” Ripples – Love in the Times of Corona” by Meera Kumar Menon
Care Consciously! # DEFEAT CORONA
“It’s a little intimidating to talk to her these days”, says Amma to Achan while we are at dinner.
“Why is that?”, I enquire, wondering which unsaid family rule had I trespassed on now.
“Because we never know, what you would turn into one of those stories of yours”, she says.
“You owe us the royalty for these”, says Achan, rather seriously.
“But do tell us what the next story is about?”, curiousity getting the better of them. “Maybe she can write about the memories about her piano classes.” contributes Amma.
“How would that be relevant in ‘the times of corona’?”, points out Achan.
Before I knew it, the topic for the dinner table discussion had become the making of my story.
What goes into a good story? What would you, my reader, want, I wonder, as I finish my chakka puzhukku . Jackfruit and mango dishes have become the norm since the lockdown began. Maybe that’s something we both might have in common, don’t you think?
Parents meanwhile, have taken it upon themselves to drop a profound statement or two onto conversations, and wink at me, hinting that I take it up for an upcoming story. Laughing heartily, cleaned dishes put aside, I go to bed.
“Dreams are those that do not let you sleep”, I remember the quote and Kalam’s face. I toss and turn wondering about what my dreams used to feel like.
Aged five, a white petticoat, pig tails on both sides, occasionally matched with blue ribbons from the school, was my usuals with summer right around the corner. Making it a picnic from my house to the fields and ponds, my cousin and I would try catching a few fishes and carry them in a glass jar to the well. While this buisness required a more enthusiastic entrepreneur, I would watch him as I sit on the steps leading to the pond, feet soaking in it’s cool waters while myriads of little fish nibbled at my feet.
Dreams, then felt like a million fishes at my feet, springing one to life.
“How much is this?”, Thambran achachan would ask me, holding up four fingers, making his way to the pond and finally sitting down next to me. A tall senile man in his seventies, our neighbour, to my amusement had a small lump of flesh dangling from his right ear, resembling a bell.
“Four! Achachaa!”, I would say, fairly confident.
“No. No. Ee kuttikku onnum ariyillya”, you don’t know a thing, “It’s three”, he would tell me. “Ofcourse not, it’s four, see…” I would proceed to touch each of his fingers as I count, “One, Two, Three,…Oops!, where did the fourth one go?” I would gape at him wide eyed. He would’ve folded it in time and fooled me. “So, was it three or four?” He would ask me. “Well…, it’s four, no! three…, Four?” I would squabble, baffled by this sorcery.
“Ennan ariyatha kuttikal kulathil ottakku irangan paadilya”, he imparts a life lesson, telling me that if one doesn’t know how to count yet, one shouldn’t be at the pond by oneself. “But I do know how to count!”, I tell him, counting the number of fishes in my jar. “One, Two, Three…”
“Then tell me, how many are nibbling at your feet,?”
“Many, Many.They move around so quick… I can’t count. But so many… the one I counted from here just went from this feet to the other. What if I count it again, they all look the same!” I accept defeat.
Could logic be a matter of perspective too? I was too young to ponder. Confusions are rather unsettling.
“Alright then! Tell me, is this green or red? He picks up a drying leaf floating in the pond surrounded by huge trees. I take a closer look at the leaf. This has become an issue of my prestige, I have to get this right, I tell myself. “It looks brown, but it could be… very yellow.” I tell him.
“You don’t know a thing, it is blue”, he laughs and places the wet leaf on my palm. “Achachanu vayyasayathonda”, you are way too old, I tell him, “This is not blue.”
“It is definitely blue, and you are far too young, little one,” he tells me.
Maybe, everything changes, with time.
Tossing in bed, my hands reach out to hug Achamma, even though it has been four years since her passing, old habits do die hard, her side of the bed, still warmed by memories.
“Oru kadha koode!” One more story and I will fall asleep”, I would plead, each night.
My father’s mother, an inseparable part of my heart and soul, would then tell me to count till fifty and backwards.
“Thambran achachan told me that I didn’t know how to count. That I can go to the pond only after I learn to count the number of fishes, is that right Achamme?”, I ask her.
“You need to learn to swim, before you step into the pond, but to step into the waters, you need to know how to swim.” She repeats for the hundredth time.
But it is not that we know everything about everything we do, and yet, we make do, regardless, she must’ve thought. “I can’t sleep, not just yet”, I complain shaking her awake.
“Once upon a time, there was a shepherd, and he was taking his herd of hundred goats to graze. On the way they see a small cave in the mountain. To pass through the cave, the goats have to cross it one after the other. ‘Onnamathe aadinte thalavannu…udal vannu… kaal vannu.’ The first goat passed it’s head through the cave, then his body, then the legs, then the second goat passed his head, body, and legs. Then the third… You keep counting Ammu, and tell me when all the goats pass, she would tell me, and turn around to sleep, as I continue counting.
“Ammu! Wake up! Your Protagonist is here! Calls out Achan, disrupting my peaceful slumber. Protagonist, Who? I ask, half asleep. What does achan know of my countless dreams, schools of fish and goats?
I make it to the door and sure enough, our kadhapathram is around, smiling at me early in the morning. “Chechi, Naranga veno?” He asks me, usual smile in place, holding out a lemon. “What will I do with one?” I ask sleepy eyed. This is just one, I shall bring you more, if you would buy it, says our little entrepreneur boy, on his early morning market assessment visit.
“Alright! you know what, I wrote a story about you. You are a star now”, I tell him. “Me…, in a story? Would anybody read a story about me?”, He beems. “How many lemons in half a kilo?” I ask him.
So you do know how to count, I think. You need to know how to count your dreams too, I smile.
Little would he know of the losses I am counting, this morning. Thambran achachan, Achamma, Abdul kalam, Irfan khan. Memories unreplaced. Maybe he has his own. Lemons sold, lemons stale;
Dearing fear, futures pale.
On my way back I hear numbers on the T.V. 37,000 tested positive, 1,218 deaths in India, 2,39,000 deaths world wide. How many are that many?
I draw out my fingers. Very many dreams, very many memories, very many stories reduced to mere numbers.
While there is no logic to this pandemic, it is not the numbers that hold us still. A sense of loss is beyond all logic, and yet time replaces people with memories, turning green leaves yellow and then maybe to a deep desperate blue.
Returning to my study, I find my journal. What shall I write today, I wonder.
My Reader, what shall I write for you today? What would soothe our ailing hearts?
Perhaps, we will take a walk; To the pond, afterall,
we’ve learnt to count.
This time, not losses, first memories, then dreams.
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.