My intention while beginning this challenge was to keep my posts upbeat and not dreary. But circumstances dictate one’s mood. Though life in NZ is back to normal, the situation back home appears to deteriorate with each passing day. Emphasizing on how dandy my life is as compared to folks back home seems inconsiderate, heartless almost.
I’ve been encountering this post on Instagram about a word that acutely describes a state of being that falls between depression and contentment – languishing. And I cannot relate more. I don’t have anything in particular that stops me from being satisfied here but there are days such as today when I feel absolutely weighed down by purposelessness and the lack of vigor to tick off all the items on my ToDo list. My work seems to be going OK. I have a cat here for company. But here I am getting sucked into lassitude. I hate it.
To fight this feeling, I immerse myself in a barrage of activities and hobbies that range from making art, playing the guitar and recording music to bouldering and dancing to bhangra music. For the most part, it doesn’t seem like I am resisting a negative emotion – I am truly happy, the cool Auckland breeze blows in my face, the sky is crystal clear and Sid Sriram’s melodious voice fills my ears; kairosclerosis. But happiness and satisfaction are not isolated; they are relative to those around me and away from me miles away.
And so my anxiety returns, fueled by news and visuals of a collapsing health system, citizens at the mercy of an apathetic ruthless state, chaos and grief. My Insta and Twitter feeds have transformed into covid lifelines. Websites and apps have been developed overnight for free, none of which are sanctioned by this government. The news is inescapable. My family placates me by describing all the cautionary measures that are in place at home and how no one ventures out unless absolutely necessary. Their consolation is bittersweet – my folks, having been compelled to stay at home beyond a year are trying to assuage my fears whilst normalcy prevails where I live. My sister has irrevocably lost her final golden year in college. My grandmother fears the outside world. This isn’t to sideline the fact that we are seeped in privilege as compared to the masses. It is indeed a privilege to be safe and sound during these unimaginable times. But are they really safe?
Last year, I used to often think of home and my favourite haunts. On days I was consumed by homesickness, I would miss walking on Salunkhe Vihar Road, meeting friends at Coffee Jar, Pune’s winter breeze, the swanky cantonment road to Camp, and dancing my butt off at Swig. I would crave the smell of filter coffee wafting into my room at 6am, watching KBC with the entire family at dinnertime, shopping with my mother and eating chaat at a roadside stall. Strangely, I’ve noticed a shift in the way I reminisce over the past few months. My longing has been replaced with deep sadness; a sense of kenopsia
n. the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet—a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, vacant fairgrounds—an emotional afterimage that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, who are so conspicuously absent they glow like neon signs.
When I left Pune, it was familiar to me. The streets, schools and offices were bustling with activity, masks and social distancing were alien concepts, concerts and music festivals were round the corner, and restaurants and eateries were brimming with people. My city had been fairly resilient, having had its share of epidemics and flu outbreaks, but nothing on the scale of covid. The sheer magnitude of this devastation that may have infiltrated the homes and families of familiar faces is something I cannot fathom, or rather be prepared for. Earlier, my friends had reassured me that nothing had changed but was it pure denial? Denial of the fact that this virus would be inescapable? Denial of inevitable fear and health anxiety? No matter what, my city seems unfamiliar to me, partly due to my long absence and more significantly, due to the pandemic.
Two months into my move to Auckland and a week before an almost worldwide lockdown, I lost my grandfather to cardiac failure. Over time, relief overtook grief because the thought of him languishing amidst covid patients made for terrifying imagery. Such is loss where some of its forms are more tolerable than the rest.