Day 17: Friendships
The uncertainty about the days can lead to restlessness. By not knowing when a spell of days will end, unless one’s enjoying them, makes people antsy. We are in the thick of lockdown days. Seventeenth today, of the twenty one that we launched on to. The lockdown is likely to be extended until the end of April. Surely, even the people must not exit the lockdown all too abruptly. For, social shocks are more intense than economic shocks. Households are changing, lifestyles are being reevaluated and our sense of fear is getting re-calibrated. To exit these will be an effort probably. Trajectories of the underprivileged and vulnerable have been different from those of privileged. The woke ones have turned gourmet through these days (sourdough starters?). Like the way pro-bikers get back on their feet after a crash and dust their jackets off, knowledge industry workers will dust these days off and resume life. The rest with face-to-face, in-the-real-world kind of jobs will pick up the pieces of their pre-lockdown work and resume if they’re still on the payroll. These are tough days for those who draw their sense of identity from their work.
Terraces are dotted with circling people these days. In over a year, I’ve seen a man walk the terrace of an adjoining building for the first time. A few days into his walk, we got talking as I stood in the balcony that opens close to his terrace. The starter was ‘what happened to your leg’. He is a physician. Probably that’s where the curiosity emerged from. He has spent all his life running hospitals and health centers in Libya first and then Saudi Arabia. ‘I first went to Benghazi in 1980’, he recollects. ‘We would fly to Kuwait first. Then to Greece and into Tripoli.’ he explained when I asked about the travel routes. As a doctor he was paid very well. Libya didn’t work out because there were no phones in the country. Not because the country couldn’t afford. My friend suggests that it was a paranoid government which limited telephone use and often sent state agents to shadow people. While life was materially good, he returned to India in two years. ‘In 1983 I started working with the Ministry of Health in Saudia’, he shared, opening what seemed like a chest of fond memories. He worked in distant desert villages, providing healthcare to villages where roads and electricity was yet to reach. Saudi Arabia’s economy was booming with oil wealth during the 1980s. They recruited expats for essential functions like healthcare and education. My new friend worked overseas riding that wave of the Middle East’s oil boom. He seemed to be a man who is satisfied with his contribution to the world and with what he made in return. My new friend has a cheerful way about him. He spends his days watching ‘science videos’ on YouTube and reading. He is struck by the advancements his field, medicine, has made in these decades. ‘It is magical’, he says. I agree with him considering my recent hospital exposure. We both agree that ‘one can go on and on’ in exploring science and that ‘there is no limit’.
We looked up at the night sky from our places. Pointing to the brightest body, he guessed that it must be Venus. It was, as I verified with my phone app. We spoke of clear night skies and travel. ‘What else do you do apart from running marathons’, he asked. I read. And these days I write a diary of these lockdown days.