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Upended routines

Mature woman celebrating her birthday alone at home but with friends online on video conference. She looks happy and elegant and holding cupcake with candle. She is lonely in quarantine during lockdown because of corona virus outbreak  

I visited my mother in February 2020, with a promise to return in a few months. That was not to be, as the pandemic broke out soon after. Manni, as we call our mother, followed a daily routine of reading newspapers and watching TV programmes, taking in all the information about COVID-19.

Even as she asked me to stay safe, her own life got significantly altered. The daycare assistant stopped coming and the family members who needed to go out, had to maintain a safe distance from her. As news became dismal and repetitive, she stopped watching TV and reading the newspapers and mostly stayed in bed. Her walk was limited to a short distance between the bedroom and the dining hall. Despite the walker, she tended to slump and my brother was always by her side to prevent a fall. He would try to make her sit longer by making video calls to me and my sister. We could see her but conversations started to lose the thread because of Manni’s hearing problem.

The year 2021 dawned with new hope. The pandemic was waning and vaccines were in the offing. My sister and I planned to visit home on the occasion of our mother’s 90th birthday in May. The prospect of seeing children, grandchildren and great grandchildren made Manni look forward to the special day. But the second wave swept like a tsunami and the mayhem persisted well into May. Many known people became part of the disturbing statistics of cases and casualties. Once again everyone had to retreat into their houses, much like crabs rushing into sand holes. This time, many people filled Excel sheets with “what your family should know” and refreshed ICE (In case of emergency) numbers on their mobile phones.

Manni was blissfully unaware of the gloom and eagerly looked forward to meeting her near and dear ones. Not wanting to disappoint her, we switched to Plan B — a hybrid celebration. An album depicting nine decades of her life was made. It contained sepia-toned photos from her childhood and youth, wedding photos of her children looking straight into the lens, and candid colour photos taken at the weddings of grandchildren and great grandchildren.

In the evening as Manni walked towards the dining table, she was pleasantly surprised to see a cake with a lighted candle. For the first time in her life, Manni cut a cake on her birthday, as everyone present physically and virtually sang the birthday song. She looked radiant holding a bouquet and flashed a toothless smile.

Manni peered into a mobile phone, recognised the beaming faces of her dear ones inside small rectangles and spoke affectionately to each one. After an hour of interaction, she declared that it was the best birthday she ever had.

While walking back to her bedroom she asked my brother, “When will this disease end? If I could cast my vote from home, why can’t I get vaccinated at home?” My brother made a veiled statement, “Manni, it’s all about priorities.”

vijayacardio@gmail.com


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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 7:44:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/upended-routines/article34857265.ece

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