Together in the time of social distancing

BY Pranitha Menon

Distance learning has given the home WiFi, among many aspects of our pre-Covid 19 life that we took for granted, an important place in our homes. Unfortunately, both the WiFi and I am being tested for strength, only that mine are on the subjects of patience and technological skills.
This morning, Little Princess explained her English lesson — the story of a caterpillar that resisted change and did not wish to metamorph into a butterfly.
We owe one another the loyalty and discipline of distancing each other socially and not in hearts for that is the only way we can keep the light of hope alive.
“The caterpillar had a ‘fixed mindset’,” she attempted to imitate her teacher as I stared in shock at words that had graced my vocabulary not long before those like ‘social distancing’.
I also realised that many among us were that caterpillar who were resisting the sudden change that has forced us into our cocoons to revisit values, learning and our choices.
Arrival of viruses
During my student days, change was rare. Even viruses timed their arrival with the seasons. Varicella zoster, the chickenpox virus, made its rounds every summer. It showed up at our happy home as a rash on my brother’s arm a week before my tenth board exams.
That evening, my books, clothes and a dazed me were dropped off at a family friend’s place, after they had offered to keep me under their care during the tenure of my exam. Been Aunty, Koshy Uncle and her excited boys showed me into their well-furnished guest room.
Neither the room and a bed all to myself without the constant worry of a nagging brother to irritate me nor the effort of my hosts to get me comfortable could pull me out of the dark shell that I had receded into.
That night as I joined them for dinner, I shifted uncomfortably as they bowed their heads while saying grace, a custom that I was unfamiliar with.
I picked on my food with a plastic smile plastered on my face shunning all warmth and affection sent my way.
I was the poster child for ‘fixed mindset’ if this were an English lesson in Little Princess’s class.
Having shun myself into a shell inside an expansive room without any distraction would have made my parents happy for I directed all my energies into studying for the big exam that was around the corner.
Change my attitude
The effort of keeping up my act of defiance waned with time as rays of wisdom pierced through the hazy darkness. It was not in my powers to change the situation that I was placed into, but I had the capacity to change my attitude towards it.
It must have been the curious boys and their invitation to join in their fun or the graciousness of my hosts that I slowly emerged out of the darkness and joined in the twirl of change.
Once my attitude towards the situation changed, my eyes and mind saw new possibilities. I missed my brother, but the boys were great company, my cold shell melted under Been Aunty’s umbrella of warmth and the room became my cosy haven.
Today, as we are shunned into our cocoons to fight the force that has rendered us powerless, it is up to us to accept and see the change in better light.
Most of us might metamorphose as individuals wider than our pre-Covid-19 selves with glazed eyes that have seen our partners for longer periods than ever before and tried our hands at tasks we have never attempted or assumed we would never find the time to complete.
The silver lining in the dark cloud hovering over us is that we are in this rickety boat together fighting a stormy sea.
We owe one another the loyalty and discipline of distancing each other socially and not in hearts for that is the only way we can keep the light of hope alive.
In the least, some day you too might have an interesting story to tell. –GN