Thursday, April 2, 2020

Seen from the Balcony

500 words
Titled: "Scene from the window/ balcony".
Interpret at will.
Tagging Mathangi KrishGouri DangeParomita VohraVeena Mani
Seen from my bedroom balcony
I step into the balcony, expecting to enjoy blissful silence, a change from the more or less constant roar of traffic that used to be the norm, before our lives were changed in such an unexpected way, rendering us more or less housebound. Tall buildings across the road dwarf ours. Distant giant towers cannot hide the lush green forest that provides an unexpected sight in suburbia. Several feet below my seventh floor eyrie stand the bearded palms that I have named, in my head, The Three Wise Men. In these strangely silent days, sun birds come and sing to us, all the way up to the seventh floor. Lapwings, which I would occasionally hear at night, now plaintively call throughout the morning.
Across the road, though, near the traffic lights, are a bunch of children. It is so quiet that you can hear their high-pitched voices, but not the words they speak. There is much excitement. A couple of little girls are wearing long dresses or lehengas, I can’t quite make out. Some are carrying bags. Today is Ram Navami, one of the days when young, pre-pubescent girls are worshipped as the Mother Goddess, their feet washed, and then given Prasad of halwa, puri, and black chana, plus a small gift of money. Sometimes a little boy is also included in this worship of the Kanjaks. As a child, I was a very happy little goddess, visiting neighbouring homes with alacrity, and wondering why my older sister couldn’t accompany me. This was not a practice that my family followed, but then we were, generally, quite different in our beliefs and practices from most people we knew, including my paternal grandmother’s natal family. And yet, I was, mostly, a happy little alien, unquestioning and accepting of many things that I experienced.
Today, though, I wasn’t questioning anyone’s beliefs. I was questioning their sanity. When the whole country was allegedly locked down, why were these children out on the road? In our sanitized world of gated communities, the ashtmi/navami business (that happens twice a year) is when the children of the dhobis and house helpers enter the sacrosanct housing society grounds and visit the apartments where they have been invited for the pooja. The residents of our gated communities are far more likely to have had exposure to the deadly virus, whether from their own travels abroad, or exposure to other sahib- and memsahib-log who may have done so. Why are they so blinded by their own invincible, inflexible beliefs, that they can willingly breach a quarantine situation? They have, of course, brilliant role models in the highest echelons of our state. God help us all, I whisper to myself, and then I wonder, which god?
Hours later, peace and silence reign everywhere. The pigeons have been chased away for the hundredth time, and have wreaked their vengeance with huge splatterings on the air conditioner’s outdoor unit. The sun rays slant, and the day is nearly done. Tomorrow will come with new madness.

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