Lock-Down Diaries -Thank You !My Neighbor

Posted: May 24, 2020 in My Silly thoughts

Lock-down day 39: Last of my pistachios is gone. Believe it or not shelling pistachio is a challenge in and of itself, the struggle is real people, but given the current circumstances, it was an activity that fit perfectly for the tiny breaks in between work or my movie marathons.

Lock-down day 40: The urge to go out for a walk is unbearable. It is almost 48 days since I last stepped out of the house, except for disposing garbage and wishing Mary aunty, the garbage collector. Apart from Mary aunty I have not had any face to face conversations with any other fellow human. Tried to strike up a conversation with Jimmy, the street dog, well, let’s just say he shut his eyes to my attempt, literally.

In a matter of few days, our lives were brought to a standstill. The virus has forced us, to stop and consider, re-evaluate our priorities, deal with fear, uncertainty, despair, gratitude, empathy, hope, loss, all at the same time. Considering the world we were living in, the catastrophe that 2020 is turning out to be, was well on our way, we just didn’t see it coming. One minute we were ready to land on Mars and next Kaboom!!!bound to 4 walls.

With countries around the world on a lockdown, the unlikely beneficiary of all this, Nature. Blue skies and cleaner air, wild animals taking the streets, nature has never seemed more glorious and indifferent to us humans. It is reclaiming the planet.

Lock-down 1: ”I think I should be fine on my own” stocking up the grocery and Bisleri water,  I assured myself. It will be like Jesus living on his own in the wilderness after baptism. Only difference, he was fasting and had company of Satan/angels whereas I am feasting with Satan as my company.

It wasn’t easy to be honest; it is especially hard if you are staying on your own. Friends, I have quite a few of them, some are busy with their succulent plants while others with their kids, husband, and in-laws. In times like these, you have only yourself to rely on and the sooner you become aware of that reality the better.  My strategy in getting through the Pandemic is to not fight the mind but just let it wander off to harmless, and relatively healthier thoughts in a restrained manner. Rennel, my neighbor has been helpful in providing just that, the right amount of distraction.

Lock-down 3: It’s just day three and am already barred from some of the coveted WhatsApp groups, thanks to my relentless Coronavirus forwards, memes and some more memes, never the news though, I figured we have the news channels, and various other social platforms  for that. But to tell you the truth, I was just trying my best to make the situation we are all collectively going through a little easier on the people I care, yeah my way of going about it wasn’t totally ‘Zen’, but didn’t someone once say “It’s the thought that counts”, well, whatever.

Lock-down 5: Trying hard to keep my face above the water and swim, it is a struggle, but I am giving it my all. I try to shift my attention from the pain, the suffering, the deaths, the %^&ing virus and the world in general and instead focus it all on mostly work, and occasionally Rennel.

He seems silent and soft spoken by nature,  I don’t ever hear him shout into his  phone, or even talk slightly louder on the  phone,  like you are supposed to, because you know the receiver a cell phone sucks, at least that’s my excuse for being loud on the phone. He definitely did not buy into the ‘Get cooking’ trend of the Lockdown, for he has been persistent in his visits to his cousin’s or friend’s place across the street for lunch and dinner, at the very least.

There is an old carom board kept at the entrance to his flat, blocking cats and cute kittens who used to often pay him visits and as a return gift pooped in the passage right by his door. So, now every time he moves the board nosily, I know he is either going somewhere or getting in. Also, he is terribly loud with the lock and the keys.

No, I am not an old fashioned nosy neighbor, I just am a light sleeper who is anxious about of living alone and so likes to be aware and informed about the things/people around, things like Rennel rides an old, outdated, perhaps a third hand bike are as important as knowing whose door to knock  case of an emergency or would it be  wiser to manage with the kitchen knife and chill powder.

Lock-down Day7: “Do you have water?”, “Do you have rice?”, “Do you have gas to cook?”……the same questions pop out in a row, first by my dad, then mom, of course a follow up  by my sister. “I have everything except peace!?” I bark at them. “You can manage then…”.

I didn’t travel to my hometown, like the rest of the Bangalore, instead I decide to stay back just so that my work does not suffer. Given the lousy internet service there, the whole “working from home” wouldn’t last a day, let alone two months.

