Apocalyptic, unimaginable, impossible, preposterous, dystopian, anti-utopia…
I haven’t looked up a thesaurus for these words, yeah ok for the last one I did, but the rest are adjectives gleaned from reading newspapers, social media platforms and WhatsApp forwards on the pandemic. Little wonder that my mother was sending me a stream of concerned messages, including a voice note. I thought perhaps this one might be to wish her granddaughter a happy birthday. I intended to open it later, but it was followed by more messages and a phone call asking whether I had heard the voice note or I read her messages. If only she gave me time to do so. She kept insisting that it’s important and I should hear it. My curiosity was piqued so I did listen to it. There was a man speaking with the confidence of Nostradamus’s arguably disputed step-great-grandson. Of course, all his predictions — which he could have recorded 10 days ago but claimed were a few years old — said that there would be a situation like the pandemic that we all are in. With his expertise and knowledge perhaps, he could be anointed as a part of the intelligentsia that actually let the Kumbh Mela happen. After expounding about all the planets and their positions of crossing each other’s paths, he finally came down to predict the next thing that’ll happen. Hold your breath for this one. He predicted that there would come a zombie phase. Sorry desi Nostradamus, Hollywood and the Indian film fraternity got there before you. Raj and DK, the famous director duo of the zombie movie Go Goa Gone, can proudly proclaim: “humne toh kaha tha”.
But in my opinion, this crisis has already turned us into zombies. Zombies lying outside hospitals crying for a bed. Zombies going crazy trying to arrange for oxygen. Zombies seeing their loved ones die in front of them but unable to find time to cry because another one is still battling in the ICU and they still have to arrange doses of Fabiflu. Then there is another category of zombies selling medicines in the black market, scamming people desperate for oxygen and life-saving drugs, hoarding Remdesivir without being infected and trolling people who have lost loved ones. Heck, I personally know of a friend in Delhi who asked her neighbours for an oximeter to check her suffering mother’s oxygen saturation since hers wasn’t working and the chemists had run out, but no one shared theirs. So, in panic she took her mother to a hospital in Meerut as Delhi was becoming scarier by the moment. Not just because of the scarcity of resources but because humanity was at its lowest. And please let’s not make it a Delhi, Mumbai or any other city thing. This is what some of us have become, and if that’s not being a zombie then what is? But of course, there are some humans left — who refuse to let the zombies bite them — showing incredible kindness to strangers who need help with anything from tiffins
In my own world, I am seeing some impossible things that no astrologer could have predicted. Like seeing my boy and the puppy we got have dinner together at the dining table though he has never been a dog lover and today he spends more time with Peanut than me. Like Chotu Maasi not knowing that muting audio doesn’t mean muting video and letting 20 of us see her pluck her nose hair on a Zoom call, like my boy getting acquainted with the term ‘stay put’ at his age though the kids already know about it as the only thing they have been doing is staying put at home. Like my best friend in Chandigarh whose lockdown baby is six months old but has only seen his father, who needs to step out for work, in a mask. Flying kisses and different types of masks, from N-95 to surgical to sometimes cloth ones with cartoon prints to amuse the little one — that’s the relationship between the two of them. As much as our heart melts for father and child, I prefer to see the situation in a positive light. Perhaps when the baby grows up and we are out of this mask phase, he’d be convinced that his father is a superhero who just puts on a Clark Kent face for the world. But there was another impossible situation for me, a tough one, losing my dearest ‘nani-mama’ last year who always had a vishesh tippani on everything. I wonder what she would have to say about this “Jombie land” (that’s the way she would have pronounced it). I am sure she wouldn’t have shied away from giving a few cuss words to the virus and the idiots who are still going about life not wearing a mask, but would have ended her ire with compassionate words from the Granth Sahib like “sarbat da bhalla”, meaning happiness for one and all. The Japanese Buddhist phrase for the same is Kosen-rufu. How long will it take for all of us zombies to realise being human means not just working towards our own happiness but also towards others as well? Till the time we don’t get it the attack of the jombies is inevitable!
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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