Creative Non-Fiction – The Kid Comes Home – Dewali Deb

“…some strange new virus making headlines…”

The Kid Comes Home

Ms Hage reads the newspaper cushioned on her lap every morning. Sitting on her balcony, surrounded by beaming sun-fed Aster, Dahlia, Chrysanthemum, and Petunia blossoms, her freshly-brewed morning cup of Darjeeling tea is clubbed tight in her manicured fingers. With her brow squeezed, tongue parched, a dry stubborn lump stretching from throat to mouth, and her blood being needle-stitched into a cold thread, she reads about some strange new virus making headlines, fatal for humankind. People were being felled on roads like trees, gripped in their homes in every country worldwide. Doomed into shallow graves, bodies were being burnt in heaps in vacant spots, disconnected by healing hearts. The dying numbers were not being counted.

She is routinely talking to her Kid in another city. She reads the headlines, her eyes moist, body tensed, scares unsettled and flesh freezing. Her chest is swelling restlessly, unable to breathe. Lockdown of people in homes is the only solution, since medical science has no answer for how to attack the virus. Since January, there were new terms for common people, medical terms like quarantine and Covid19 are trending, circulating. January 30: the state of Kerala in India had its first Covid19 cases arriving. Flights landing across cities from abroad were not being screened across India.

Ms Hage is routinely talking to her Kid, studying in another city. The city where the Kid is studying is secure from the virus. However, there is another tragedy looming, leaving human butterflies lifeless and powerless: Hunger. Her Kid was suffering from hunger cramps, so were all Kids. He said “Mom, I can survive. I can manage to cook up a meal with my friends. We are all together. We are waiting for our classes to begin regularly. Don’t worry Mom.”

Ms Hage talks to her Kid. Human butterflies are dwarfed. Lockdown was declared a national disaster. Migrant workers faced multiple hardships. Transport means were under lockdown. Hunger does not discriminate. Mass exodus saw famine-like brutality. Death on roads, road sides, starvation, suicides, exhaustion, police brutality, accidents, arrests. Men, women, children and babies were found dying due to hunger near forests or even on boats trying to cross the river. Some migrants and their children were weeping aloud, eyeing food packets being handed over to them by kind and generous NGOs. They were in trauma, their self-esteem crumbling down. “They [the rich] treated us like stray dogs,” a migrant worker cried. “Why are we being called migrants, in the same country?” another poor migrant wailed.

Ms Hage is talking to her Kid in another city. Dr Hage is heading his team of Doctors. The first Covid19 positive case was in the town. Dr Hage’s first team was on duty rapidly testing for suspected cases. Ms Hage reminded him to eat herbal immune boosters, and she kept the jar on the table next to him. Each time Dr Hage returned from testing duty, even in the middle of night, she boiled antiviral neem leaves for him to bathe in. She assisted Dr Hage in growing veggies and sowing new blossoms. Wave of green upon green will restore frenzied hearts. Young colours will caress dreams. Gardening releases stress and frustration. Care-giving is tiring, running down mental health. Neglecting responsibilities isn’t leisure either. Ms Hage was suffering anxiety, difficulty in sleeping and she couldn’t concentrate, feeling increasingly resentful and overreacting in minor issues.

“I want my Kid home. I want to hold him close to my bosom,” she whines to Dr Hage. “He’s skipping meals. He’ll fall sick. In lockdown, no rations are available.” The sea in Ms Hage’s belly can hear its roaring tongue. Where is the grace of life? Is the intimate warmth of time forever lost? Why is the history of man cruel at times, that they are incapable of shouldering themselves? Ms Hage looks for sympathy at the Crescent moon. Is she being driven crazy? The mother can’t feed herself, knowing her baby-dear is sleeping hungry in a cold bed.

Today on a sunny morning the Kid rings after more than a couple of months. Excited, his voice is pitched higher, breathing in spasms, calling louder from the other side. “Mom, my friends and I have found a way home. I’m coming home, Mom.”

“Come home, my child. Come home. But you’ll be Quarantined do you know? You have to be very much alert, social distancing, be careful while travelling home.”

“I will, don’t worry Mom. I’m coming to eat your hand-cooked delicious meals.”

“I’ll cook your favourite fish, child.”

Dr Hage is doubly working these days. Working from the frontline, combating the virus hand-to-hand, care-giving his Covid19 patients looking for their cure in Quarantine, as well as planning the safe arrival of the Kid coming home. The cars, the drivers, the validity passes to cross between states, and the train tickets, he was organizing. His garden was greener, positively colourful. Ms Hage was writing a list of items, her Kid’s favourites. She was preparing the Kid’s Quarantine room.

“Two Quarantine rooms must be readied dear,” Dr Hage implores. “I may be discharged of Covid19 duties early next month. Both the Kid and I will be in Quarantine together in separate rooms. Before that both of us must be tested.”

Ms Hage is reading the morning newspaper, her brow twitches at the headlines: ‘India will soon occupy one of the top positions in the world in the number of Covid19 cases.’

The Kid reaches home surviving on biscuits and water for three days rolling on the wheels. As human kind constrained itself, other life forms evolved. On the page of life, along with red lines there are blue lines too. Ms Hage ran herself between two Quarantine rooms, less worried. Both tested negative. Care-giving is good.

Dewali Deb is a writer from India, from the beautiful hills of the north east. She writes almost every genre & has been engaged in teachinghigh school board students for more than three decades. Her historical narrative and poetry was published internationally. She is a Master’sin English Literature along with few other degrees and certificates.

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