“One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them…”

A long time ago, I picked out a ring
meant to be worn on the left ring finger.
The ring will leave a band of white
under its glistening silver belly

An undiscriminating kind of white
that fought to remain on the wearer’s finger
long after the unassailable metal had worn down
But, alas! The ring remains weighed down in a box.

Pinned beneath old keys and unused coins
Nailed down to abandoned dreams
Tossed beside old paper jottings
of discarded phone numbers

With no place or purpose anymore
The ring recalls the promise of a smithy–
A dead weight can be forged into a
dazzling circlet of no past or future

Quarantine Day – 4

Gal Godot said on March 8th, “We are in this together.” I mean this is Wonder Woman telling me I will be ok! 

Yeah!

Right! 

Gal Godot’s bank balance is a hundred times greater than mine. Her sheer fan base is mind-boggling! Also, wait, I don’t have a fanbase to talk about.

Even Trump said, “We are all in this together!” Well, that one is either a hoax or aliens feeding us hay water! Either way, you are free to heartily laugh. 

A symbolic catchphrase and sentiment of our moment–of our shared humanity: We’re all in this together. A reminder that the coronavirus is a great equaliser.

Only we’re not!

Anyone who thinks that we are in this together has lost a few marbles along the way. We certainly are not in this together!

Why do I say that? 

An immediate neighbour’s family member tested positive. Luckily, the positive person is asymptomatic and not suffering. The positive individual has been isolated, and the rest of the family is in mandated home quarantine. To ensure the safety of all who live around them, six homes have been put under a 14-day quarantine.

The plight of the suffering family is a case in point. We can’t be in this together. Their worries, tensions, apprehensions and fears are singularly theirs. 

Since we share the same floor, we’ve been quarantined as well. We’ve all been in lockdowns of some sort since March, but it was mostly self-imposed. When the imposition is from someone other than you, then it becomes somewhat stifling, especially when you don’t have the liberty to step outside your main door.

The virus has been a revealer of the great divide we experience in the world today. Opposites have become almost poetic. Rich and the poor. Sick and the healthy. Able and the disabled. Employed and the unemployed. Sane and the insane. Marbles in place and marbles lost. 

The fissures in our country are painful to watch and downright unjust.

As my family and I are forced indoors, a luxury we can afford, I ruminate, read and cogitate because I have the luxury of idle time. In an article by Richard Florida and Todd Gabe where they teamed up to understand the economic divide, they said, “Three-quarters of the jobs that involve working directly with the public are low-paying service jobs; 70% of the people who work in close physical proximity to one another are low-wage service workers or blue-collar workers. From there, our analysis zeroed in on metropolitan areas to determine which workforces have the highest percentages of these high-risk occupations.”

Guess what?

That’s nearly our entire country! 

While the community where I live is trying to ensure a sensible lockdown without causing too many hardships, I’ve heard every imaginable conversation—the most interesting ones related to low-wage, everyday workers. 

Yes, money affords one the luxury of time, and the ability to write a blog post such as this one. 

While some of the housemaids had benevolent employers, others were not so lucky. On the second day, I heard a call at 6:30 AM from the balcony of another neighbour that went like this, “You don’t have the right to decide whether you want to come to work or not! I will decide that. You will receive no wages for the days you don’t come in.” 

The poor woman had no choice to decide if her life was worth protecting over the unwashed dishes that would remain undone in her employers home. Mind you, the gentleman works as a director for a HUGE multinational organisation. I shudder at the thought of what happens to his reports. 

The family that lives opposite to the other family was emotionally blackmailed, cajoled and almost threatened to go in for tests even if the family had no reason to. Endless calling and texting detailing how they are potentially jeopardising everyone else in the community is by far the worst kind of gobbledegook. 

Well-meaning neighbours sent WhatsApp messages on a group Forum saying, “we are in this together, so do not hesitate to reach out to us.” Well, for one, if you never reached out to the family to help or otherwise pre-corona days, how on earth will they reach out to you now?

When the pandemic began spreading it tentacles far and wide in India, some of us insisted that support staff in the complex remained vulnerable since they were not using protective gear. We made pleas that they must be given proper equipment to continue working and remain safe. It fell on deaf ears.

But when the Virus made landfall, people did not hesitate to identify the lapse in hygiene measures and use of protective gear by the support staff.

The very day after the municipal authorities quarentined the six homes, marked us out and left, we’ve been in this alone! No check-ins or “we are in this together messages.” Most everyone was relieved that it wasn’t them. Pithy platitudes ring hollow when they are stated without any honesty or empathy.

Not to say that there weren’t people who did not help. They went to the other extent: braved caution tapes, and quietly delivered ice cream, essential groceries, packages from courier services, offered to walk our dog, lugged water cans and sent up truckloads of essentials. They didn’t ask. They just did. And this was for all six homes. 

If a small community like mine can have such massive divides, then I cannot fathom the inequities across the country. We are essentially a self-serving world. We don’t really think of others as much as we ought to. 

By now you’ve reached a point where you’ve taken a deep sigh and began wondering why I’m preaching to the choir? Right?

Well, we’ve finally managed it. Our unending greed and our potential for limitless self-gratification, has thrown the baby out of the bathwater. We stand utterly exposed and naked in the once garden of Eden. 

The pandemic was an opportunity for the entire country, and our leaders, to acknowledge the fissures and to figure out how we got here and how we can remedy them. Alas! If we cannot start in our own backyards, there is no way we can as a nation. We’ve lost the battle.

So Gal Godot, you and I are not in this together. We are far from it! 

As to Trump, well, the lesser we speak, the better.