” Stories – Love in the Times of Corona” by Meera Kumar Menon
Care Consciously! # DEFEAT CORONA

“Konnappoovu veno chetta?”, He was standing a few meters away from our front door and asking my father if he would like to buy some flowers.

A happy 12 year old, with a boy-style haircut, baggy t-shirt and trousers, his face said that he meant business. “pathu roopa thannal mathi”, a few strands of the golden shower flower used for Vishu was being sold at a base price of ten rupees by this little boy. At a distance from the gate, I could see his tail, a smaller boy, about eight years old, eyeing the scene from afar. Isn’t this the same fellow who was here the other day asking for old tyres?
I ask Achan.

“Yes, he has been nagging me for a few days about getting hold of it. Had told me then, that he would give me 10 rupees if I gave him one. Told him I would get twenty if I sold it at the town” Achan was smiling. But the boy had his way in the end.

“Entha chetta, athu enikk thannude, ningalkokke vere valya pani ille” he had said, reminding dad that he has better things to do than sell old tyres. Achan, impressed by his entrepreneurial skills, gave it to him for free and asked him to hold onto the money when he had promptly produced a 10 rupee note.

Having heard that we already have flowers for Vishu, our slightly disheartened boy was making his way towards the gate.

“Ithu avan alle”, Amma came out from the kitchen, overhearing the negotiation and made her way towards the porch. Since the lockdown began, we get rather thrilled when the calling bell rings. Seeing the same faces for so long, was beginning to get exhausting. “This is the boy who sold me washing powder last month”, she added. He had also sold to me some ivy gourd, the last time I was home, I remembered. “50 rupees”, he had told me. ‘”That’s a little too much”. 20 is my best offer”, I reverted.
“Chechi your face says you would like it very much, tell you what, just give me 40 for it.”, he said. That coming from a 12 year old, standing in the sun, home delivering ivy gourds was a difficult deal to break.

“Who is this chap?” I ask my available audience. Amma, Achan and Kamalamma, our help. “Don’t know. We see him now and then selling this and that. Mostly leafy vegetables he picks up from in and around the village”, I was answered.

“I’m off to the town to get some vegetables for Vishu”, says Achan. “Don’t forget to wear the mask”, I remind him. “Please, drop off some fruits at my mom’s too”, adds Amma. My grandmother who is about 80, lives in an apartment a few kilometers from our place. Put up at a safe distance, where she can manage her privacy, yet summon for us at beck and call, Ammamma, as I call her, has been rather stubborn about not moving in with us, or any other for that matter, during this lockdown. “I am quite old and it’s best if I stay isolated now. If in need, you are all here anyway”, she had repeated for the hundredth time, to my mom’s exhausting requests. Isolation, privacy, privilege, my thoughts race as I sit down, going through the newspaper, looking at the new numbers, district wise, state wise, nations, the world: all our people, all our lives.

“I get so many calls from people crying out of hunger each day.” I hear a friend breakdown on TV. A senior official working for the migrant workers with passion and commitment to their cause, he had a lump in his throat, appealing to the authorities on their behalf. Our migrant workers, our daily wage earners, our little entrepreneurs.

An hour and a half later Achan returns, consoling Amma, that Grandma was doing just fine, washing the milk packets twice over before placing them in the fridge. She contributed a small amount for the construction, chiseling out from her widows’ pension, Achan tells me. “What construction?” I ask him. “Oh I was about to tell you, there is this man in our village who fell down from a tree and got his lower body paralysed. It’s been about 15 years now. He has been living with his brother for all that time. Now that the brother is married, they just have the one room, that too with tinned sheets over it. The weather in palakkad is well above 42 degrees. It’s impossible for them all to be put up in that one room. Now that the lockdown is in effect, everyone is out of work. So the masons and carpenters of the village have made a plan and has been visiting him, two or three at a time, building a small room for him. They are short of money too, so we should pitch in with what we can”, he explained to me.

When it seems like all is lost, some foresee impending doom and others strive for sustenance, it is the stories of survival that continue to bring us hope. Of individuals, groups; Of people and their irrevocable will and indomitable spirit to rise above their circumstances, to fight. Each day we have been winning a new battle, our fears, our tears. Call it COVID-19 or Corona, what is one more?

“By the way, I saw him on my way home.” Cucumbers, onions and some vegetables all spread out on a tarpaulin sheet under the local tamarind tree. “Vishu business, it seems”. Achan laughs. I take a walk to the gate, sure enough, at the distance one can make out the blurry outline of a little boy, shouting at the top of his voice “Vishu kit, vegetable kit, Vishu kit, vegetable kit.”.

It’s our stories that lets us overcome, to each his own.
What could be his? I wonder!

Stay tuned for more about “Love in the times of Corona” 😊 
With Conscious Care, Together we shall overcome!

Care Consciously! #DefeatCorona !

Disclaimer: The opinions endorsed by the speaker is solely the author’s and not in any way endorsed by the Institute/Programme.