May 9, 2020

Social Distancing to me, the why and how of it....

When my father passed away last August, we stayed back at our village home to complete the rituals and the 11th-day ceremony. As the home was not occupied by our own family, some tenants were residing. Once they vacated, we started to clean the home and make it ready for the 11th day. As you start to live in the house only do you notice what is working and what is not. Mom decided to get the dangling electric wires in the front verandah fixed for once and all. No one has touched the wiring of the home after it was constructed some 45 years ago. In India, you can get anything done over night you see. Especially in small towns and villages. There would be an electrician who is also a farmer who is also a student or who would also be your medical shop guy. So, my uncle arranged for this guy to come and fix the switch boards in almost all the rooms, fix the ceiling fans and put the wires in their places. The guy came with an assistant and worked from morning to past noon. As it was past lunch time, we offered him to eat lunch and he politely denied. This happened the second day too. I am one of those who fuss when people don't eat food on time and I kept badgering him to come and eat. That's when he smiled and said, "My father also passed away six months back. We don't eat at anyone else's home for a year." Surprised, I asked him,"What if you happen to go and stay somewhere?" He continued.."No. We don't visit anyone's home for an year". I convinced him that there's a death in this family too, he could eat here and that it won't make a difference. I answered his questions to our U.S life stories while they ate at my heart's content.
However, after they left, his words kept me thinking. There is a reason why families practiced mourning in the olden days. The thoughts went deeper and deeper when I decided that I would also practice like that guy for an year. By not going to anyone's homes for an year. I know it wouldn't be possible and most of my friends would be upset if I said that. On the contrary, this year most of our close friends had many ceremonies and parties planned ahead and we missing them would really become a big deal. I decided to worry about it later and truly cherished each day I spend there.
           Unexpectedly, I fell sick on the 11th day ceremony and was hospitalized. God knows what mosquito it was, thankfully I tested negative for both Dengue and Chicken Guinea. One report said Jaundice. Not exactly sure what it was, but it did have an impact on me both physically and mentally. Life was never back to normal after the fever. My return trip got postponed and I came back to the U.S after I felt I had the ability to travel. Once I was back, my physical pain added to the mental agony. That is when I realized I was really not ready to meet people yet. I would evade people or invitations. I avoided gatherings for a more than a quarter. Social distancing began a few months ahead for me. Being myself made me do a lot of self talk. Made me realize which friends really made the effort to come and see me. Who actually called me. Who texted me. Who checked on my well being. May be this is one of the reasons people keep it low during mourning. To understand and know the people who value you and whose value is pertinent in your life. I know not everyone is comfortable in consoling around a death. I don't have any hard feelings for those. And I also made a mental note of those who did not. Who would otherwise talk to me with their hearts open as if my existence in their lives meant a lot. It could be the awkwardness of the situation or their own clumsiness to handle death, all it takes is one sentence. "I am sorry for your loss". Not all deaths are same and not all losses are the same. This may not mean much but it makes a difference to the bereaved. 
              Thinking about all the upcoming celebrations I had to attend and knowing that denying them will be something that I can't make others comprehend, I was slowly getting out of my cocoon. Thanks to my manager, he let me work from home from anywhere; I could visit mom and spend wonderful time with my sister's family for Christmas. Come New Year, we were home to start 2020. After a couple of months, friends started making plans for the upcoming celebrations and my calendar was booked till the end of August. Not long after the plans were taking shape, happened the unforgettable Covid-19 and my deepest desire for social distancing had become a permanent one. Can you believe that I was one happy person to go bury myself in my cocoon? I am deeply sorry for all the lives lost, all the families displaced and thousands of people unemployed. My heart breaks thinking about the front line workers risking their lives. I pray for all the small business owners who are losing thousands of dollars locked up home. I wish and hope everything and everyone gets back to their normal lives pretty soon; but if you ask me to social distance for few more months, I am OK with it. Few more years? I do not know. Time has to say...


  1. There was a reason for social distancing associated with certain events but in our rush to embrace modern ways of the world we gave these a go by. Time is the best teacher .

  2. I understand the first fortnight.There after the exigencies of work ,travel and residence in a foreign country call for some adjustments.Time blunts sorrow and people gradually get into the thick og life without any guilt.
    Nicely written post.

  3. It is not just social distancing that was traditionally practised, but a whole lot of other things, which are all part of corona hygiene today. They were put in place to make people remain safe from diseases and viruses. Only they could have explained them thus. On the other hand, people might not have complied unless scared off with divine retribution in some way.

  4. Really sorry about your father Prithvi. And hope your health is back on track now.