Quarantine Journal II

March 21st, 1:04 pm

So, I had a meltdown last night. All my insecurities and fears I thought I had buried down deep, veiled behind meditation, conscious breath yoga, disconnecting from the endless news cycle, limiting social interaction to a few hours a day, learning how to demarcate between my emotions and the emotions of others gone for a toss as I feel like a petulant child with an incoming temper tantrum. Memories of my last relationship that tanked spectacularly, spurred on some fleeting chat about exes with my boyfriend. It’s funny because I thought I had shed all ideas of possessiveness with the stunning collapse of my life’s largest relationship yet, truly and entirely understood that everything is painfully finite, that nobody belongs to anybody as much as we’d like to hold onto the notion that lends us a sense of identity, of assurance, of security. That these things are, in essence, illusionary. I see people all around me clinging onto similar delusions: some to their families, some to their partners, some to their flatmates turned quarantine buddies.

March 22nd, 11:43 am

Is the world ending? I wake up with tension in my body every morning.

March 26th, 12:36 PM

Met this boy at a writing workshop earlier last year. What a fucking cliche. He has shrewd eyes that are stoic half of our time together, only receding into warmth and mirth right before bed. Four months hence and we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Everyone processes tragedy differently. Some open up really quick, clinging onto others, some shut down faster than a blink of an eye. I think he alternates between the two dimensions; his moods arrive with equal parts force and unpredictability. I’m nervous about his judgment and I’m eager to impress. I also know when I need to withdraw in order to have his attention. It’s a push and pull that doesn’t feel violating just as yet.

March 28th, 3:32 PM

I’m about to have a breakdown over running out of tobacco. We haven’t even run out yet. There’s two packets of American spirits, two packets of filter, one small, one large, about 20 strips of brown paper and enough coffee to keep us going. Naina won’t settle for instant coffee so we’re making do with Koinonia’s French press caramel and toffee coffee — medium roasted. We’re so lucky, it physically hurts us. Is this an exercise in understanding what deprivation might feel like? The current situation forcing me to ground myself in the present reality — my head barely wrapping itself around what it’s like to live moment to moment. All instincts have boiled down to primal ones — prepping the perfect meals, making sure we clean ourselves, take showers. Sex has taken on a new dimension, as has language. Language has been reduced to its crudest, or perhaps the most effective proportions. Quiet kisses, moans meant to attract attention and warmth, everyone’s truest disposition coming to its fore. Hand holding, languid lovemaking, nothing over the top, nothing flashy, just basic, utilitarian and somehow, entirely complete in itself. No time to mull or wallow in one’s own despair, really, just holding onto things which carry any meaning at all currently. Who knows about tomorrow? The fascist, ring-wing, bigoted, hate mongering genocidal prime minister of my country announced a 21 day lockdown in the country yesterday. Meanwhile, deaths in Spain rise by 743. News headlines read like things I’ve only seen in movies or glimpsed vaguely in my nightmares. I heard they’ve turned an ice skating rink into a morgue in Spain. Bodies pile up and the numbers of infections rise exponentially daily. The internet is our best and worst friend right now. I surface from Twitter, Instagram wormholes to glimpse the sunny faces of my quarantine buddies: I do not cave into sentimentality. Maybe I do because one night, I tell the man I’ve been seeing for about three months that I love him. He’s good at getting me to tell him things, divulge what I so intensely struggle to articulate, words dissipating and coming to a stop to describe the largest feelings, liminal moments spent in silence or knowing glances exchanged, a constant push and pull, a tug of war between moods and thoughts and want and need. As I write this from one of the usually busiest streets in Bombay, I can hear the sweep of a broom, the afternoons are filled with loud cawing of inky black crows. The sky has never been bluer, or clearer, the palm trees are like furious strokes of green against the sky and a bright sun filters down the empty roads and into our bedrooms. In moments of panic and anxiety, I reach out to my ex-boyfriend, searching for answers for larger, existential questions that we are collectively grappling with as a society but in the context of our relationship. To his credit, he entertains me, accommodates me, and there’s a resurgence of the same feeling that perhaps I’m not doing enough. I hate my instinct to seek comfort wherever, anywhere. Even when the world comes to a stop and we’re forced to find succour in constructs we’d all collectively rejected — nature, shared silences, daily life marked by a sense of routine, quotidian affairs, the mundane taking on beauty, a sense of duty preceding desire. I close my eyes and I focus on my breath and I feel so entirely at peace and whole but I wonder if that comes from a sense of disassociation. Compassion fatigue. I watch videos of migrant labourers from Bihar and UP, out of work, with no way to make daily wages unable to find a way back home. This barely after a month after the state-sponsored pogrom in New Delhi — a city ravaged by its past and pillaged by the present. Relief camps for the pogrom-hit victims have been cleared out. Minutes after the Prime Minister makes the announcement, the rich take to the streets concealed in their Audis, a woman with a scarf wrapped around her face lugging a huge sack of groceries to her car, the ones with the most panic-buying tins and tins of food, all the items we use to satiate our souls attuned to pop culture on steroids, to moralistic platitudes, to excess, to exhibitionism. Once the crowd clears out, I can see the leaves more clearly than ever on the abandoned streets. I am repulsed by the my country’s weakest, most ravaged being used as poster boys for the guilt-ridden corporate social responsibility initiatives but I share it on my Instagram anyway — anything to assuage my own guilt. My boyfriend (the word seems to take on a new dimension in the Covid-19 world; all boundaries as we know them have dissolved) tell me the higher up you stay in Bombay, the better it is but I think this virus has proved it otherwise. Nobody knows where it exists, breeds, multiplies, some reports claim it’s already mutating. It’s affecting those who have felt the safest behind glass walls and high-octane security systems. I’m constantly torn between being relentlessly thankful for everything I have and despising everything I have. Our language as a species isn’t sophisticated, or whole enough to capture the despair we collectively feel, some of us turn to feeling nothing at all. Today, I familiarised myself with my quarantine flatmate’s growing belly fat which I’ve grown quite fond of.

Sometimes, love can take the form of an ease, a daily rhythm that an earlier me would have considered boring. Why fix it if it isn’t broken? The now me is thankful for every moment I get to spend with the ones I love. I intensely watch my quarantine friends in secret sometimes, searing their faces into my memory, all their good and bad habits a reminder of what I might lack or what might irritate me instead. A constant reminder to practise empathy.

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