I’m seeing rainbows

Three weeks after I abandoned self-imposed isolation, I’m still happy staying home. The virus has nothing and everything to do with it.

Nothing because I got too used to my new normal and don’t feel the need to get off my couch. Humans are resilient. That feeling of , ‘how am I going to manage’ quickly got replaced by ‘I quite enjoy this change.’ In any case, the Big Apple is about restaurants and shows, meeting people and museums, none of which is much of an option right now. So may as well continue browsing the world from the safe haven of my studio? After all, the virus is still active so why put myself in harm’s way?

Covid 19 continues holding the world to ransom with situations spiraling out of control, most noticeably in many US states, Russia, Brazil, UK and India. Places that had relaxed lockdown norms, are becoming stringent again. South Africa even re-imposed the alcohol ban to stop bored people from drinking and getting violent. The rampage across the US is common knowledge. Many US States opened too early, without a clear plan. I wish the rest of America would take a page out of New York’s books, mainly thanks to an empathetic, self-deprecating and sensitive Governor. New Yorkers have been exceptional, showing fortitude, awareness as well as a good dose of common sense. Most people follow social distancing and masking norms. I know because I’ve been out there and it’s palpable.

But backtracking a bit, let me elaborate on my tentative steps into the world beyond my doorstep. Despite the preference to stay home, I expanded my horizon. The first interaction took place in my building garden, with a close group of socially responsible friends. I was super excited. What would I wear? Just before lockdown, I’d gone to Macy’s to browse and check out new collections. Yes, there was that time too. I denuded many hangers, hugged a bunch of garments to my body, entered a closed chamber where many others had breathed before me and touched every conceivable surface as I tried on said garments. Summer was coming and I impulsively bought something for an upcoming social occasion. It stayed in my drawer, forlorn and forgotten until day 101.

What a fun evening of much laughing, heated debates, plenty of drinking and me vacuuming two large McDonalds fries into my desperate gut. It was almost normal though we didn’t touch, wore masks, sat distanced and we managed. Easy peasy. My friends then encouraged me to leave my building and walk around the block. I prepped my mind and ventured away from the Mothership on a sunny, Friday afternoon, standing for a while outside the hospital that bravely battled the virus. My neighbourhood restaurants have taken over the pavements. Some with temporary structures, many with flowers on the tables. There’s music and even a make-shift band and people spilling onto streets, drinks in hand. There’s a positive, vibrant and encouraging vibe. And so many windows with rainbows.

I decided to become braver. That weekend I made plans to go farther but within walking distance. I opened my jewellery drawer and almost wept. I missed those baubles and felt like a child as I tried on rings, earrings and bracelets. My arm band slipped up my elbow and I sprayed a dash of perfume. I was human again. As I got my handbag ready, I realized, I’d forgotten what it’s like going out. I almost left without keys. The normal stuff like cash and lipstick were not even necessary. After all I now needed a mask that would show no lips, a contactless credit card option and damn, I better remember hand sanitizer. Side bar: How much more waste has Covid created with all the plastic bottles, take-out containers and the like? Climate change, please take notes from Corona.

My thirty-five minute walk felt like two hours by the time I got to my destination. I was drenched in perspiration and my face was dripping under the mask. Wiping the sweat was not an option because I couldn’t touch my face! I went to three different restaurants for the three D’s; dinner, dessert and drinks. Because why not! And it felt fine. We sanitized everything we touched, sat apart and read the menus off our phones. All the waiters wore masks and gloves and at one of the restaurants, the owner thanked us profusely for giving her business. I had tears just thinking how businesses have suffered. That little adventure had one unexpected outcome. Despite my stubborn desire not to use public transport, I had to take an Uber. Summer storms decided to test my resolve. Suffice to say, I survived it, possibly thanks to the double rainbow that beamed across the sky.

I got pluckier. Throughout my stay at home, I’d devised a personal exercise routine, walking, yoga, physio and running along my corridor and one flight of stairs. I decided to take my fitness routine to the park. It was exhilarating to be under the blue skies, gazing on green grass, surreptitiously checking out other bods, imitating some clever fitness ideas and reveling in people. Most had masks, though some consider them chin straps. It isn’t easy breathing and working out with a mask on your nose and lips but I persisted. It’s fun to get out, listen to my favourite news podcast, push myself to try new routines, give my body a change and return home with my tee-shirt and shorts clinging to me like second skin. It’s probably the weather but I like to believe it’s the intensity of my routine.

Throughout my quarantine, I surprised myself with my positive outlook, but as I entered my third week of rejoining society, I admit to a momentary meltdown. When India’s top Bollywood star was detected with the virus, I despaired about when we’ll shake of the Covid tentacles. India is going through yet another lockdown iteration. Will I see my mum and kids, stuck at home in India? When can I travel again? A recent news item talks about how Trump successfully built a wall around America and kept everyone inside. There are very few countries willing to let Americans within their borders. The wheels on my feet have become rusty. Will I travel again? Of course I shook off my malaise. Why dwell on things beyond my control?

As my third weekend rolled around, I decided to get adventurous. I wanted a change of scene. The previous July 4th weekend had seemed a perfect opportunity until it wasn’t. There were no available rental cars in my vicinity, which is why when a friend offered to take me for a drive the next weekend, I acquiesced. He was part of my post-isolation pod and I’d met him a couple of times so there was reduced fear of being in a confined space with him. We decided to take a trip……into Manhattan. It may seem amusing but after four months within the walls of my Brooklyn studio, even a drive into Manhattan is a big deal. And I needed to see the Black Lives Matter sign outside Trump Towers. So off we went. My friend thought I was crazy to keep my mask on but I wore it the whole time except when I was eating. No, I’m not paranoid but refuse to take that chance.

Manhattan was sad and exciting. The streets were mostly empty. Stores boarded. Not too many people at the outdoor spaces especially around Curry Hill. Like a true desi, I missed chaat, wada pav, samosa, choley bhatura and other mouthwatering Indian street food. It was bliss as the spices revived forgotten memories, my tongue danced in joy, digestive juices came out of hibernation, a slight sheen shone on my forehead and fresh lime soda sweet tingled down my gullet chased by salty chaas. And though we basked in that outdoor haven, it was distressing to observe we were the only clients. The struggle is real.

As for my photo op on Fifth Avenue, at least I managed to get a peek before the vandals got to it. The block is cordoned off but we walked around, took the mandatory pictures even though screaming Trumpers soured the environment. Despite everything we’re going through, despite the bad leadership on display, despite his belligerence and obnoxious stance, people still believe this man is the answer. Go figure.

Meanwhile, I’m determined to stay my course. Inspite of the virus, I’ll keep testing my limits, within limits. Because we’ve all seen the rainbows.



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