Lockdown Diaries and the Smell of Strange Perfume
Dear Diary (are you still supposed to write that or is it totally outdated?)
I wouldn’t know how to start; the last time I wrote to myself was in the eighth grade, when I wished desperately for the English exam to end, lest my hand fall off and I live without one with an awkward story to tell for as long as the world sustains. It’s not as weird as I thought it would be, honestly. I do talk to myself all the time, at 3 AM, wavering between what I should’ve said to some people two years back and all the possible ways that the world might end in (Armageddon is not left unconsidered, by the way).
I am pretty sure this time is hard for every living person on the surface of this planet, and I’m not in this alone. Sometimes, my problems seem like a tiny little whine when I open the news and read about the horrible things happening around; people trying to survive, to get food and just breathe every day, hoping the sun doesn’t set, because if it does, there is another day of suffering waiting for them.
Whereas as soon as I wake up, I wait eagerly for the dusk, creating a mental picture of the day ahead in my head, trying to bring a sense of organisation and calm to this commotion that life has become. It is almost like an annoying traffic jam, cars glued to the ground, an utterly piercing horn in the background that isn’t ready to subside and your foot on the pedal trying to move your car one bit at a time, as much as you can, to get out of this rut so that you can finally glide onto the highway, roll down your windows and let the cool autumn breeze embrace you until it touches your feet and you feel like all is okay in the world again. I feel as if these days I’m just waiting for this jam to clear, so that I can take in that air again as I rush my car through the freeway, and go anywhere I want, no restrictions, just the journey and the destination ahead.
Did I just romanticise a pandemic? I’m afraid so. Reading a little too much of Mitch Albom, watching a string of Jane Austen classic movies and smelling books and teas doesn’t make you a cool millennial, I’m sure. Just your average old-school -person, who loves cardigans and sighs when they look at tiktoks, referring to it as ‘these kids’ when you’re a 20-year-old yourself (or more like an 80-year-old woman stuck in a 20-year-old’s body).
And even though I enjoy my old-person traits most days, it’s certainly hard to keep up with it when you live in the year 2020, jailed amidst the four walls of your room. The internet and social media isn’t a respite because you cannot for the life of you comprehend the conundrum that is #quarantineandchill or the Dalgona coffee trend? (I mean it’s just coffee upside down). I know that I have all the time in the world to read all those books and literary wonders that I keep crying about when I didn’t have enough time or listen to Sam Cooke all day and Paul McCartney the next. And it was all about those books, songs and heartwarming movies but only for a good four weeks.
As the fifth week started to unfold, I missed the smell of freshly roasted coffee that came wafting from the cafes that I walked past, pulling me towards themselves as the moon does to the tides - just simple laws of gravity. And that’s just not it. I miss my entire commute to university every day - waking up early yet late, at 7 am (yes that was sadly late) and crying about it, while I rush to get ready and catch a ride to the metro-station as my hair is soaking wet and I drench the marble floors of my house as I sprint around, trying to find my glasses and earphones. I would gulp my cold coffee whole, while my mother gave me a sniggering look for skipping breakfast and yet would sneak in a sandwich wrapped in aluminium foil in my bag when I wasn’t looking. I miss the morning breeze that air-dried my hair in the auto-rickshaw, while I fiddled with my earphones and rummaged through my playlist for a morning boost of Mumford and Sons.
I would give up all of the social media, yes, Instagram and Snapchat and whatever new application the kids are using these days for a train ride to college, filled with strangers, all so hurried, so hasty, to reach somewhere, pushing and fumbling through the metro - I would find an uncanny sense of calm in it. This uncertainty and muddled life has made me realize how much I also miss studying or skipping the first-morning class to hang out in the cafeteria instead with a cup of steaming coffee and half-forgotten anecdotes from old nights.
Is it just me or does anyone else also miss the yellow and red flowers strewn about on the streets in March? It is not easy for a memory hoarder to get through these tough times without lapsing into nostalgia every other minute. Not easy for a person who loves stray discourses on politics, life, love, career and books over a cup of tea to text people and still have that fiery enthusiasm.
I’m not undermining my privilege, for I know these aren’t the issues that matter in the least right now. But I think writing them down makes me feel a tad better - like I’m ranting to someone as I would in the old days, if I may.
And like a true old-soul, these past three months have made me realize how much I enjoy my own company rather than texting away or relying on social media to get through the day. And I don’t think less of anyone who does that; whatever one finds their peace in. But it’s hard to blend in sometimes for monochromes in this vibrant world, when all you want is to cook yourself nice, steaming-hot banana bread and curl into your bed with a sad PDF. (I miss the smell of books).
I think all I want is a redo sometimes. I know I couldn’t change anything; I couldn’t stop the pandemic because that is beyond my corporeal control. However, if I do get a redo, as I imagine- I see myself standing at the jostling platform of Rajiv Chowk Metro Station in Delhi- people brushing past and into each other. I might be looking at them indifferently, as my earphones pulse to the tunes of The Beach Boys. It looks like a tiresome day and I don’t pay heed to the stranger next to me, who smells like Fijian Water Lotus mist. If only I knew it was the last time I’d smell an unfamiliar perfume, I would’ve stepped a little lighter, would’ve breathed a little longer. I would’ve lingered for a slow second before stepping out the metro doors.
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