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Looking out of my bedroom window, I could see the long tarmac road curving away into the distance. Not a soul in sight, no sounds of moving traffic, no newspaper boy whistling to himself. The iconic gym in front of our house was dark and shut. Suneesh’s provision store around the corner with its buzz of activity, and the bakery with the mouthwatering aromas of freshly baked bread and muffins, were both shuttered down. The world seemed to have slipped back several millennia and lay bleak and desolate at the mercy of the deadly Coronavirus outbreak.
My heart skipped a beat and my spirits sank as I wondered what had happened suddenly to all of us because of covid-19. Suddenly, a high -pitched voice shouting ‘Ma!’ (that is what my Grand-daughter, Zaara calls me) jolted me out of my self- pity. Too small to understand about the coronavirus, she was wondering why her visits to the park, her Nature walks and her play dates with her best friend, Naomi, had come to an end.
So, we settled down, Grandchild and Grand-ma to little games and activities during this coronavirus lockdown,which filled both our hearts with joy and laughter.
As it was still early morning, Zaara and I trooped up to the terrace, yoga mats in hand – hers was baby pink, her favourite colour while mine was a sea green. Unravelling our mats, we lay down drinking in the beauty all around us. The sky was spread out in all its glory – a fleecy carpet of powdery blue. Here and there, were bits of cloud, little wisps of cotton, floating above. A lone bird far away in the distance, piped a solemn tune, bewildered by the deep silence all around. Deeply breathing in the cool, fresh air and gazing at the heavens above, we felt so happy that we started singing all our favourite songs- ‘Old Mac Donald,’ ‘If You Are Happy And You Know It,’ and other ditties. We lay there for what seemed hours till the sun warmed our faces, and we were forced to go back home.
After breakfasting on ‘dosas and sambar,’ Zaara’s favourite food for all hours of the day, we decided to bake a chocolate cake. Zaara handed me the ingredients which I measured out and we took turns mixing. While I popped the cake into the oven, Zaara licked the bowl – the most enjoyable part of the process according to her!
After we had iced the cake with soft butter, I handed Zaara a wedge, while I read out to her a chapter of Enid Blyton’s ‘The Faraway Tree’ my favourite childhood book, and now hers. Since she was covered with cake batter from the tip of her nose to her toes, Zaara was given a long bubble bath. Imagining herself to be Esmeralda, the magic mermaid, she complained ‘Ma, all mermaids have long golden hair and blue eyes. But my eyes and hair are black!’ It took some time to convince her that mermaids, like people, come in all shapes and colours!
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Then we decided that it was the turn of her dolls to have some fun. Filling a plastic tub with water and pretending it was a swimming pool, we placed it in the verandah where we allowed the Barbies to sunbathe and dip into the pool, while we cooled ourselves down with iced lemonade.
Another game which Zaara and I love is ‘shopkeeper.’ We arrange a number of cosmetics on the bed, as we pretend to be shopkeeper and customer. Zaara wants to be the shopkeeper most of the time, but I am happy since she charges me ridiculously low prices. After all, who wouldn’t love two matte lipsticks, a compact and three nail paints for only two rupees? And, she is also happy!
The other day, I drew out two family trees – one from my father’s side and one from my mother’s. Zaara was really interested, since I not only showed her photographs of her ancestors but also narrated amusing stories about them. Over the days, she kept asking me to repeat the incidents she liked best.
We did play a number of games of hide and seek, but Zaara not only hid again and again in the same place, but also called out ‘Ma, I’m here. Find me!’ I had to pretend that I just couldn’t find her calling ‘Where is Ma’s Thumbelina?’ And she would come out and say “Here I am, Ma. I don’t know why you couldn’t find me!’
The days during this coronavirus are passing slowly, but not in despair. How can anything be bad when you have your very own ray of sunshine in your arms? And there is always a light at the end of every tunnel, a calm after a storm. This too shall surely pass! Let’s breathe in deeply and exhale. Later, when it is all over, we can have long walks under the starlit sky, cycle rides and dances in the rain. Together, we will defeat the coronavirus and emerge triumphant into a better, kinder world.
Dr Geeta Mathew
Dr. Geeta Mathew has a doctorate in Literature and an experience of more than 25 years as a teacher of English in Rajasthan at St Angela Sophia, St Xavier’s and Mayo College at Ajmer. She has written of a book of reminiscences entitled ‘Bijoli’s Patchwork Quilt’ as well as a few aids to learning English, Phonics, stories and skits for children etc.