Beyond The Lockdown – A Tale Of Two Hearts

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It’s 11 at night. The presentation finally gets over. My boss is still there hiding behind his moon-shaped spectacles, telling us about the assignments we need to submit the very next day. Our company is planning to expand its inventory and diversify into the e-commerce market. The lockdown has taken a serious hit on our annual revenues, and we’ve had to come up with a whole new strategy in a matter of days.

Several of my colleagues come up with their questions and are fairly relaxed about it. I take a deep sigh of exasperation. Now I’m not one to ask questions to the boss after the presentation gets over. Instead, I’m the first guy out as soon as the bell rings. 

After what seems like years of questioning, the session finally expires, and I shut off my laptop. The lockdown has been a boon for introverts like me. The lockdown seems to be straight out of a science fiction novel meant to be an introvert’s fantasy. Oh, how I’ve cherished the last couple of weeks. I’ve finished ten latest copies of the Batman series and had major debates about them on every major nerd website on the internet. I’ve also not been subjected to the excruciating traffic of Bangalore, a line I never thought I’d ever been privileged enough to say. In short, life’s good. I’m in my room, with my headphones on. Nobody can harm me here. 

Lying in bed, I can’t help but stare relentlessly at the ceiling. I can’t sleep. It’s probably because my sleep pattern has been haywire lately. The lockdown has effectively eradicated the idea of days, weeks and even months. Now we’re in what seems to be an endless cycle of nothingness. Also, insomnia isn’t something new to me. In all honesty, I’d get freaked out if I actually could fall asleep without the pills for once. However, I feel something different tonight. A feeling stronger than the usual emptiness I feel. A feeling so overpowering that I can’t help but drift off into the abyss. 

My parents have recently moved into the city, and I already hate it here. Bangalore is a city that’s developing rapidly into an IT hub. I see people all around, walking to work in their suits even in this scorching heat. People barely speak Hindi here. The ones who do make a royal mess of the beloved language. There are only two things I’ve utter disdain for, one being poorly cooked food and the other a poorly spoken language. 

It’s my first day in my new school. I detest changing schools, going through the dreaded induction phase. It seems rather futile to me considering I’ll probably be shifting again soon. 

We’re made to go through the sports classes that I hate. I’ve never been one to participate in sports or any other organised group activity for that matter. I’d rather watch from the sidelines—a true wallflower in spirit. 

It’s lunch hour. I’m sitting in my class having lunch when I notice a group of boys hovering around me, waiting to strike. The human species is a strange, and a rather hostile one. We tend to derive our sense of self-worth by putting others down. Nowhere is it more apparent than in teenage boys, thrusting their abnormally high testosterone levels on everyone around. Male insecurity it’s called. The boys make fun of me for my glasses and bowl haircut. I feel scared, wanting to run away and wanting to run away from the world, to find shelter outside this dreaded place. 

“Stop it”. I lift my head and see a girl standing there. She’s beautiful, with long hair and kind eyes. “Leave him alone, or I’ll call ma’am”, she boldly proclaims. The boys decide to leave, to my relief. 

I can’t help but wonder who she is. Why help me? A newcomer. Someone who can’t even help himself. She sits down beside me and opens up her lunchbox. She has parathas for lunch, and my mouth starts watering instantly. “Here, have some”, she says with the most radiant smile I’ve ever come across. She has an aura of positive energy all around her, and it’s seeping into me. Who is she? An angel? I wonder. 

It’s strange how we’re drawn to people for reasons unknown. We become the best of friends in the years to come. Be it school or tuition; we seem to be inseparable. Her energy is intoxicating, her words pure, and her smile infectious. She’s also the school basketball captain, playing Nationals. What more can I do than to cheer for her, and occasionally get her math problems solved? What more can be a wallflower’s raison d’etre? Not much, it seems. 

Love is a strange emotion. It gets you high on life but slaps you right down, hard. It’s time for me to leave town since my father has gotten another transfer. I dreadfully load up the luggage into the back of our car. I catch a whiff of her scent. A scent I’d recognise anywhere. I turn to see her standing there. It’s the first time I ever see such pain in her eyes, sorrow in her smile, but a smile nonetheless. She comes up to me and ties a band around my wrist. It’s simple, minimalist and yet so precious. I see her for the last time through our car’s window before my parents drive me away. I don’t remember the last time I cared for another human to this degree if ever at all. I wipe the tear off my face and lean against the window, hoping to see her in the clouds. “It’s a dream”, I tell myself.

I wake up with a jolt. It’s 3 in the morning. “Was it a dream”? It’s been years since that day I moved out of the city. Since then, I’ve travelled across the world and yet can’t seem to find anyone like her. Her energy, her intoxicating smile have gotten etched into my memory.

The lockdown has been a terrible time. But with the onset of the calamity, I’ve found myself getting increasingly grounded in my being. It has given me time to reflect, to ponder and to get lost in my dreams. 

“Want some coffee?” I turn around. She’s there, looking as radiant as ever, even at 3 in the morning. “I can’t sleep either, wait I’ll get you coffee”. I smile. Maybe some dreams do turn into our realities. 

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