Within these four walls | The Daily Star
05:20 PM, August 17, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:49 AM, August 20, 2020


Within these four walls

There is a desk calendar on my wardrobe. It shows the month of May. It has been like that for a while now – but it is August now. Much like my calendar, the world has come to a pause. The global pandemic has brought our lives to a standstill. It all started with a distant whisper of a foreign disease that had been wiping out lives on the other side of the globe. But here's the thing about people - unless it affects them, they don't realise the magnitude of the situation.

Soon, bad news took the form of bulletins and headlines; they took the form of runaway COVID patients, appearing in the hospital my mother works at. As both of my parents are anesthesia specialists, we knew the risks that came with being frontline workers during this pandemic.

Every war needs its warriors, and this time, it was them. Nobly, they fulfill their duty to the country, their duty to the people. But that doesn't make things any easier. "Frontline fighters, heroes," people call them. " Also humans," I retort angrily. I wonder what is this anger is for - this disease? The world? Or the fact that my hands lack the power to do anything about it all? Maybe all of them.

My sister and I don't greet our parents when they return home, donned in their white gear. We don't see them until they take baths, scrub themselves clean and wash their clothes. They leave early in the morning the next day. Rinse and repeat – a daily ritual.

Adapting takes the form of inside jokes and chores like cooking and cleaning. It takes the form of listening about patients and doctors every day - of those who survived and those who didn't. The news and statistics can only provide numbers but our dinner table conversations etched faces and names to them. Soon, our parents complained of throat ache. We all sighed in relief when they tested negative.  

That doesn't mean that we're always good at adapting though. The constant stress takes the form of frequent arguments and lashing out from pent up frustration. It becomes apparent in my father's lack of appetite that working in an ICU unit takes a toll on him. We hide the worry behind humour, and even worse, apathy. Days go on in a blur and I no longer sleep at night.

While our daily lives have become confined to our homes, we've become more connected in the cyber space than ever before. This socially distanced period has led to a surge of creativity for many. Scrolling down my news feed I see young people, exploring their talents and their hobbies, from painting and drawing to singing and dancing, behind their closed doors. Some are experimenting with their culinary skills, while others are dabbling in crafts. Some are opting for a more academic approach, taking up courses to equip their arsenal. Then, there are those who are working for the greater good – raising funds to combat the pandemic and the floods and preparing meals for humans and animals alike. From the humanitarian work to the boom in creativity, in these perilous times, these are truly some magical stories to experience.    

Then, there are those who can't adjust to this new lifestyle. Some are having a hard time getting up from bed - and that's okay. Some can't gain access to the online classes and are feeling as if the world has left them behind. All of their anguish is valid, as we are living in a global pandemic.

I myself haven't been the most productive at home. I marvel at the work of our youth, at their passion and at their drive. So, I write about those who sacrifice for the people and about those who are fighting their inner battles. I write about hope and despair, a chance for a better tomorrow. It's natural to be upset, to miss the hangouts and the companionships. There shouldn't be any pressure to be productive. We all are waging our own battles, and every small victory counts.

It is okay to take small steps - writing a small to do list, cooking a rare dish, watching that series you have always wanted to start, singing off-tune – it is okay to just stay alive. There's a desk calendar on my wardrobe. I finally flipped the pages. It's August and my clock has resumed ticking again. I'm here and we're alive. That is enough, for now.                                              


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