I have not met my parents for seven long months.
Not hugged them. Not had a meal with them.
Not driven them around. Not had a movie date with them.
Not had my mother kiss my cheek. Or, wave bye at me from her second-floor balcony as she watched me leave.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit each one of us in innumerable ways. Some of those impacts we are yet to ascertain; some impacts we may face for several coming years.
May be this entire lifetime. Who knows!
To me, the harshest impact has been the inability to meet my parents who live in Delhi 1500 kilometre away from where I live, in Mumbai. I feel helpless, and how! Who would have thought a virus, an invisible enemy, could stop one from meeting one’s parents? And not for a month or two. But, a seemingly endless wait.
Should I fly? Will it be safe to visit my parents? What if I act as a carrier and pass on the virus to them? They are old, should I take the risk?
I pose these tough questions to myself almost every day, and finally find comfort in what an epidemiologist told me: “In the present pandemic, not boarding a flight and flying from Mumbai to Delhi may be the best way to protect your old parents.”
I miss my parents. And often, in this lockdown, I have found myself thinking of the many occasions when I have missed them in the past.
I have no memory of it, but my mother often narrates this story from when I was very little, and took my first steps out of home. I was enrolled in a nursery school in the small hill township of Jammu where I grew up. Every morning, we would leave the house and my mother would hold my hand and walk me to the nursery school. After dropping me at school, she would return home to quickly finish up her household chores before it was time to pick me up again.
But even before she could unlock the door of our house, she would hear me, crying loudly, walking home behind her. This daily routine lasted several weeks. Maybe even months. I didn’t want to be away from home and her!
My ‘behaviour’ did not improve as I grew up. When I was in the eleventh standard, I had to travel to Pathankot in Punjab to attend a regional sports meet. It meant staying away from my parents and home for about two weeks. Those two weeks seemed like two years! And while the other girls were busy singing songs and playing antakshari every night, I would be busy writing letters to my parents.
That moment, when I saw my mother at the Pathankot camp is something that keeps me warm and safe, it gives me strength and hope, even in the present pandemic.
The memory of one afternoon during those two weeks, is still crystal clear in my mind. I was walking along the corridor of the school where the regional meet was being held, in Pathankot along with another participant, when I suddenly saw my mother walk into the school along with her younger brother.
Having being away from home for an eternity (read some 10 days), I thought I was hallucinating. But there she was almost running towards me as soon as she spotted her daughter from among the many teenage girls at the camp.
“I received your letter and cried. I couldn’t hold myself back so I took a bus and travelled three hours in the hills to reach Jammu. Met your mamaji and told him I wanted to meet you at Pathankot and here I am!” she had said.
We hugged each other and cried. She took special permission to take me out of the sports camp and we spent a day together. That moment, when I saw my mother at the Pathankot camp is something that keeps me warm and safe, it gives me strength and hope, even in the present pandemic.
This pandemic has made me realise the value of each moment spent with one’s parents. We often take our parents for granted. After all they have been with us since the time we came into this world. But COVID-19 has made me realise how there is many a slip between the cup and the lip.
I had my tickets to Delhi booked for this March end, which I had to cancel.
Like every year, I had planned to spend the entire month of May in Delhi with my parents.
Like every summer, we had planned to travel to the hills.
All the plans fell apart. And now it seems like an endless wait.
Spend time with your parents, every possible moment, you won’t regret it.
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