It was a good evening made better by good, wholesome dinner. We were also still smug from the success of the previous day’s initiative by our CM under the hashtag #MeghalayaPrays, which was trending everywhere and which gave us the confidence that everything was good and under control.
Propped up in my favourite chair, I began to scroll through my WhatsApp messages. Then, like a bolt from the blue, a message that a doctor in a Shillong hospital had tested positive flashed before my eyes. Just as my trepidation was growing that the hospital in question could be Bethany, where our youngest son was an in-patient, a message of confirmation came in.
We immediately called 108 and were given instructions to self isolate immediately, the patient and all his attendants which included me and his two older brothers.
Realising that my aged mother could be potentially exposed, we started scrubbing all high contact surfaces with Lizol, a midnight operation that left us on our knees.
Then, quickly saying our goodbyes to the remaining family members and grabbing whatever we could think of, pots and pans and rations, we proceeded to quarantine ourselves in the boys room for 21 days.
Having come out of the quarantine now, I can only say that it was a gratifying. Gratifying 21 days with the boys. The intimacy. The laughter. Politics. Satire. Wars. Hormones. Pranks. Heartbreaks. Crushes. Religion and philosophy. The youngest one’s petulance. The oldest’s irascible streak. The middle one’s patience and maturity which quickly turned to defiance for quick tryst with his crush.
Some things obviously were routine and insipid. For instance, the endless surveys from the health department to make sure we were not coughing or having difficulty in breathing. This procedure became so boring and monotonous that we started to frame imaginary questions to pep us up. Instead of “Do any of you or your family member have a cough? Press 1 for Yes, 2 for No” we would imagine “Do you want a cigarette?” or the query” “Do any of you or your family member have a difficulty in breathing?”, we would imagine, “Would you like phansaw(red potato) with tungtap(dry fish chutney)?” and so on and so forth.
Food however, is never routine. Food is always exciting.So the random numbers I’ve saved under random names in the promise of food is quite substantial. Thankfully, all of them became our saviours, efficiently delivering groceries, at different points of desperation.
Then there are the other good souls, picking up local bakery and often, surreptitiously procuring our vices like cigarettes and duma, sourced from friends and acquaintances moonlighting as suppliers. So there’s a lesson for me here, be nice to everyone. Spread your friendship net far and wide. You never know who could arrange that last packet of Gold Flake for you.
However, the most profound thing I learnt during my forced isolation is that gender stereotyping is hogwash. Boys are sensitive and are not afraid to show they care, unlike what is often said. Boys love to cook, to do the laundry and fold them and to wash dishes.
See, it’s not about gender, nor is it about age. It’s just ingrained in our system, as adults, that young people don’t care. Fact is, young people care more than we like to acknowledge. They do care and think, sometimes more than we adults do. It’s just that they often cannot articulate their feelings because they are either unsure or have too many things on their mind already. Or maybe they prefer to hold their peace until the right time comes for words or actions, unlike us adults who like to pontificate and do nothing.
I can only be thankful to have been crammed in a room which served as kitchen, office, online classroom, music room, prayer room, gym, with three free spirits, as bare and natural as we could possibly be.
Their arguments and fights punctuated with teenage hysterical laughter, The oldest’s idiosyncratic big brother interjections and my constant flapping and overreaction which deservedly became prime material for their standing joke, which was obviously me, a boomer.
I did learn a lot from my millennials though. I learnt about Netflix, I learnt about Bella Ciao and the Vikings, I learnt about Djokovic’s health issues and Trump’s narcissism and I learnt to discern the difference between a sharp and a suspended chord. I even discovered that Chernobyl was the name of the plant, not the town.
And yes, the boomer taught them a lot of things too. Like how to edit and save a pdf and how to use a host of keyboard shortcuts and how to pay bills online without getting your card blocked.