Brigadier Baljit Singh Sahni paced the length of his living room as part of his daily exercise routine. At 70, this retired army officer was fitter than most young men, owing to his military training.
As he walked, he ruminated on the latest border scuffles between the Indian and Chinese armies in Ladakh. With his expertise of warfare and knowledge of diplomacy, he was worried about the recent turn of events where twenty Indian jawans had lost their lives. The situation seemed to be spiralling out of control, and the institutional mishandling of it upset him.
“Don’t stress yourself so much, please. Everything will be fine”, his wife Rosie, who was playing solitaire nearby, cut into his reverie. Having been married for 45 years, the Sahnis had developed the ability to sense each other’s moods, and she could tell her husband was worried about what he had read in the paper this morning.
The Brigadier opened his mouth to respond, when he was disrupted by his daughter’s yelling, “Mummy! There’s no water again!!”.
Without batting an eyelid, Rosie replied, “Kimmy, if you bathed at a normal hour as opposed to the middle of the day, you wouldn’t face this problem.”
“That’s so unfair, mum! You know I have to stay up late for meetings on Vancouver time. How can you expect me to be up early, so the tank doesn’t run out of water?!”, Kimmy retaliated, referring to the water management system installed in her parents’ army-commissioned Defence Colony home.
Shaking her head, Rosie gestured to her husband to turn the pump on in the basement, so their daughter could bathe.
Once the domestic crisis was sorted, she resumed her game of cards, and reflected on the strange situation her family had been living through the last three months.
As the deadly coronavirus pandemic spread swiftly through the world, the Sahni children settled in Canada, had begun worrying about their parents alone in Delhi. Without consulting them, it was concluded that one of the children needed to be close at hand, in case something went wrong.
Their youngest and as yet unmarried daughter Kimmy, still the baby of the family at 34, had volunteered to return to Delhi and move in with her parents in early March of 2020.
At first, this decision was met with resistance by her proud patriarch of a husband, who didn’t believe he needed any help taking care of himself and his wife. However, it didn’t take much to convince him, as sweet little Kim had always been his weakness.
Rosie recalled the numerous scrapes he had gotten his daughter out of, the copious sums of money generously gifted to her from time-to-time, and the fact that she was the only one who never suffered his quick temper. Kimmy was definitely the most spoilt of the three children. Ostensibly she was in Delhi to take care of them, but in reality, she was the one being pampered and waited on hand and foot, all thanks to the Brigadier.
“How’s the game coming along, Rosie? Any luck beating your last score?”, her husband asked as he returned to the living room and settled into his favourite lounge chair. The household chore seemed to have distracted him from his bleak thoughts.
“Yes, the game is on track. You better watch out- I’ll beat your score next!”, she joked lovingly. They had nurtured a friendly card game rivalry throughout their marriage, and were particularly enjoying it during the three-month government enforced lockdown. After all, there’s only so much Netflix they could watch as a family. Their evening game of cards had become a much-enjoyed ritual and their daughter had gladly joined in.
When Kimmy first arrived, Delhi was a safe zone with only one confirmed case of the virus. She had breezed through customs with a basic temperature check and signature on a medical form. Now, with nearly 45,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, Delhi was officially a hotbed of the disease.
Kimmy had been the last of the Sahni siblings to move to the promised land, reluctant to begin a new life in a new place without the safe haven of her parents’ protection. Finally, a horrid heartbreak at age 24 had convinced her that Delhi’s suffocating society was not conducive to her creative and wild spirit. It was her father who encouraged her to forget the pain she had experienced and move on to greener pastures abroad.
Writing had provided solace from a young age, when she would fill her ‘lock-and-key’ journals with stories of fairies and elves. By 2020, she had three self-published novels to her name and was a runaway success in the indie fantasy-fiction genre. Yet, there was a long way to go before her novels could sustain her lifestyle. Freelance content writing was an easy side-hustle that paid the bills and allowed her enough time to pursue her creative passion.
As a freelancer, she could work from anywhere in the world. So, she had given up the lease to her beautiful sea-front apartment in Vancouver, unsure when she would return.
