The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.
Death is inevitable, they say. As I coped with the loss of an aged, respectable loved one, her daughter miles apart, howled in despair, unable to bid her mother adieu. Love is hard, they say. As I painfully endure the distance, unable to meet my love, never did I ever think, Delhi-Gurgaon to take the face of a long-distance relationship.
Career is a life-long dilemma, they say. As I battle with my family to let me study abroad, the one-way flights scare the wits out of me.
The new normal is distance. The new normal is painful for the social animal.
Human communities and societies have thrived over communications and social relationships. But with masks and protective gears adorning our bodies, how do we express love? Would we give in to isolation and stay locked up in our vicinity? I wish I had an answer, but all I have are questions and more questions. The uncertainty about the future is high—we navigate on chalked out divisions, unable to feel, express and show emotions, hidden under the mask. All that remains is a bygone era where the man was free and safe.
Experiences and stories haunting the city of Delhi keep me up at night. The unsaid words echo the monuments in Mehrauli. While not a single person walks down that aisle, what happened to those lovebirds behind that tree in the ‘Garden of Five Senses’? That hawker selling ten rupees chips’ packets at Deer Park in contrast to the exorbitant beer at Hauz Khas Village? That trans womxn who blessed the couple next to me with a beautiful future? Countless humans, countless stories, yet a million ways of suffering amidst this pandemic.
I see images of Connaught Place at night, and they remind me of the beautiful memories and dates exploring Central Delhi afoot. I see images of my college, amidst the greenery of Green Park, and reminisce of the momos at Dilli Haat. What I’d give to be carefree and roam around Delhi feasting on the roadside Chole Bhature! Where would the romantics go now? Where would the midnight ice-creams at India Gate and shopping at Sarojini Nagar go?
The new normal is challenging to abide by, to think, every second, every day, could have been a potential novel experience to the mystery that is life. I await the month of September-October to dive into the Mughlai and Biryani at every Durga Puja. Today, my Bengali heart fears the same. I would really miss the auto rides around CR Park, pandal hopping, from Kashmere Gate to Matri Mandir this time.
With just three years to enjoy the beauty that is college life, I fear that I am half-way through, unable to dance at concerts, indulge in over-expensive fests, and explore the nitty-gritty and hidden wonders of Delhi. I fear that before I even know, a large part of my adulthood would be down the drain locked up in my room with a laptop hoping to break the world record of binge-watching. What about those unrequited dreams and desires? That trip to Kasol? That Delhi to-do list? As an average Indian student, if only I could survive with the chai from the tapri and the Maggi from the canteen.
I know the world has bigger problems than my love for Delhi. The humanitarian crisis, economy, government, pandemic, global health crisis, food crisis, pain, sorrow, grief, death, poverty, and I can go on. Yet, I miss the jhumka seller sitting outside my college. The walk down Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Daryaganj Sunday market, the hustle-bustle of “Ramjas. Ramjas. Hindu. Hindu. KMC. KMC,” right outside Vishwavidyalaya metro station. I miss the exuberance of Delhi. The vibrancy of every microcosm that is this city.
While the cases in Delhi witness a quantum leap, it sure is scary. The lives lost, the souls surfacing, and the distorted destinies; it sure is scary. The day situation reverses, and freedom is ascertained back, we might witness a city which we never saw before—a country which was not so well equipped in dealing with a pandemic, and a few lives changed due to a historical gamble no one could foresee.
Ma still says, “Koi pardes nahi jaega,” (No one will go abroad) though my dreams hang by a thread, I secretly blame the off-timing in my oh, so perfect life. I blame the consequences of hoping for higher education which the 13-year-old in me once envisaged. While the significant other and I hope to meet in the secret lanes of Delhi, the concerns of ‘how to kiss with a mask on?’ remains atop my search history. If only we knew what the future held in store for us, we would have prayed a little differently.