The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

Here is yet another anecdote on the quarantine period and how an ordinary Indian family is coping up amid the pandemic.

Suddenly she burst out in anger. We had no clue what had happened. Training to be a skilled dancer, Tashu is a final year student of psychology. There is an amazing mix of erudition and grace when she puts forth her views.  It inspires confidence in our coming generation. But today she was fuming with anger. Why? We had no clue.

Like any other day, we were sitting and talking. It is a long tradition of daily family get together in the evening. There is some prayer and lot of talk.  This is a space to share thoughts and feelings. There is only one rule. Nobody can scold or get angry on anyone. No matter how grave the provocation. There is total immunity to all. A truly democratic space, you can say. No hierarchy. No hold barred venue. This daily congregation has become a very special occasion in the time of lock down. We were all sitting and sharing views like any other day. Today’s topic was ‘what all did we do when we had nothing to do’.

Manish has been sitting in the balcony near the guava tree with his DSLR to capture the purple sun bird frittering around the tree. It is so tedious to do wildlife photography. You need huge patience to wait and watch.  Good anticipation comes handy as you train your camera to those areas where the bird is likely to perch. It can be so frustrating. But in the time of lock down it is so therapeutic, said Manish.

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I am worried about what is happening outside. But I am so happy that all my family members are here in front of me. His mother said just that much. Her bright eyes were saying much more than the words could ever express.

You all are worried about going out from the house. I am concerned about getting back to home. Ashwani is a health worker. He goes to his duty despite our serious concerns. I can’t shirk. What will I tell myself if I don’t respond to the call of duty at such a crisis? We don’t have enough PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). We are careful but there are obvious concerns when I come back home, he said with a deeply pensive face.

I am happy being home, said Mannu. But work from home is a real pain. My college people seem to think I have all the time in this world to sit in front of computer to teach my students.  I spend more than 10 hours in front of computer. When do I prepare of my class? I am clueless if students are understanding anything. No one is interested in this. But I should just keep blabbering. Does the transition to e-learning happen without any preparation like this? When a college teacher is angry, she must explain the reason.

Himalyan Glaciers is visible from Jalandhar. Image – Twitter

I have heard Yamuna is clean like never. See this WhatsApp, Anu showed her phone screen. The Himalayas is visible from Jallandhar. The night sky looks so dark and clear. I could see the Saptarishi, the Ursa Major or great bear constellation, last night. Nature knows how to take care of it when we don’t create problems. She was visibly happy for the world we live in.

Yes, I know, the river in Italy and the environment over the world has improved a lot. But does that mean we should remain confined to homes like this so that ducks could swim in Yamuna? What is going to happen to my examination, my career, my plan to seek admission for higher studies? Tashu began in a firm and disappointed tone. You are happy being at home; birds chirping; air being clean. But do you ever care about the street dog which is crying out there?  Do you imagine the plight of this small 2-3-year-old child Anay who cries no ends? He is yearning to go out and play!! If you all are sent to cellular Jail, you will find some benefits there also. There would be people like you who would be considering the gas chamber situation in Hitler’s Germany as manna from heaven. Tashu’s roving eyes were piercing us, as she took a little pause.

I also have a WhatsApp which says – this morning I went to my balcony and started doing exercise. When my neighbor saw me, she asked me in a nervous tone ‘have we been asked to do this in the morning today?’ This is slave mentality. Plain and simple. Does anyone ask why we have come to this situation? Someone must be responsible! Tashu’s anger and poise was so palpable…There was a pin drop silence…

It was my turn now. I quietly played Bob Dylan song on my mobile…

Yes, an’ how many ears must one man have

Before he can hear people cry?

Yes, an’ how many deaths will it take till he knows

That too many people have died?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Vagish Jha is a historian and educationist –  based in Delhi. Follow  him on Twitter @vagishkj

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