Fresh from the shower, with her hair still wet, Kimmy wedged herself on the sofa next to her mother.
“So, what’s happening in the world today, Daddy?”, she asked. Though she loved reading, she had never enjoyed reading the news. Her father often chided her for a lack of general knowledge and awareness of current events.
“It gets more depressing every day, Kim”, he replied in a monotone. Coming from her personal hero, this response surprised Kimmy.
“What’s happened now? Is everyone still going on about that poor actor who killed himself?”, she asked.
“No beta, I’m worried about the skirmishes on the LAC that our jawans have had with China. 20 of our men have lost their lives, including a Colonel! It’s shocking that it was allowed to get to this point. Such terrible timing too- the pandemic is wreaking havoc in our country, our economy is in shambles, and I worry that we’re not prepared for combat at this stage.”
The Brigadier was just warming up to his favourite subject, when his wife cut in, “arre, why you scaring her? Let’s be as positive as we can! Diplomatic intervention may improve the situation before it escalates further.”
“I hope you’re right, my dear. Our Prime Minister is under pressure to respond strictly but the Chinese have better weaponry than us. All we have is a strong sense of patriotism. Let’s hope he keeps his head on his shoulders, though his recent policy decisions have been rather questionable”, he responded.
“All governments are maha-villains according to me!” his daughter chimed in with her accented English, making the Brigadier smile.
“Just like your dragon-riding villains, yes?!”, the Brigadier teased her about her fantasy-fiction novels often, but he had been her most unflinching supporter from the beginning. He lent her the money to self-publish when three prestigious publishers rejected her first novel, and he was her first willing reader and editor, despite no interest in the genre.
“No Dad, they’re much worse! My villains are fictional, but most governments harm millions of innocent people with their wayward and often egotistical decisions! Just look at the protests happening in America against systemic racism, the unreasonable lockdowns in China and India, which affected the poor migrants so badly… I can go on and on”, she harrumphed.
“Well, not all leaders are bad… Trudeau’s pretty ok”, her mum added with a wink, alluding to the Canadian Prime Minister’s boyish good looks. “Enough with the heavy talk, who’s ready for lunch?”, Rosie posed the question proceeding towards the kitchen.
“I’m ravenous! What’s on the menu today mum?!”, Kimmy asked, standing up to help her.
The Brigadier couldn’t help smiling, as he followed his women. This year had been tough on many accounts, but they were fortunate to be healthy and able to spend time with each other and their lovely daughter. She had never allowed them to reflect on their old–age which made them easy targets for the virus, nor the lack of productivity. As their friends and neighbours succumbed to the disease, her chirpy presence had kept their spirits up. When the entire world seemed to be burning one way or another, she had made him realise the only thing that mattered was family.
The Brigadier was not one to display outward affection, but he couldn’t help planting a quick kiss on his daughter’s forehead. Kimmy gave him a look of utter surprise and asked, “are you ok, dad?!”. He responded with a big smile, “I’ve never been better.”
This short story is dedicated to my father, Hardeep Singh Anand, for Father’s Day 2020. Just like the Brigadier, my dad has always been the first reader and editor of every important piece I have written, and will always be my personal hero. Love you dad.
The theme for this blog train is ‘The Pandemic that Changed our Life’. I had intended to share a glimpse of everyday happenings during the coronavirus lockdown imposed in India, but the story was influenced by the prevalent political and social atmosphere of the day. You may not agree with my political sensibilities, but please respect my views as I respect yours. If you enjoyed this story, please share it ahead with others that may enjoy it too.
I’d like to thank to Ghazala Naseem from http://www.indianbeautyblooms.com/ for introducing me in this blog train. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to talented blogger Paresh Godhwani from http://pareshg.com/. Please visit their blogs to read their wonderful posts.
The Blog train ‘THE PANDEMIC THAT CHANGED OUR LIFE UPSIDE DOWN’ has been initiated by blogger Ila Varma to bring bloggers together to share numerous experiences of #pandemiclockdown2020.
*This is not a sponsored post.
**Copyright in pictures and content belongs to nooranandchawla.com and cannot be republished or repurposed without express permission of the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action.