Anamika’s Birthday

She has been anxious. Not been able to travel, especially to see her parents worry her. This is one hope that most children in faraway lands live with, that all it takes is few hours. The pandemic has changed that. One can never take travel for granted.

She said a prayer for the day to be a happy one, doing her eye and neck exercise, a practice for over a decade. The long evening walk at Cubbon park has been split into two small ones in the morning and evening on the by lane in front of the house. The added benefit being they have come to know and interact with people who are in the neighbourhood, children, security guards, drivers, dogs and cats. A wave of hand as mask makes smile invisible, a treat for the dogs and cats, a look at the birds, buds, trees and colours weave into their walk. Ever since Pkutty the cat has inserted her demands into their schedule, walk or not, they awake to oblige.  She likes her first meal between 5-5:30 am.

She goes about her day of choosing products made ethically, honey extracted by traditional tribal communities of Kotagiri, reuse and recycle, the lemon peel to make bio enzymes, the tealeaf for her garden, so that only little goes into the landfill.

As a continued ritual since childhood, she always wears new clothes on her birthday. This year it’s also Onam, and homebound, she decides its special and there needs to be new clothes. One for birthday (a saree bought from a friend’s store), one for Onam (a set mundu bought in 1994 when she worked with an organisation in Kerala for a month)  and one to just chill ( a dress bought from Porgai, a handmade initiative in a tribal area). An ode to handloom and handmade.

She thinks of the year that has gone by. The trek to Dudhsagar falls with friends, walking on the railway tracks, soaked to the bone, sipping tea sitting near a rivulet, the moss, the lichens, the bracket fungi, the celebration of joyous earth in pouring rain, is one of her most cherished memories.  She accepts non-closure as a form of closure, for things that have not been what she had thought them to be. She feels good about writing, one focus is on helping artisans.

The lockdown has been hard. Much of her work involved travel which has stopped. But she realises it has been harder on many others. People have lost jobs, lost their cities, troubled by how to meet critical health needs. The corona saviours, running health care,  seeing that hospitals function despite the risk to their own lives, domestic helps, people who keep the city clean, keep the essential infrastructure running, stepping out every day, who do not have the luxury of work from home, for families who have lost their members to the disease, for friends and family unable to say a proper goodbye, she says a prayer for all of them.

A full day in a beautiful way, from video birthday wishes, group calls, family narrative of childhood memories, pictures of owls, flowers, books, food have kept flowing.  

A Brahma Kamal stem, Queen of the Night that had travelled from one friend’s home in Bangalore to another friend’s home in Pune, bloomed tonight (Epiphyllum oxypetalum is a species of cactus, rarely blooms and only at night, and its flowers wilt before dawn). A rare connect.

With a deep sense of gratitude. And hope that this paused life is making us think of our responsibility to our community and the earth, and that some things need to change.

“I can’t see it Lord, but I Know You can.”

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