“You are ok right?” my mom likes to play her ace card with that heart melting voice,  which for an instance makes you forget everything except the stark reality that you are not with your family. And If you let yourself entertain that sinking feeling, even for a second longer, you are screwed up, you start falling apart. However, If you are smart enough you suck it up and move on. I do the latter, “Yeah, yeah, fit and fine”. Wonder where mothers learned to be intuitive like that.

It’s not that I don’t miss home, I just try my hardest not to, it just takes a great deal of strength to push through, and not get sucked into an emotional pitfall. The nostalgia, the longing to be home with family, Mom’s home cooked food, all this if you are not careful enough can leave you emotionally drained and I simply can’t afford to live like that.

The situation we are all in reminds me so much of the days as described by Anne Frank, in her diary. If we don’t have veggies we can eat potatoes like how Anne Frank and her family did.

Lock-down Day8: There is a knock at my door. There’s another one and my extra attentive self concludes, “That’s definitely my door”. I open the door, surprised to find  a guy standing at the door and staring right at me.

I don’t smile rather stare back,  “Who is he? what the heck does he want…..” while I was trying to get a grip on my thoughts he interrupts me “I stay on the top floor” Bingo!!!My mind starts  mapping him immediately   “the one who rides cycle -> the one who makes noise while climbing the steps”. I intentionally dazzle him with one of my ugliest, uninteresting smiles. With outgrown eyebrows, oily face, plaited hair,  I am no ordinary, girl-next-door beauty.

“Is there any extra space in your fridge?”

My fridge was loaded like a full 9 months pregnant woman already.

“Really sorry, it’s full” I said politely

“I have got some curd, and it needs to be refrigerated” he wasn’t requesting he was trying to convince me

“I am really sorry, I really am” It just some curd, maybe I can adjust

“I don’t want to waste it; I am against wasting food”.

“Ok, let’s see”

“Thank you so much, if you want you can use it too” he was happy and disappeared to get his so called precious curd packet.

“Why I will use his curd packet!?”. I will write my name in block letters on my curd packet!

He comes back with several items in his hands. Wait a minute, did we talk about an item or several items? I am being taken for a ride, even in these times.  I hated him already for not keeping his word.

“Sorry I didn’t get your name” I say politely

“I am Chakra“ he said asking for mine

I told my name and like always repeated it a couple of times. A typical thing to love with, with a name like mine, in India.

I took the items wearing gloves and dumped them in the fridge.

Time passed, I got occupied with work. After a while it started to bother me , “Did he wash the curd packet with soap?”, “Why did he being the vegetables along?” I sought suggestions to remediate the situation from my college buddies.

“You made a mistake, learn to say no in situations like these”, Shenoy the manager was straight to the point.

Next day when Chakra came to pick his curd packet I sent along his other items too, said sorry and bye.

Lock-down Day9: I am running out of dark chocolates, my only luxury during the lockdown. They make me happy and keep me going .

“WFH sucks, it just sucks, I want to go to office” was my answer for every “how’s WFH” question. When I read about migrant workers dying, suffering, starving I stopped whining. At least I had roof over my head and food while others are struggling every single second through this never-ending nightmare of a situation.

Lock-down Day11: I bought some prawns from the fish seller thinking some curry won’t be harmful

“I think by mistake the guy touched my hand” I was all worried once again, washing my hand with hot water and hand wash for nth time.

Shenoy, the manager as we call him “OMG!!!Watch out for the symptoms for next 14days, anyway you are quarantined so should be ok”.

“You think I am infected?”

“Not sure, may be or may not be” That’s why we call him manager, he always have some solution.

Palm Sunday 2020: Hung the curry leaves branch outside, so what if I didn’t have Palm. An year with no palms, quite fitting for the dark year none of us will ever forget, for as long as we are alive

Not sure whether Rennel is religious, did he even visit the church back when things were normal?

Good Friday 2020: For the first time in all these years, the regular days seem sadder than the good Friday. He died for our sins, to save us, will he save the mankind and forgive us once again? or will he continue to punish us .It rained heavily that night.

Easter Sunday 2020: Easter came and went quietly, nothing festive about it this year. Online mass, online blessings, no rum, no wine, hopefully the resurrected Jesus is finally happy. Silver, unopened tequila bottle is sound asleep on a rack in my store room.  I am not depressed enough to drink my sorrows away, yet.

