Sunday, May 24, 2020

Pineapple Pickle

              I am standing nearby the closed window (Rampant wind is proving its existence) in a soliloquy mode, holding an empty mug which only has spices and fragrance of tea left in it. I do not use social media or enjoy calls with friends anymore. Before today, my mobile has never felt this much ignorance that I am not touching it even after many missed calls and have not responded to any notifications. This so called new age boy loves being at home, feeling the presence of his parents with warmth and waiting for his sister to tease and love him, first time since childhood. Quarantine made me started thinking with a pause in life. I am trying to know ‘me’ in a real sense. This new phase which is beneficial for setting sun is a gift from someone I met in lockdown for the first time though I have seen and ignored thousand times before. I would  probably call her ‘My Crush’.


          It was any day of the week (turned out to be the most special) and I was walking on my Terries of ‘3 floors apartment’. My playlist had hard rock music, with a view to prove that my taste is classy and I saw a lady who came with a dish and glass of water along with a folding chair in another hand. She was 55-60 years old and was working as a domestic helper and staying at my neighbor’s house and I knew it. But, as I was so called modern I had to ignore her and did the same. However she smiled looking at me with a sweet smile. I saw that she was having pineapple pieces in her dish along with Rice and Daal. Though I was ignoring her, but the calmness and enjoyment she was carrying attracted me towards her existence. I left the Terries with her smile again and ignorance on my end. However many a times I had to meet her and nothing changed between us, her smile, her calmness, the way she enjoyed the food, my fake love for hard rock and ignorance. Another thing which was same every day, pieces of pineapple in her dish. That Pineapple pieces led me to break my silence and finally I had to ask her “Why do you eat Pineapple daily and where are you getting it from in this quarantine?” She replied amicably “I preserved it by making pickle of it”. It was sudden and peaceful but also deep. I went back to my home, however, now curiosity had started knocking me.


Next day when she came with all her stuff I asked her that why she is still living over here and not going back to her family and she replied after a sip of water (as if she was drinking Russian wine) “I was living with my son same of your age and used to come here for a work but then I came here forever. I asked again to get answer of ‘why’ “where is your husband or any other?” she said she lost her husband many years ago; nobody else was there to stay with. I was not getting what she was trying to say so I asked her bluntly “where is your son? What does he do?” she smiled at me and said “he was of your age when I saw him for the last time and he sometimes only talk to me and lives his own journey”. “Doesn’t he love you” I asked. “Do you love your mother? Do you like to stay with family?” she in a humble countered. I fall into a deep dive of thoughts and I was actually searching an answer to the question I asked by someone I never noticed even. I could not answer firmly but ended up saying “yes, I do”. “My boy was not same; he used to find all his fun, enjoyment and life into all the other things. I always told him to recognize and know life around the self first. But unlike you, he never respected me or tried the way I suggested” I said to me “Bro, Is she taunting you? I answered to me ‘yes’ for sure and ‘no’ for sympathy” fortunately my mother called me and I left the courtyard like Terries.


          I was developing another parallel quarantine within. Her adore was attractive and so was her presence. It left an impact on my thought process, though I was not accepting. I was, for the first time, in these many years, thinking and finding the way to breach the artificial layers I had created. Where is that liking for hard rock music actually? Where is that fake modern culture in me? Where is that touch of social media boy? Where it all gone? I was counting the Rotis my mother was making, I was observing Daddy’s health, wanted to be best pastime for my elder sister. I wanted to hug my mother, sister and father. I was portraying her as ‘Queen of Quarantine’ and because of her, for the first time, I was looking in to me and fetching into my people. I was burning in showers, I was crying on the Hindi Retro soothing songs. These all came with her description about her son and yes I have been the same to my people. Now, in these 3 days of ‘talking on Terries’ sessions, I was more eager to meet lady with folding chair (not all ladies hold lamp).


Next day I reached on Terries with an enthusiasm and curiosity as if there was a treasure. She came in the same way, nothing changed including except the smile, this time it was two way. She offered me food but I refused as my hunger was for another thing and I asked her that how can she enjoy this much without any fun, any family and any dreams? She laughed and said “ I do watch dreams and also fulfill it. I was born in very poor family and since childhood I have seen children and family of my father’s owner enjoying Pineapple and I used to cry a lot in front of father to buy that yellow stars which is framed in attractive design – different from all. We could not afford it but since I started earning on my own I used to buy it and its still here in my dish. It was my dream to eat food the way they used to have in garden, sitting under naked sky and see I am having it; I bought this chair from salary to feel my dream alone. I have fun with myself, I sing, I walk and I enjoy working. I have my family, living next to you. Before I ask anything she added “see boy life would always be quarantine or cutting process if you would not try to balance the life. Dreams must not breach the pillars you are surrounded or gifted with even though they are big. Enjoying the moment is a task, believing and loving the process is a task, cheering the efforts you put and respecting the reality is a task and it does not need big house, family, so much money and big circle of friends. It simply needs understanding of task and playing your own role.             


My curiosity for her has now turned into an interest. I started feeling good without outer world and with moments of quarantine phase. As per schedule I reached the Terries and that day my hands and body on its own not only welcomed the lady teacher but also helped her by setting chair and smiled at her. She again offered me food and I picked the piece of her dream, her liking, the piece of uncompromised strength; piece from Pineapple Pickle. It tasted not as Pineapple; it added fragrance of confidence in me and woke natural element up within as well. We talked lot many things in those days and I learnt to know that she had dreams of small scale but her fulfillment was celebrated royally by herself. She kept walking irrespective of the challenges life brought. She was Magna Carta of needed knowledge; she was unaware of politics but knew family stratagems that we all lack. She implied ‘laugh and let go’ that we also very often try to imply, by attending the paid sessions of specialist but always get failure in pocket. She was not a consultant but had easy solutions or at least could teach to develop fortitude, amplitude and to abandon ancillary things in life on your own. She actually preserved dream and not the Pineapple. She was philanthropist without recourse as she feed animals nearby daily. Lady bought throne on her own. Terries was Villa for her where she would have her princely dinner or lunch. Her presence and way of looking towards life changed mine and asked me aptly to be ‘real me’.


It had become schedule for me now; I used to take my food on Terries to sit with the simply best. I asked her that when again she will meet her son and she replied with a different tone and expression for the first time and she said “He never valued the life and then life did the same; His artificial life took the life I gave him in my womb. I was anxious amid baffling thoughts. She left and I was feeling her loss, her pain, her soul and her life.  I learned many things and got to know how to control and use open wings. I was trying to prove the ‘faith’ she showed, when she believed that I was reasonable and considerate enough for my family, my people, my surrounding nature and for my life. I don’t know why but I myself being roaming worm, was feeling nice, vibrant and positive in quarantine as if it was a fun trip with friends and started working on me to make me a better version of me. 


My mug with stains of tea is still there in my hand. I am becoming someone I was seeking. The quarantine blessed me with ‘Lilaben – my compassionate and deft crush who introduced me an art of living’. “Shivu, open the window it’s not windy outside anymore.” Wow! It’s so nice outside. Commotion inside me has now compromised with me. It is cogent that “Life and people will only open the door or window for you, if you are ‘air’, as soon as you become wind, the same life and people will close the same door or window. Quarantine is ‘blessings in disguise’ for me.