judgment for the future.  One or the other of these things weighed in on my consciousness and I woke up.  I lie there, the first in the family to wake, disappointed not to know what I had been about to learn.

A few days ago my three year old son told me he dreamt of “lots of peoples”. Now that he feels a slight shift in the strictness of our lockdown, he is hopeful. When there’s any noise that could be someone at the door, he lights up with excitement.  “Do you think my friends will come?” he asks, meaning really anyone at all.

Sometime last week the lines crossed on the graph in Sri Lanka – more recoveries than active cases now, of those we know.  The government has announced there is only one active cluster left on the island – the spread within the Navy, after personnel were involved in contact tracing (poorly protected while doing so, poorly isolated afterwards, is the assumption).   In recent weeks, parts of the medical establishment as well as independent public health experts have descried the situation in the country as inadequately tested or shored up.  Cases have been filed concerning an unlawful extension of suspended parliament.  The cost of fuel is being artificially maintained at pre-pandemic levels. We feel confident of nothing at all, but within ourselves we superstitiously test out a faint hope where the disease itself is concerned: could we have got lucky?

In this family, we are feeling luckier than ever.  In the last week, the authorities have endorsed journeys that also put us in landscapes we craved, our confinement opening out, if not our relative isolation.  I’m left wondering what I wish for, that is more a likely in the short-term than a vaccine, a salve for the pain of the world, improvements in the governance of almost everywhere, or an outside chance we will choose to live differently than we have been living.  We wish to see our friends and family of course — lots of peoples — but I find myself trying not to think about that, because how will we start, how will socially distanced versions of our former life ever feel like enough, how will we explain to the three year-old that the quarantine isn’t really over?

So on Saturday we make and fly a kite, on Sunday, another.  My husband and I talk about things we will do this year that feel new.  It is easier to plan for the three year old than ourselves but we don’t do so badly if we focus only on our inner world. 

The outer is another matter. We have lost three sources of our former, fortunately diverse, livelihood – but we need only adapt, not struggle.  We are fearful of further turns that politics will take and the suffering of people in need everywhere — we know these shoes have already dropped, we’re just currently insulated from them.

What we know of the world has been foraged online.  I joined Twitter initially because my publisher made me but then I started going there for fast news in times of crisis, then these crises themselves started coming thicker and faster.  My feed changes character depending on whether the news from Sri Lanka or the UK – my most immediate worlds – is worse on any given day. 

On Saturday night in Sri Lanka a new wave is starting in Britain – the Prime Minister’s trusted political advisor, with a political record not to be trusted, turns out to have flouted several public health protocols and, while Covid-positive, driven 250 odd miles to deposit a child with his elderly parents.  That’s what I picked up without reading further.  I am not surprised when I see these stories, nor by a bullish government’s bullish defence and I wonder as I often do whether it does Britain any favours that public discourse repeatedly organises itself around heated scandals like these.

But on Sunday morning in Sri Lanka, I also remember that I am living on an island that has seen nine Covid deaths, according to official figures, thinking about one that has seen around 60,000.  What does it is that I see another Tweet (and later many more like it). Responding to the fury about Dominic Cummings, a woman points out that she observed the protocols for eight weeks and did not drive to see her mother who didn’t live very far away, even to sit in her garden and have a distanced cup of tea with her, but next week she will be making that same short journey to her mother’s funeral.  Again and again it is the stories of funerals — a nurse found dead, a family unable to attend their child’s funeral, families informed of forced cremations after they have taken place — that remind me more viscerally than anything else, how little some of us have had to endure. 

23 May, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India

By Dikshika Arya

I rolled over to the other side and faintly opened my eyes to look at the table clock.  I assured myself I had more time to sleep; those five minutes more of sleep before I act on all the late night promises I had made to myself. I woke up again due to the abrupt waking up of my husband.

It was 9:15 a.m. Went to pee, quickly brushed my teeth, came out of the bathroom, avoiding eye contact with my mother-in-law and hurried to my room to connect through skype for the office  team meeting, scheduled for 9.30am every day. This is the how the normal office day goes during these times of lockdown.

I joined the meeting five minutes late and it ended with ‘Stay safe, stay connected’. I made myself a bread and butter breakfast and had it with some gram-soya bean thing my mother-in-law makes. A cup of coffee to bring a bittersweet taste to my tongue. Back to work – some screen time and some work calls later, I found time to work out.  I rolled open the yoga mat, stood on it, looked into my full length mirror and asked myself: Do I want to work out?

