I looked out of my balcony. From the top floor of the high rise, I can see both the cars below and the sky above. I looked into the sky and tried to see as far as I could. Ever since I was a child, I have always wondered what lies beyond the horizon. Today as I gazed into the sky, I was thinking about my son who was far away.
I have been isolating myself in this room for the last seven days. I came down with coronavirus. My mother and husband have shifted to my mother’s flat. The first three days were very bad. I felt weak, I had a high temperature and I was coughing all the time. But more than anything else, I was frightened. I felt all alone. And the weakness! I always thought that weakness is something that you should overcome with mental strength. Now I think differently. If you can overcome this weakness with mental strength; you can definitely overcome heart attack or stroke with mental strength.
My son is an IT Engineer. He works in the USA. He calls me up regularly every Sunday. I look forward to this call. But now I have been dreading it. I decided that I will not tell my son that I had coronavirus. He will only get worried. I somehow must conceal from him that I am ill.
As usual, he telephoned me on Sunday morning.
Son: “Hi Mom, how are you?”
Me: “I am fine Beta. And you?”
Son: “Well. You don’t look ok to me.”
Son: “I can see black circles under your eye.”
Me: “Well I had a rough night yesterday. I’d catch up with the sleep, then it should be fine.”
Son: “Come on Mom. I think it’s more than that. You have had rough nights before, it had never been this bad.”
Me: “Beta, never mind. Your mother is growing old. Maybe that’s why I look tired and weak and grumpy.”
Son: “Mom, where is Dad?”
Me: “Oh! He has gone to work.”
Son: “On Sunday?”
Me: “Someone important is coming from the USA, so they have scheduled an important meeting.”
Son: “Mom, the coronavirus pandemic is raging. There are no flights, and definitely no international flights.”
Me: “I guess that he is in the bathroom. My memory is failing, I can’t remember anything these days.”
Son: “Did you fight with him?”
Me: “Well, I never fight! He does his own things without telling me.” I was really pleased that I got this excuse. My son hates to see me upset, so he didn’t press me with any further questions about his father.
Son: “Where is grandma?”
Me: “She is doing the Puja.”
Son: “Well she usually finishes her Puja by this time.”
Me: “I don’t know. These days she is spending a lot of time doing Puja. I will tell her when she is free. In fact I will tell her to call you up.”
“He should have joined a detective agency,” I muttered to myself. “He is wasting his talent working as an engineer.”
I think he was satisfied with the explanation and stopped questioning me further. I was proud of my achievement. I have successfully led him down the wrong path. What an ordeal! For the first time in my life, I was glad that the call ended. I now have seven days before he calls me again. Maybe I’d recover by then. If I still have dark circles, maybe I’d put on a little makeup. A touch of a concealer here and there should do the trick.
I looked at myself in the mirror. The last few days I didn’t have the strength or the energy to do that. I was shocked. What is this? Is this me? I burst out crying. Fortunately, as I was alone in the flat, I could cry my heart out.
I was really beautiful when I was younger. These days, I am getting wrinkles on my forehead, my skin is sagging a bit and my hairs are greying. I have been taking selfies and photographs and if one of them is good, I immediately post it on Facebook. Then I eagerly wait and count the number of ‘like’s I get. Both my son and my husband make fun of it. In my younger days, my husband used to say that I looked like Suchitra Sen from some angles. Wow! She was the paragon of beauty! I have been acutely conscious that I am not young anymore. It seems Facebook is my only solace. I keep hoping that this photo will garner more likes than the last one.
After the coronavirus infection, I look miserable. Even I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. My face has lost its glaze, my eyes have lost its gleam. It looks as if someone has drained all the colour off my face. I look like a haggard old lady. My nightmare has come true.
That night, I cried myself to sleep.
I woke up the next morning at the sound of the phone ringing. My son was on the line. My heart skipped a beat. He rang yesterday. Normally, he doesn’t call during the week. He is very busy. I thought I had a week to recover.
Me: “Hi Beta, What’s up?”
Son: “Mom, I have made an appointment with Dr. Sen. He will see you online today at 6.00 p.m.”
Me: “But why?”
Son: “I did my little research yesterday. He is treating corona cases. He is one of the best doctors around.”
Me: “It just isn’t necessary. And who told you I had corona? Your Dad?”
Son: “No he didn’t. Now, don’t pick up a fight with him. It’s written plainly all over your face.”
Me: “What! The diagnosis of corona? Beta, you should have been a doctor or a detective. I am just fine. I was just under the weather.”
Son: (sternly) “I have paid the fees online and I have booked the appointment. Now, be a good girl and go for the consultation. You’d feel much better after you speak to him. Trust me, you’d look better too.”
Me: “Am I looking really ugly, Beta?”
Son: “I’d be blunt Mom. You aren’t looking perfect. You know that. But, it will blow over. Trust me. And you must see the doctor. I want you to be in capable hands.”
I started to cry.
Son: “Mom, you have become such a cry baby. Well no, it must be the virus. Once this is over, you’d become my beautiful mother again. Now, for a start, dry your tears.”
I felt a warm glow welling up inside me. I thought my son was far away, I felt I have been abandoned by my family. Now, I can feel the sense of connection, stronger than ever. I started singing to myself,
“We shall overcome…”