Love In The Time Of Lock down
Love In The Time Of Lock down
I am not very social. It is quite hard for me to break the ice by introducing myself to a group of strangers. So when India shut down during those months of March and April 2020, I thought I would in fact look forward to it.
But I was proved to be so very wrong. Despite being somewhat reticent, I realized I longed for the human company even when I rarely contributed to those rounds of small talk, I found myself in the middle of at work during normal times. Within one month, I grew tired of working those long hours from home.
The constant squabbles between my parents didn’t make it any easier either. With my father getting cooped up inside the house day and night, his drinking got worse off. If mornings were hardly bearable, the evenings became a nightmare. It appeared as though there was no escape from this draconian lockdown.
Then something happened to shake me out of my slumber.
March 22 came by with the Prime Minister giving a clarion call to the nation to applaud the contribution of the health workers and frontline warriors. As the three of us banged on our Thalis with spoons and ladles, I saw him doing the same from the balcony opposite our building.
He was there apparently with his mother in tow. What drew my attention to him was the way he was banging on the Thali. It had a strange rhythm to it. It sounded like some code. To be precise it sounded like Morse Code. I had learned Morse code for fun during my engineering days and this definitely caught my attention.
I concentrated on decoding the beat. I smiled when I realized it sounded he was beating “C-L-A-P” repeatedly. Immediately, I copied the same beat and repeated “C-L-A-P” involuntarily.
When he realized what was happening, he looked at me as though he were in total shock. As I smiled at him in acknowledgment he stole his glance away.
I have been seeing him on the balcony opposite my house over the last couple of months. I came to learn through the local radio station maid of ours that their family relocated from somewhere North very recently and that their family comprised of only the mother and son.
After the incident, I started noticing him more regularly. Like me, he seemed to sit on the balcony and work on his laptop. The first thing I noticed was his receding hairline. It made me think to myself that he seemed too young to be losing his hair so early. He was a bit overweight too. He appeared to be shyer than I was and turned his face away in embarrassment whenever I caught him looking at me.
“Welcome to the club.” I thought to myself as I not only recognized this common trait between us but also felt amused by the same.
When we ran into each other one day while buying vegetables from a cart passing by during the lockdown period, I took the initiative to check with him about his interest in Morse Code over our masked faces. I also mustered enough courage to ask for his mobile number.
Thereafter, the days that were dragging on started to roll by quite fast. We texted each other during the day and we texted in the night till we fell asleep. Over the next few weeks, we learned so much about each other’s likes and dislikes which I doubt even our respective parents knew about us. All of a sudden, the world started to look so much better for me. My parents’ fights, my father’s drunken brawls, the incessant tension in the house stopped driving me up the wall. Those messages from Rohan became my lifeline. Nothing else seemed to really matter.
Soon sending goodnight messages in the night through tap, tap, tap sounds from our respective bedrooms became a routine for us.
I came to know about his father’s demise when he was hardly ten years old. He said his mother had a very tough time raising him. She just had high school education and she struggled to learn the ropes on the job that she was given on compassionate grounds in his father’s company. Once her son got a job, she took voluntary retirement due to her ailing health.
My heart swelled in pride when I learned about how they tackled difficulties in life. Over the next few months, I realized I had fallen in love with him. As we continued to work from home through the year, the desire to inform him of my feelings for him was growing within me. When I couldn’t control it any longer, instead of typing the usual goodnight message that night, I sent him a text message “I am in love with you” in Morse Code.
During the very long silence that followed, I felt miserable. I wondered whether it was a mistake to send it so soon. After all, it was only eight months since we had known each other. Would he think, I was too brazen and bold to have taken the first move? Did I lose him permanently as a friend by sending that message? I agonized over these thoughts as I tossed and turned in my bed.
Finally when my mobile phone beeped with the sound of an incoming message, I almost jumped out of my skin and grabbed my phone. In that frenzied state, I found it slightly difficult to decode the message from those dots and dashes. To my great relief, it was very brief and it simply read “Me too” followed by the music note emoji, which he always used instead of typing my name ‘Sangeetha’.
As I held the phone close to my chest, my heart was full of happiness. I was smiling as I started typing “Lockdown couldn’t lock down love, after all.”