To be honest, I didn’t want to but it’s been almost two months that I have been working out seriously, with few inconsistencies. I say a quick yes to myself and start performing my surya-namaskars, followed by single leg deadlift, squats, lunges and leg raises. I wanted to do a quick run of about 30 minutes on the treadmill but I lost that to my procrastination.

My mother-in-law has been sweet enough to let go of my not-so-good-daughter-in law behavior. But today, I tried to help a little, still limited to chopping cucumber for salad and pouring out buttermilk in glasses. I took my lunch plate and came directly to my room to enjoy the lunch with my ‘The Big Bang Theory’ series. The episode was interrupted by a work call and I immediately switched to my laptop till 5pm. By then, I felt I should get rid of the stink from my brunch workout and headed for a shower. The water in the tap was unwelcoming, too hot, but thankfully I had another bucket of water to cool it down.  May to June are the months of extreme hot weather and since there could be water shortages, we usually keep few buckets filled with water at home.

In the evening around six, we had our fruits and watched little TV together. Today, my mother-in law’s friends insist on meeting me as my husband and I work in another state and visit Kanpur only for festivals. We agreed to meeting in the corridor, each one just outside their main gate. I greeted everyone of them with a Namaste and mimed the act of touching their feet: you know, social distancing at its best. We did some chit-chat and talked about how are we getting our household work done as having house-help is a big no-no in these quarantine days. Then saying goodbye, we resumed our household work.

I chopped onions, ginger and garlic for the paste to be put in the vegetables. My mother-in-law did the cooking and I watched. We had our dinner while grasping the news highlights of the day. As we retired for the day: just a little writing, which I could promise to finish tomorrow morning when I wake up early. But here I am, writing continuously, not leaving it for tomorrow and my laptop battery is low, so this has to be quick.

22 May, Bangalore, India

By Dileep Aatharesh

I stepped out of my precincts for the first time since I landed in the city on March 14th. Barring the once-a-week grocery run to a store 100 metres away, I had not ventured out.

I had ordered masks online a few weeks back. I finally got a call from the courier agency asking me to come and pick them up from their nearest collection center as the latest version of lockdown did not yet permit delivery to the doorstep. I was not fully convinced, as I had received a parcel from Amazon that very morning. I asked my dad for the scooter keys and he was mildly annoyed at me for having placed the online order and increased our chances of exposure to people. Which in turn made me resent being locked in with people I deemed paranoid; the resentment, despite my  awareness that he was recuperating from a nasty bout of pneumonia which had him hospitalised for the first time in his life a couple of months ago.

Getting on the rickety old scooter was both thrilling and mildly unsettling. I stopped a couple of times to check on the tyre. I was not sure if it was wobbling or if it was in my head. I stopped right in front of the neighborhood police station, a few hundred metres away from my house. As I was checking my tyre, I noticed a burly man waving the wooden lathi at me, menacingly. I quickly realised his ire was not directed at me, but at a serpentine queue of migrant workers who were waiting for the permits to travel home: an assortment of young men, who seemed to be in their twenties, lugging bags of different shapes and sizes. Some looked despondent and others just exhausted. There were a few buses lined up to ferry them. ‘On Casual Contract’ read the digital display on the bus. Behind the bus were posters for the national emergency helpline.

The labelling made me unsure if they were being transported back to their native places or were being ferried to work. I tried striking up a conversation with one of them and was shooed away by a cop nearby. Back on the scooter, I tailed a bus carrying the workers. I really wanted to know what was happening. But curiosity and empathy are not the same I guess. I was distracted by a motorcycle rider zipping ahead. He was on a motorcycle of which I had been watching reviews on an almost daily basis during this lockdown. My interest from the bus quickly shifted to the motorcycle. I tried catching up with him to eye up the motorcycle at close hand, and failed at it. The bus had taken a detour by then, reminding me my empathy runs shallow.

It didn’t take long to collect at the couriers and I noticed rows of undelivered stack of packages.  They had interesting names on them, linking back to different parts of the country, denoting how the demographics of the city have changed. The part of the city in which I was making this day’s journey, was a suburb back in the 90s. Rising real estate had pushed many ‘local’ Bangaloreans further away from the urban heart of the city to suburbs. Middle class gentry jostled with villagers who had lived in this stretch for decades, ‘development’ paving the way for small stand-alone houses, then packed three-floor houses sharing common walls with the neighbours, like in many Indian cities. The names on the packages reminded me of how continuous this process is, of moving away from known spaces.

On my way back, I noticed the shops were open.  The ‘fancy stores’ were open too. It felt like life as people knew it was slowly getting back on track. I headed back to my lockdown room.