Rennel had a blast with his friends across the street. Could hear their merry voices and slow music floating into the silent night. It was comforting to know at least there’s someone out there being festive and enjoying the day.

Lock-down Day15: My WFH continues, I don’t complain any more, I just keep head down and work, it’s hectic at times, but at the same time I am grateful I still have a job, millions around the world are losing theirs every day.

Not sure whether Rennel works from home or if he is self-employed?

Back when life was normal, I was out the door, by 7 in the morning, fumbling with the lock and keys, rechecking if it’s secure enough, opening and locking it again, just an everyday ritual for someone suffering from OCD , and then rush through the staircase to get to my bus stop in time. So was totally unaware of Rennel’s morning routine by had a faint idea about his evenings.

Evenings, he used to go out after 7, may be to a gym,  not sure, he had no fixed schedule. There were weekends when he would come back home early in the morning,  like 4 and then struggle to  open the door with his own keys and then the freaking carom board, I woke up often cursing him, Once I almost wore my PJs,  ready to go down and give him some gyan on how to unlock the door without making any sound. And not mention the awful cigarette smell engulfing the corridor. Often an indication of him having a great time previous night, don’t think he is a regular smoker but definitely smokes quite a few cigarettes when he is drunk

Lock-down Day17: Learned to prepare chapatis, thanks to YouTube. Should I brag about my little achievement on one of the social networking platforms? I burnt calories picking up my 3 KG dumb bells. The invisible biceps are almost there, if you stare at them long enough you will start to see them, and yet you won’t find me bragging about them or anything else on social media. I have bid my farewell to all that long back. No, I am not caveman I am just old fashioned. I like to mind my own business and keep it to myself. I like going about my day without having the need to broadcast every little detail of my life to the world at large.  May be this how people in their mid-30s behave. My next goal is to get a waist as narrow as the mind, of few of the men around.

I can’t smell the cigarette these days may be Rennel ran out of smokes or he gave up. Sometimes I can hear him talk to his cousin or friend. He is courteous and sweet on the phone. He appears to be sociable person when around people he knows well.

Lock-down Day18: A brown vicious kitten visited me, was over the moon, finally someone came to see me, so what if it’s just a smelly orphan kitten. With cute, s button like eye and her golden fur she was gorgeous. I am tempted to touch, a touch which we all are prohibited from these days, but my experience with her species has not always been pleasant and so I maintain my distance, and just pour some milk out for her in a bowl and wait for her to come out of her hiding place to enjoy the bowl of milk.

Did she visit Rennel? Probably not, that carom board would have blocked her path. Does he like animals I wondered?

She was gone when I unlocked the door little later, the milk sat there untouched. Hopefully she will be alright and won’t be mauled by the street dogs.

Lock-down 20: Stepped out to get some cilantro and the lady touched my hand, this even after being extra cautious and standing at a distance of a kilometer from her, can’t be too careful these days.

“I was being super careful but I feel like the lady still managed to touch me ” I was trying to justify with the manager

“You can’t be careful enough, anyway you are quarantined, watch out for symptom” Shenoy, the manager was at it again.

“What?! You think you are infected? Why did you go out anyway?” My sister was flipping out.

“I wanted some Cil……antro” she was pissing me off already

“Wanted what ? Cyril….?

“CILNTRO bum, coriander leaves”

“Wow” she must have rolled her eyes at me,  I could totally feel it. ”Can’t you cook without cilantro?!”

“No, I want my salad dressing to be perfect” yeah I know I am crazy.

Lock-down Day 25: No symptoms, drinking hot water, lemon water gargling ….the holy water is playing its tricks too. Whenever my throat is itchy, I take a sip and pray “God not this time, please”. It’s my blind faith that’s all

Lockdown one Of Sunday: I attend online mass, a minimal effort to keep my relationship with the almighty.

“All peace with me and Rennel with you” I say when the priest says peace be with you.

Lock-down Day30: Sun rises, rolls, sets and then disappears, days pass nights vanish and I live in my lonesome world working on weekdays and watching something on weekends. My thoughts which are very loud at times keep me occupied and then there is Rennel

Rennel, may be in his late 20s or early 30s with thick eyebrows and fair complexion, perfect nose, cavity free teeth, he is 5.9, a sight for sore eyes. His then short hair now grown into long, thick length, held back by a rubber band. Can’t wait to run my fingers through his luscious locks, am pretty sure it feels heavenly.

