The enemy within

Updated: Jun 14, 2020, 06:44 IST | Rahul da Cunha | Mumbai

The foe, still invisible had lodged itself in everyone's DNA. The biggest battle that lay ahead, was in the mind

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Rahul da CunhaAnd so, they lifted the lockdown. It was official. No more 'give them the bad news in 15 day slots'. This was final, definitive. Apparently, the curve had flattened (in stark contrast to his stomach).

It's like a war had ended, with no obvious visible collateral damage—no bombs, lifeless bodies, destroyed buildings, shrapnel, dying embers. No enemy who'd been forced to retreat, or been soundly defeated. Sure, this had been a pandemic, but its sway didn't seem plague-like.

And yet, the destruction lay in its minimalism.

The foe, still invisible had lodged itself in everyone's DNA. The biggest battle that lay ahead, was in the mind.

The city, for the most part had been a ghost town, while the enemy lurked outside.

He'd been law abiding, a lone ranger no doubt, but the 80-odd days had been an ordeal, a mixed bag, at best.

He'd never needed to truly engage with the grating habits of his family. He'd been out of the house at the crack of dawn, engaging with the challenges of the city, to return late at night, long after everyone was asleep. But, this last three months, he'd had to face his family every day, their foibles, their flaws.

As a millennial it was a taxing period. His salary had been halved, so he'd have to cut back—make his iPhone last a few more years, quit the gym and workout at home, say goodbye to Swiggy for a bit. His workaholic father, a corporate giant, used to ordering thousands of people around, was down on his haunches jhadoo-pochaing, a sight that greatly amused him. His mother unused to having her spouse at home, was at her hen-pecking best, and the rest of the 'parivar', well, he was learning patience.

And then he thought about tomorrow and the day after and the collective fear and paranoia.

There was a certain comfort in the complacency of being home-bound—uncertainty for sure, but safety during this lockdown. The real test was about to begin. The notional menace that still lurked around the corner, as man would now look at fellow man with suspicion: did he have a cough, was he carrying Coronavirus, was the virus lodged deep within, was it in fact transferable, and when was the vaccine going to be ready?

He hated some of the phrases making the rounds. What the hell was a 'new normal'? A 'new abnormal' perhaps? But, there could never be a normal again.

So, what was the new normal? A lifetime of wearing a mask, or gloves 24x7 or maintaining a six feet gap or refraining from physical touch?

He thought about himself, and how was he to approach life.

He opened his front door, unaware of what was outside.

The enemy had to be confronted at some point, and vanquished.

Not the enemy that lay outside.

But the one within.

Rahul daCunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahul.dacunha@mid-day.com

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