22 May, London, UK

By Ian Burns

Londoners seem to be somewhere between collectively confused and mildly rebellious. The lamentable advice from the government to ‘Stay Alert’ has been interpreted as ‘do what suits you, but be mindful of the consequences’. Our philandering Prime Minister is not someone with whom it is easy to associate the words ‘taking responsibility’.

Londoners are getting on with their own lives. In a way, they have tired of ‘the science’, whatever that turns out to have been, they lambast the opacity with which decisions are taken about their lives and they are making their own ‘risk-adjusted’ decisions.

I took these and few other thoughts out for a walk this morning. It was the first time in many days that I was not bathed in sunlight under near cloudless blue skies. Somehow, it felt more ‘normal’. Perhaps that is a signal, yet there is not much evidence of the virus being contained and the ‘excess deaths’ stats suggest that the true cost of COVID-19 in the UK is approaching 60,000 deaths.

It could not undermine my mood though. I am far from alone in having found that lockdown has introduced me to the wonders and beauty of birdsong and an awareness of the magnificence and beauty of trees. I suppose this is what is part of ‘mindfulness’ and I am enjoying being more mindful. At heart, though, I am an urbanite and I love London’s architectural and social contrasts. Most of my walks over the past month have kept me north of the river, and because I have friends in the vicinity, I have used Lord’s Cricket Ground as a target.

Today, I went south over Tower Bridge with a plan to walk to the Oval, London’s other great cricketing cathedral. By tacking through Southwark and Lambeth I could see a slightly grittier and less gentrified London. I walked past Elephant & Castle and looked at the regeneration of ‘Elephant Park’ contrasted with the shabby remains of the huge Shopping Centre that dominated the area for decades. From there I struck off down Kennington Lane towards, the Oval.

The ground means a good deal to my family. My brother bookended his career there. He made his debut for Essex in 1986, and he played his final game, for Leicestershire, in 2004, I think. It made me think of two things. First, the entertainment industries. I love the theatre as much as I love cricket and football. We are only now beginning to appreciate what these stimuli mean to us. We have a better understanding of the value of ‘culture’, just as (hopefully), we have a better understanding of the value of the work some of our low paid workers do for us all.

Second, I thought about family. This awful virus and the ramifications of its development have torn into family fabric. Many families are having to process grief, often having been deprived from last goodbyes and funeral representation. Others are coping with fear, such as thinking about the odds for an elderly relative in a care home. And others are dealing with distance and absence and the very real diminution of physical comfort. The importance of a hug, an embrace, of touch is one of many things we once took for granted and are now re-pricing in our mental lists of value and what is important to us. I thought about family because my brother, who lives near my parents, wants to know when I will visit.

Nothing has changed in terms of risk: of my potential as a ‘vector’ and of my parents’ potential vulnerability as they approach 80th and 85th birthdays. So, my brother is reflecting some weariness with lockdown, or a contempt for any official advice (and I share his contempt for some of the people giving us advice) in expecting a visit from me soon. We are blessed with a BBC Coronavirus Newscast podcast. Today, one of the scientists from the government’s advisory group, SAGE, was answering questions. He did a good job, but reminded us that ministers make decisions and set policy. Policy right now seems to be wishing it would all go away and to stop revealing the ineptitude of our ‘app’, or our ‘track and trace’ provision. I am sure everyone would love to be able to wish it away, but leadership demands better responses than staying alert for an invisible threat.

However, I reached the ground and found myself thinking about real cricket games and why sport affects me so deeply. From there, I walked to the river and looked at the Houses of Parliament and willed our government to govern better, before passing the National Theatre and the Globe Theatre and pondering more deeply on culture, entertainment and entertainers. I know many around me do not have this luxury. What they are pondering is how to feed families, or what their employment prospects are when furlough programmes come to an end. And, as with most days since lockdown started, I find it easy to count my many blessings.

19 May, Bangalore, India

By Shraddha Jain

My dad usually wakes up at 5:30 am even during the lockdown and starts an hour’s yoga session. However, it was different today, with the lockdown now a little liberal in Bangalore. My dad, who is an avid runner, paved his way to the beautiful Lalbagh botanical gardens. He was so excited to go after two months of lockdown and afterwards he briefed us enthusiastically about the queue of runners at Lalbagh and how amazing he felt after the fresh air of the park.

As I stepped out of the house in turn, to purchase a certain essential after a very long time, it felt different. Everyone had masks on, a few even had gloves for extra protection. People were maintaining social distancing as advised. All I could see were the eyes of each individual at the sweet shop. It felt blissful that I would finally again be tasting my favorite jalebi from the best sweet shop, Jalaram Sweets. I wondered if this was going to be the new normal – masks on and no handshakes the whole time we are out? The world is going to look a little less interesting, don’t you think? I picked up my hot jalebis and went home. Of course I sanitized my hands before putting one to my mouth. They tasted amazingly sweet and my family finished them all within seconds. No exaggeration.

