My struggles are with a teenager who refuses to sit at the dining table with us. Because there is that complex physics or mathematics question which needs to be solved. Almost every call to join us for dinner is met with, “Leave the food on the table. I will eat later.” You can’t argue too much. In this age of hyper-competitive examinations you have to give them their space and privacy. But it irritates me no end. Especially when I whip up a special Sunday meal, only to see him take his plate to his study table and close the door. No chance of seeing his reaction to my culinary skills! “Because I am watching a video on Unacademy” is one of the many excuses he gives me. Leaving me perennially suspicious that he’s watching some stand up comedy show on YouTube.
As of now there are no reported positive corona cases in our state. But to be safe, we advised him not to attend his coaching classes. As for the mock tests, he could give them online. But no. He had to go and get his doubts clarified from his teachers, so we give in. Two days later, after some nagging, insight finally dawns, and he gets photocopies of his test question papers to solve at home. Why is it that nothing I say is ever accepted quietly on the first occasion?
Yesterday when I returned from work, he told me he was having body ache and a cold. We gave him some medication. “You see these could be symptoms of coronavirus. We don’t know yet.” I told him. “The sensible thing for you will be to practice self-isolation. Go back to your room. We will send you all the food and water you need. Don’t walk around the house and don’t touch anything.” You should have seen his face!
“How can you say this to me?” he countered. “But what will be different for you?” I asked. “As it is you are confined to your room with your internet and books. You hardly interact with us. So continue doing that till your cold is better. I will get you a mask and a sanitizer. ” He glared at me and walked to his room. Thirty minutes later he was back with us, on the sofa watching television. Then he dutifully had dinner with us on the dining table!
It made me think of our world. We were so engrossed in our world of internet and social media. The people before our eyes ceased to matter. Friends online, their likes, and their comments captured all our attention. Face to face conversations had ceased, and Whatsapp chats dominated our lives. In work places, people wouldn’t get up to speak to the person in the adjacent cubicle, but shoot cold emails instead. When you saw another, you spewed hate.
Corona has allowed us to continue doing what we did before. Be engrossed in yourselves. Isolate yourself from the others and communicate electronically. Distance yourself from those you hate, stay within the confines of your own homes. We have enough practice in all this. Then why are we suddenly rebelling against all this?
Maybe it is nature’s way of reminding us of the value of real people in our lives. The sooner we understand its bitter lessons, the better it will be for us.
(Featured picture is “Man-made boxes” by Daniel Garcia)