Written by Rashmi Mutt
There is a sweet hollowness in the ending of a pandemic.
The feeling of everyone retreating into their busy, inaccessible lives, of being across geographies and time zones once again, after having belonged to each other for an extended summer vacation. The unfamiliar became familiar, and we basked in the knowledge of it all, soon to lose it, and be forced to figure it out all over again.
The unfamiliarity in returning to your parental home and city of upbringing, familiar with the smell of the bedsheets and dosa being made in the morning, but unfamiliar with the idea of being looked after in such close proximity.
The unfamiliarity in getting drunk with your dad on a Sunday afternoon, giving in as he asks – one more beer? You politely nod because part of you really wants that beer and part of you doesn’t know if this is actually happening. So, you down those beers and ask your mom to drive you home, giggling and singing old Kannada songs the entire way.
The unfamiliarity in meeting high school friends, who also have returned to the city thanks to the lockdown; people you never spoke to in class, and whom you fear don’t like you because of it. But after 3 whiskey sours and fantastic teacher impersonations, you talk about your jobs and lost loves and all the places you want to see, and suddenly, you’re in high school again, except that you’re not.
The unfamiliarity in your sibling moving home at the same time, and suddenly the house is full and the fridge is stocked and you’re reminded of how their handwriting looks and how vividly they tell stories, because you’re experiencing them this up close after 8 odd years and there’s so much that you’d forgotten. You smile because you realize that you get to amble through the rest of life with this child-like adult by your side.
The unfamiliarity in seeing friends you used to be close to getting engaged and married, and your heart swells with love and happiness for them, but you can’t help but envision a heavy downpour in the distance. It’s coming, moving closer, and you have a few options – get an umbrella, outrun the rain, or stay there and get drenched – and these options keep swirling in your head as you enter into a sleepless void, but you know you’ll be okay.
The unfamiliarity in sitting down with your best friend’s dad and discussing goals and ambitions and the stock markets and Season 4 of The Crown, with the mutuality of having seen someone we both love very much grow into the person they are today, and the understanding that perhaps only one of us will get to see them through till the end.
The unfamiliarity in seeing how old your parents have become, as they move and react slower than they used to. Sometimes, as you’re hurtling through your day, you come across one of them sitting in the corner chair of the living room, looking out, and you ask – what are you doing? And they reply – nothing. And you take a second to acknowledge the simplicity and innocence of doing absolutely nothing and you wonder if that could ever be you.
Adult meets child, meets adult, and all our worlds converge at once as we dance the fine line of being mature professionals while also wanting to curl up in our parents’ beds. We revel in the enlightenment of everything that is now familiar (or maybe it always was), only to return to our orbits of oblivion.
There’s a sweet hollowness in the ending of a pandemic; you’re like a child, but you’re not, you’re like an adult, but you’re not.