The Weekly Dose: These were just some of my favourite things
I simply remember my favourite things, until they are back some day.
Fresh air. Not the slightly stale, still air which fills the rooms of homes without balconies or terraces. Nor the depleted breaths already warmed by my nostrils and exhaled into my mask, only to be recycled and rebreathed. The air I crave is wintry, stinging the back of my nose with its sharpness, making my chest heave with great big gulps that streeeeeetch my lungs with goodness and health.
Understanding people by reading their expressions. Are his nostrils flared? Is her lip curled? Is his moustache bristling with indignation? I don’t know. I don’t know if she is biting on her lip, hesitating to speak - or just staring blankly without speaking; whether he meant what he said by that remark, or if he meant to stick his tongue out that I might take it in jest.
Listening to, and comprehending everything said to me - in the first attempt. Years of earphone abuse have diminished my hearing; I listen also through my eyes. Lip-reading is an unconscious, but integral part of how I deduce speech. Your Adam’s apple, and the bridge of your nose, are not very communicative, I’m afraid.
Smiles. Just-so smiles. Shy smiles. Smiles of children up to no good. Smiles that comfort. Toothy, gummy grins. The smiles are still being smiled, and some of them still may reach the eyes, but I no longer want to look for them there.
Mussing up, and burying my face in the already tousled hair of a snoozing baby. Befriending and monkeying around with children whose rosy-hued, chubby-cheeked cuteness only a sociopath could resist. Having a passing toddler grab my finger, shake it, and not let go.
Grubby hands. Dusty hands. Hands that could be washed ‘later’. Hands that touched people, and remained unwashed. That encountered paper, plastic and metal surfaces in all shapes and sizes, and didn’t have to be sanitised. Fingers that once pushed elevator buttons, only to be replaced by elbows.
Family. The eighty-year-olds, the seventy-year-olds...even the fifty-year-olds. Distance does not make a heart that was already fond, grow fonder. Pot-lunches. Pot-dinners. Twenty people in a room, balancing plates on knees, tables, the arms of chairs on the pate of an available teenager. Eating, talking, circulating, then burping, farting and sighing with contentment, draped over sofas, leaning against shins, gently drooping to the floor to rest in gluttony.
Friends. The ones who catch you unawares when you’re napping, and pile atop you to form a human jenga tower. The ones around whom you know no way of being, other than leaning on a shoulder, propped up against someone’s back, fiddling with her hair. Messes of arms and legs. Icky licks that bring forth screeches.
Firm, limp, sweaty, confident, mismatched, awkward handshakes. Elbow bumps don’t cut it. Bear hugs, side hugs, hugs when you are simply overcome with affection. I’ve had to say goodbye to a friend whom I won’t see again for months - maybe even years - by opening my arms and embracing thin air, while he did the same six feet away.
Strangers. 2020 may just turn out to be the year I meet no-one new. No chats between compositions at a classical concert. No impassioned conversations with the chap in the next seat at a lit fest. No high-fives with the drunk dude at the next table.
Random acts of kindness. A troubled-looking chap passing by - face entirely uncovered - asked if he could make a call from my phone. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have thought twice. I did. And he couldn’t.
Joining a bunch of men pushing a car. Asking a fellow passenger for toothpaste. Helping a blind person cross the road. Everything needs rethinking.
Making eight-packs of Maggi in a giant cauldron and fifteen people scooping noodles out of it with seven forks. Tasting someone’s drink. The option of sharing a cigarette, though I don’t even smoke.
Hostel dorms. Sixteen people in one large room, binge-watching, snoring, making the bunk beds creak at night. In the day, board games, chai and aimless exchanges with that woman from the town whose name you keep forgetting. Sharing a bathroom with strangers.
Trains. Paralysis in a Mumbai local, with both arms and both legs immobilised by hard bodies that knead you and roll you in every dimension. Buses. Flexing a buttock to displace the invasive buttock that has oozed into your seat. Diving into a pedestrian street so fully occupied by a slow-moving body of people that you can’t even see your feet. I didn’t realise I miss crowds until there were none.
Watching movies in theatres. Spilling caramel popcorn into my fellow cinephile’s lap, who is not sitting two seats away. Holding hands in a darkened auditorium. What the hell, even dancing in the aisles.
Attending plays at my cherished, black-box theatre. 200 lucky people squished together on padded seating, with Ratna Pathak Shah at stage-left, ranting, raving, grieving for her father’s descent into dementia - not two feet away from me.
Protests. It took almost 29 years for my political awareness to mature into standing up and showing up, along with thousands of others who were similarly moved. Eight months into a pandemic, I cannot even protest against the government’s handling of this pandemic in person.
Life, which did not ask for pause, which offered choices aplenty, whose every decision did not merit reconsideration, whose room for impulse and suddenness and spontaneity was even more than what I had taken for granted.
Like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, it’ll be back some day. Until then, I simply remember my favourite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.