By Archana Mohan
Apparently, my 75 year old uncle, Kailash, is immortal.
His astrologer, the one whose perennially hanging VIP undies on the terrace are a Google Maps landmark, told him so.
I quote my uncle verbatim. “My Jupiter is in the 6th house and even if I want to, I cannot get killed this year.”
And so, whereas we ‘snowflakes’ stay at home and wash our hands till the fate line disappears, cool dude Kailash walks around the empty streets every evening without a mask or care in the world.
Do you know a Kailash? You probably do.
Do you mutter under your breath when they wash their hands and fail to do a rotational rub of their thumb clasped in the other hand’s palm? Ah! Newb.
Do you roll your eyes when they dismiss it as a ‘made in China’ defective virus?
And when they send you forwards on Whatsapp about the power of raw ginger juice in keeping the virus at bay, what do you do? Do you smirk, ignore and go back to the Mexican drug cartel show you have been binge watching?
Congratulations! People like Uncle Kailash aren’t the problem. You and I are.
We mock these senior citizens about being PhDs from Whatsapp University but forget that the same university sends them gory images of victims and statistics that probably scare the daylights out of them.
They know that people of their age, especially those with underlying health conditions are twice as likely to develop serious outcomes from the corona virus as compared to otherwise younger, healthier people.
And that is why they forward messages that claim to know ‘nature’s cures’. They aren’t stupid. They are scared. And raw garlic, gives them hope.
The virus wasn’t made in China. It is being made here, at our home, everyday. For when an ‘Uncle Kailash’ acts out and refuses to conform to the lockdown, he isn’t ‘pig headed’. He is scared.
Scared that 200 people in your area have been quarantined. Scared that he and his family will be one of ‘those’.
He doesn’t have the luxury to switch off from the crisis and ‘work from home’ as you do. He cannot meet the friends who sail on the same boat as him. He struggles with video calls. He is worried sick about his daughter in the States. He keeps checking his medicine cabinet. Anything can happen.
He hasn’t told you but he knows that even though his astrologer says he is immortal, he really isn’t. He knows that life is like a mutual fund investment. It is subject to market risks and even if you read all scheme related documents carefully, you could still get burnt.
He is so petrified by what is going on, that he cannot sleep. He has questions. Many, many of them and he is afraid to know the answers.
He is dying to speak. To unburden. He yearns for a kind word. A reassuring pat. A kiss from a grandchild. A cup of hot tea, with extra ginger. New gossip about the neighbour. Anything. Even an off-color joke about his favourite actress just to lighten up, to take his mind off the fear. Even if, for just a few minutes.
But where to start? He sneaks a look at you. You are wearing headphones. Your eyes are glued to your device. You are probably busy. He really doesn’t want to intrude. He backs off.
Later that night, he sees that your phone is charging. Perhaps he could try one more time. He gathers courage and sends you a forward.
Ting! A new Whatsapp message.
‘Congratulations! UNESCO has declared ‘Jana Gana Mana’ as the best national anthem of the world,’ it reads. You read it but don’t react. Old Uncle Kailash at it again. These oldies! The worst mistake we made was introducing them to Whatsapp.
87% charged. That’s good enough.
You plug the phone out from the charging cable and get back to your binge watching.
You are watching ‘Contagion’, a 2011 movie about a deadly virus that is about to cause misery to the entire human race.
Unknown to you, there is a deadly virus in the other room eating up an old, terrified man.
It is called loneliness.
Archana Mohan is the co-founder of Bookosmia (smell of books) a children’s content company that delivers brilliant content to the world through Sara — India’s first female sports loving character. Her book Yaksha, India’s first children’s book on the dying folk art form of Yakshagana received wide acclaim. She has worked as a journalist, corporate blogger and editor working with names like Business Standard, Woman’s Era, Deccan Herald, Chicken Soup for the Soul and Luxury Escapes Magazine. She won the Commonwealth Short Story contest’s ‘Highly Commended Story’ award in 2009. She loves interacting with budding writers and has conducted journalism workshops in colleges.Do check out Bookosmia’s website https://bookosmia.com/about-us/ for more information.