It has been 8 months since he move into a flat on the ground floor of my building, our paths never crossed, how unfortunate, not even once. If we had met before the lockdown, the shy and sweet smiles exchanged between us would have given a perfect start to pleasant companionship or perhaps something more. Oh my terrible fate!!.

Lock-down Day35: I had my first mango of the season. Oh dear god, thank you If I wasn’t grateful before I want to rectify it right away, starting right at this moment. Thank God for tropical fruits. The items I ordered online get delivered in instalments, and struggle to survive continues.

Lock-down Day37: When the loneliness creeps in and starts to eat me up I play the music so loud my then confused thoughts start to disappear, like they are terrified of someone louder then them

If I lower the volume I can hear “Before you go” by Lewis Calpadi playing from Reenel’s house, finally we have something in common. And few other songs too, which are neither too old nor too new, silent, melodious, romantic numbers, never the heavy metal bands. This is how I guessed his age, some silly logic you might say.

Lock-down Day40: Trying my best to pluck the extra hair and  shape my out of shape eyebrows. Ouch!!!Nooooo I shout. Now my eye brows are uneven, one is like the peak of Mount Everest while other doesn’t have a peak. Pain of every woman.

Does Rennel have girl friend? I wonder. It’s not that I am interested it’s just that I want to keep my thoughts occupied as much as possible and stop sulking over everyday things.

He goes out many a times throughout the day, lunch around 3, tea/walk with his sister’s dogs around 4, dinner around 9:30 to 10 and then final one,  a little later in the night , not sure if it’s for a smoke or just a walk after dinner. Initially I did try to ignore keeping track of the carom board moving and his every little struggle with the door, the lock and the keys, but of course, I didn’t do a great job, and as you can see I failed quite miserably.

Sometimes I think maybe I should knock on his door, give him one of the Alphonso mangoes which I so dearly love “Don’t think you  have tasted the mangoes this season, or have you? Anyway,  here’s one for you ”…..terrible idea, or maybe I should just keep a mango at his doorstep with a Post it note on it,  with a message “From one caring neighbor to another!?

”Rennel” I don’t know what it means but it’s gentle and it’s  nice. Recently I had Wi-Fi trouble that’s when I got to know, there’s a new name popping in the available network “Rennel’s phone” I read the tarot cards for the day and concluded its my downstairs neighbor. The very neighbor I have never met and yet know so much about, it could all just be nothing more than my perception of him, but that’s okay , I am okay with that.

Lock-down day41: Wonder if our PM will assign us any more interesting tasks, he keeps everyone occupied. He is a darling, isn’t he?!. I love the day following the task, so many memes, I still forward them to a few of the groups where I am still a member, with a looming fear I could lose the membership anytime and so make the best of it while you can.

Wonder what Rennel does to his free time? Does he watch movies? or may be watches series,  like Money heist, Asura or just sleeps like Kumbakarna, who knows !

Lock-down, I lost the count: Zombie apocalypse would have been better, at least we would know who is infected unlike COVID-19.It’s like fighting an invisible enemy. With zombies the problem would be , to out-run the freaking creatures , at least we can touch our own  face. Our life has been about washing hands, covering faces, avoiding human touch, sanitizing every possible shit and then of course being able to afford and buy groceries, this is the new normal.  A virus fucked us over, the great humans and there is nothing we can do about it, except stay in our fucking homes. We are living with fear, but there’s hope, hope that we will get through this together, it is going to be okay,   we will come out on the other side a little more compassionate, a little more grateful, a little more resilient. But we have to accept the fact that some things will never go back to what they were.

Hope, though a small word, sub-consciously has an immense effect on us,it is  why we get out of bed every day, for without hope there is no looking forward to anything, not even tomorrow. Here’s hoping that one day, I bump into my neighbor, Rennel and show him how to handle the locks without waking up the entire neighborhood and let him know how he kept me going through the dark days of Covid-19.  But for the time being I am happy and thankful to him for his pleasant, silent company.

P.S:Thank you SH for your magical editing, you gave a totally different look 🙂 

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