And yet, there they exist long after the evening is gone and the stars are out in the sky and I am left alone with my thoughts. There they exist, simmering under the surface of it all, lurking in the shadows. The restlessness. The uneasiness. Like a deep rumbling that indicates a storm brewing in the distance. Of the uncertainty that might continue for days. Or weeks or months to come. I feel it settle in slowly, deep within my bones.
That’s all there is now. All around. News, talk, caller tunes, awareness recordings, videos, forwards, stickers, hoaxes and memes. Inferno and Contagion. Biological warfare and conspiracy theories. The exhaustion of exposure. The tiredness of it over and over and over. The want to escape. The want of a mental haven. Print media, digital media, audio, video, social media. Numbers, percentages, ratios, graphs. Slicing and dicing by countries, by age factors, by symptoms. Obsessive tracking. Incubation period, recovery, mortality rates, opinions flung about. Charts soaring. World economies, the bull, oil prices, imports, recession. Charts tumbling. The crests and the troughs. In a world all encompassing.
And at the heart of it all, the people. People. Immediate families. Blood. Thicker than blood. Soul mates. Soul friends. Close friends. Our broader circles. Work. Travel buddies. School. College. Extended families. The blogger circle. Online friends. The neighbourhood group you hangout with and croon karaoke tracks with. The zumba group you enjoyed meeting with. Acquaintances. People who moved from strangers to friends to more than family. People who moved from strangers to friends to back to strangers. People who are somewhere in between. Overlapping, intersecting Venn diagrams full of people. Loved ones. Stubborn ones. Strength giving ones. The instant mood fixer ones. The ones that drive you mad with illogical demands. The irritating ones who beyond the realms of their eccentricities, seem like decent regular people. The other type of irritating ones who are, well – just that way. Those who you meet every day. Those far away. Yearning to be back with their own, but unable to. Caught in a web of travel restrictions. Eight billion of them around the world. Bound by a common thread. Who would have known, that the legend of the Chinese red thread could bind us this way too?
People. Eight billion. Or so I thought. And in the last four hours since I fell down the rabbit hole of thoughts, swirling and tumbling over, I realize that the Earth no longer holds dear four hundred kindred souls around the globe – specifically lost to the latest strain of killer.
More numbers, more percentages. Sharper crests. Sharper angles and spikes. Of out-of-stock sanitizers and masks. Of closed schools and colleges. Of examinations delayed. Of postponed movie release dates and suspended sporting events. Of cancelled travel plans and dreams being put off. Of ghost towns and deserted tourist destinations. Of locked down countries and declarations of emergencies. Of pandemics and epidemics. And then the debates. Over-reaction or the sinking-gut-feel omen? Panic induced mania or justified measures? But then, what other option is there?
And amidst it all, another pattern slowly emerging. Emerging subtly, but for sure. Of the number of people being airlifted and escorted back home. The number of trips being undertaken to try and extend help. Of doctors and whole labs being dispatched. Of quarantine centres springing up like mushrooms. Of medical professionals working round the clock, despite losing some of the most senior ones to the very same thing. Of support functions making house calls to ascertain health conditions. Of airport staff working more diligently than ever to ensure flight passengers do not mingle. Or that baggage doesn’t either. Of true instances of basic humanity. Of vaccines being worked upon. Of the race against time. And despite it all, I wonder, will these efforts make up for lost time? Thanos always was the wiser one, wasn’t he?
Thoughts wandering, they come back to the focal point of it all. It’s true, the only thing certain is the uncertainty of it all. Deep down, the rumbling gets stronger. Tremors of the impending earthquake rising up to the surface. Like a dark sinister omen of things to come. Of days getting worse, much much worse, before they even start to get better. Is this a lesson, is this meant to be one? And if so, are we learning? Will it explode? Or will we, mighty arrogant humans brought to their knees by a mere micro-organism, be at least a tad successful in deflecting the catastrophe?
We have to. We absolutely have to. How couldn’t we? There is still so much more to be done. So much left to be said. To be listened to. To be learnt. To be experienced. To be shared. To have perspectives. To do the right things, right as we see it. To start from scratch. To meet people for a second time. Because often, the first times are messed up. To rise, to grow, to move beyond petty grudges, to mature. As individuals, as a community, as a race. Relationships to be built. Or re-built. Or learnt from. Experiences, but mostly the love, to be passed on to the little ones bouncing around, their kinetic energy a far more beautiful kind of infectious. Of all of it, to be left behind for generations to come.
And so, while we care for ourselves and those close to us, and send warmth for the ones afar, knowing that the only way is out is through, all we need is an assurance that our tribe comes out okay. The uncertainties still prick, the goose bumps still make an appearance. But at the heart of it all, hope still lingers. Just like before. Simmering below the surface. But here, the water is warm, the sun shines bright and the rays dowse the fields in a warm yellow hue. The soft ripples pick up intensity. Slowly but steadily. And someday, the cadence will drown out the ominous rumble. Of that, I am sure. A glimmer of hope and the spirit of resilience, that’s all there is, but it will suffice for now. And with hope at its helm, with the passing of every day, we do the best we can. Steered by it, collectively, a civilization works on mending itself, identifying its flaws and implementing course corrections. Because, at the end of the day, what is the point of it all, if not to harbour hope?