It’s just another day. I took a glance at the calendar: 12-05-2038, Tuesday. No appointments. Neeta is busy at work; Ria and Rishi are busy with their classes online and I have to clean the old storeroom cupboard because Neeta wants to “revamp” it. I have the day off at work, I did plan on doing whatever I felt like but then clearing the cupboard came up. I held the cupboard’s rusty handle and obviously, the jammed doors wouldn’t budge. Multiple attempts at trying to open the door and in one such trial, pulled it real hard, the next second, “Thud!” and there I was on the ground. On the brighter side, I had unlocked it. I just stood in front of it staring, a little thrilled, as the old stuff stacked on all the shelves had that effect on me.
A blue and white football jersey hung there with the initials S.V. I took it in my hands and stared at it as it brought back hundreds of memories. On the right shelf was a folder covered with dust, with my school’s name printed on it. Inside it were report cards of my primary classes with remarks ranging from “Is a distraction in class” to “Bright kid”. Accomplishments that I am still proud of.
My eyes suddenly fell on a carton on the top shelf. It looked like the humble dwelling of perhaps, generations of insect families that took over the cupboard as their abode. After some inspections, dusting and drawing some courage, I took the carton and placed it on the floor. There was this sheer inquisitiveness, the enthusiasm of digging right into the carton.
First came a few albums with old pictures of my parents, school, and college. Beneath them was this old blue diary, with my name on the top right corner- Siddharth Verma, 2020. It has been a habit since my teens where I made diary entries almost every day and reading them now would be a trip down the memory lane. The bitter-sweet moments and encounters with failures, they were all there.
I stopped on the page dated- 12.05.2020, today eighteen years ago. Out of curiosity to see what had happened on this date back then, I read:
It’s been 20 days now. I hardly get to talk to Nithya. They won’t allow us inside the hospital to see her. Ma is worried sick while Papa puts up a strong front. Focussing on anything with the thought of her fighting this all alone is devastating for all of us. People around give us sympathetic looks. The worst part, some speak in the language of condolences. The whole country is in lockdown and since our area is under containment, even getting necessities has been difficult.
We haven’t hoarded groceries like the rest to make sure they last a few months because Papa felt it to be a lack of apathy on one’s part. Now, the situation is such that we depend on everybody around for every other thing, since we are constrained to the house. Dadi keeps mocking Papa for sending Nithya abroad for higher studies and that, that is the reason she is a Covid-19 patient now. All we long for is that one phone call every day to hear her voice. I have to stop here. It’s the call from the hospital. Until tomorrow…
My eyes filled with tears; memories of hardships still intact. The angst, distress and uncertainty that had loomed over us were traumatic. The feeling of helplessness and the thought of losing my sister used to haunt us. I turned over a few pages and read more excerpts of Nithya’s health and the family’s struggles. Again, I stopped at the page dated – 31.05.2020:
Today will probably be the happiest day of our lives so far. Yesterday we got a call from the hospital. Nithya tested negative in the third test as well and would be sent home in a couple of days. This news sent the house into a frenzy, with Ma bursting into tears and thanking God, Papa planning on buying everything she likes, forgetful of the fact that the whole country is still under lockdown. Dadi started taking this as an opportunity to gorge on some, otherwise restricted, sweets. We haven’t been this happy in a long time. I will write again once Didi comes back home…
I have the picture of that day when she returned home clear in my head. She seemed a little weak and pale but there was no stopping us from hugging her. That phase of my life gave me an altogether new perspective. From being a boy who knew nothing apart from attaining a successful stature in a specific career to realising that family bonds and people matter much more than wealth and money, I had become more matured and responsible.
Tears ran down my cheeks as I read this after so many years. Some experiences teach us things the hard way but change us into a more accountable and understanding person. The span of those thirty days changed me as a person. That very moment Neeta walked into the room and handed over the phone to me, Nithya was on the video call.
We did come a long way in finding ourselves, overcoming failures and hardships, accomplishing our ambitions. But what matters the most is the love and bond we share with our families, the courage they give us to fight head-on with whatever life throws at us and the staunch belief that ‘This too shall pass’ in hard times.