And it is over. One would think so.
I remember October 2020. A dark time in the life of the World. I was preparing for a voyage. The medicines were piling up. Untested ways to stay safe. Flea medicine for dogs from the local pet supply store. Zinc as a food supplement, Vitamin D because I was not in the sun enough. Swab up the nose, the anxious moments at a bondhu’s house in Maryland and the finally the flight. Rubbing away the stamp on my body with nail polish remover and other solvents and the 15-minute rule at the passport office behind Ruby Hospital.
It seems like a distant memory, the escape after completing the task, the return and the return and the return. The numerous memorandums from various governments, and the entire year of separation from bondhus and the entire year of making new relationships. The plague gave me all that, and it took away much as well. New opportunities, new restrictions, new feelings, new experiences. All within the backdrop of tests and vaccines and an entire lifestyle that was built around furtive quarantines and the quest for oxygen.
Wars come to an end with a treaty. The signing in 1971 and the end of the war. The removal of the black paper from the glass windows and showing the full headlight on the old Fiat car. Those are moments that remain embedded in the mind, because the end is clear. We have won the war, a new life, a new country a new beginning and new set of challenges. In the stories of our lives we seek that moment of closure. And we like recognizable closures, ones that are unambiguous, ones that are irreversible. Those are the coveted endings, from life to movies, the cowboy canters away into the sunset or the couple gets married and Bacchan beats Pran.
Today was different. The restrictions came off. In a brief memorandum from the Ministry an “or” was inserted. United Airlines responded in their Travel Safe tab in the reservation and they put in an “or.” The frenetic anxiety of getting a test done, getting the report on time, uploading to multiple digital spaces all came to a stop. No more swabs, no more tickling of the nose, no more awaiting the results, or getting the results in that rest area outside of Petersburg and sitting at the McDonald’s parking lot and uploading to a site in Delhi.
It is back to a way of life that we had left behind, a way of life from the ancient days of less than 2 years ago. I had a brief sigh of relief. Everything is opening up, what the protesters at Santa Monica pier called “face diapers” just came off in Santa Monica today. Orders of quarantine became suggestions of self-monitoring. England is now open. As I sit in my hole I wonder how we will react. Perhaps it does not matter to many. Those who are content in their place did not have to worry about it.
But the restless ones, those who seek places far away, those whose bondhus and relationships are elastic across long distances are acutely aware of these closures. These are the ends of the interruptions. Yet a part of me is cautious. As a bondhu said this weekend that we have to wait and watch. There is always a date of end of the interruption just as there is a date when the interruption began. Is it now over? As the restrictions peel away and we scramble back to the airplanes and trains and busses and the shopping malls and the schools, unmasked and fearless is there a faint sense of concern? Is it over?
Or have we agreed as a World that we will call it is over. It is unlike the vanquishing of a marauding army or the toppling of a despot. This was a different war, far more complex than what we have been used to, with well-defined enemies and clear cut allegiance to doctrine. Those were wars where the end was peace. This is a different battle. There is no definition of the end. This is not a sanguine peace but a negotiated compromise. We won nothing, we managed a defeat. We decided we will never win, but we have to live with the compromise. Even the experts are saying that, we will not beat the plague now, but we will manage our lives with the plague. That is a curious moment in human history.
We will always be looking over our shoulders, because it lurks, the predator is there, ready to shape shift and strike again, but in the meantime in Santa Monica we can gingerly remove the mask and hope for the best. And in Delhi I can walk off the plane and not be stamped as I was in October 2020 and perhaps walk into my club and see the face of the receptionist who has always been a pleasant lady hidden behind the blue veil.
So, now it is over, but what is the appropriate song for this, I am still thinking it is Jim Morrison’s end “Of everything that stands, the end/No safety or surprise, the end.”