19 May, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

By Preeta Kuhad Balia

It’s my father’s birthday, the thought hits me afresh when I wake up. I am trying to build a habit of meditating, then exercising before I fall prey to the pull and shove of the day. Since my first child’s first day of school, nearly twelve years ago, I’ve been waking up to the phone alarm. I have changed the alarm tune numerous times, but when I hear any tune playing at five or five thirty in the morning, it is always too shrill, too manic, too much of an alarming rhapsody. Now, I allow myself to wake up at the time my mind and body convene to agree on. It could be six, or six thirty or even past seven, which is broad daylight in my part of the country, the bedroom already swollen by rising heat. I wake up without being woken and that is a mercy.

Today, after my meditation, I rush to the kitchen where my sons are washing up to get ready for their zoom classes. They are conscious of the time, but without the 45 minute bus ride it’s easier to begin lessons. They drink milk, then chew the almonds I peel for them. In mute display of their deep disagreement with the almonds, they occasionally chew with their mouths wide open, to evoke my wrath. They know their mother is irked more by this foul habit than other mischiefs. Today they do the show-my-minced almonds-to-the -world more than twice, which means they are really having a hard time masticating them. They shoulder their bags and water bottles and slip into the basement.

I look forward to my daily newspaper- the Indian Express. I flip to the back page, attempt the jumbled words and read the cartoon strips. The news has become ageless and I can’t tell from the front page if it’s day one or day fifty eight of lockdown. I drink my cold milk, serve up some hot breakfast and take it to my sons in the basement. I don’t bathe. There’s no air conditioning in my house and Jodhpur is now a steaming 40 degrees plus. Unless there is a particular urgency, I bathe late afternoon. It seems appropriate. I bypass the afternoon siesta if I bathe late.

I call my father in Delhi. As much as I miss him, we don’t talk about meeting one another. Instead he insists I must continue with the meditation and breathing exercises. This is his big day but his concerns are centred on my health, my future.

The Carpenter, Pappu-ji, comes to hand me a list of materials he will need to resume work tomorrow. He fears they will quarantine him. He is chatty, he has repaired his bicycle and all the time that he talks to me, he stands farther away than usual, his kerchief folded in a triangle tied across his face.

I call my plywood vendor to see if he will be at the store. The shops are no more than three minutes away, all in a row from my house, heading toward Gol Building. On the phone I have already told my vendor, a young man with a liberal arts education from a private university in Maharashtra, that I would like to settle my bill for spending since the lockdown began. He is in no hurry for the money. Instead, when I arrive, he wants to discuss a plan with me.

He wants to begin a sensitisation program across schools in Jodhpur to initiate a discourse on gender sensitivity, concepts of consent etc. We end up talking about everything other than the plywood sheet. We yap non- stop. He is very keen to show young adults alternate cinema and discuss social stereotypes. He thinks this city has to be given a chance to ‘grow up’ and that thought paradigms of young adolescents can be moved if there is an alternate  platform. Would schools be interested to take this up? He asks me earnestly. I am not a good liar so I tell him what I think, based on my understanding of school functioning as witnessed during the Parent-Teacher- Meetings I attend for my sons. It’s not going to be a cake walk.

Each time someone wakes from lockdown vacancy, do they want to live an alternate reality? Do human ambitions breed in extreme solitude? What are my own ambitions, I think to myself as I listen to this young man articulating his idea to me. I remind him about the plywood I need and leave.

I run to attend the webinar this afternoon that has my husband, a lawyer, interviewing a national level politician-author for a writers and readers assembly. We have discussed which shirt he will wear, how it would look in contrast with the backdrop of the line drawings that adorn his office chamber. I know his notes are prepared and he is as well researched as for his court appearances. I sit in the adjoining chamber, separated by a glass wall so I can see him on my laptop screen as well as seated a few feet away. We have walked to office, a few minutes from home, to enjoy better internet connectivity.

An hour and more later, my husband and I drive together to buy fruits. He waits in the car as I nit-pick about what to buy. This is peak Alphonso Mango season. Who would look at the beady green grapes or the water melons, when the king mango rests in piled pyramids on the carts, its rich, fruity smell evoking memories of its firm, luscious flesh. My city is known for its sugary rabri ladoos, kalakand, mawa kachori and a slew of deep fried, addictive sweets. The iconic sweet shops have not lifted their shutters to the public yet. Appropriately, eating a mango is celebration enough of this gradual easing into a new normalcy.