Migrant workers sleeping in an open ground in New Delhi on April 09, 2020.(Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)
Migrant workers sleeping in an open ground in New Delhi on April 09, 2020.(Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)

Excerpt: Love in the Time of Quarantine by Siddhartha Gigoo

Told from multiple points of view, Siddhartha Gigoo’s new book, which is being launched online today, clocks 30 days and nights in the lives of two lovers and a homeless family during a nation’s lockdown
By Siddhartha Gigoo | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON APR 13, 2020 12:02 PM IST

On Sunday, March the 22nd 2020, when India decided to lock herself down and send us—her 1.3 billion ungrateful, undeserving, yet beloved children—into self isolation to protect us from the deadly infection of a bat-born, spikey ball-shaped, gorgeous-looking infinitesimal virus with a name befitting a royal, I set out to do what all castle-builders and nighthawks do on bright and lonesome Sundays that have nothing except dreams of hope and fantasies of freedom to offer.

Day 1: The Celebration

Peering at the masked people clapping from balconies, a child says,

‘why are they so happy, daddy?’

Covering the child’s mouth with his hand, the man says, ‘for us, son.’

‘But why are they clapping?’ whispers the woman to the man. ‘Because something good is about to happen,’ whispers the man.

‘You always say that, don’t you?’ says the woman.

Day 2: The Preparation

Wrapping herself in rags, the woman says to the man, ‘don’t look at me yet.’

Turning his gaze away, the man says, ‘hurry, or else we will be left to die.’

‘Do you want me to go naked, like this?’ the woman says.

‘Look at others, they have already left,’ says the man.

Day 3: The Race

‘Faster, faster, faster, or else, you will miss the bus.’

‘Do you want me to die already?’ puffs the woman.

‘Is it my fault that we have no time left?’ the man says.

‘Daddy, daddy, why can’t we take the dog along?’

Day 4: The Purging

Grabbing the man’s arm, the woman says, ‘where are they taking us?’

Dragging the woman by her arm, the man says, ‘some place with a roof and food.’

‘Daddy, daddy, what about the dog?’

‘The dog is safer here, darling, than there.’

Day 5: The Question

Looking into the man’s eyes, the child wonders, ‘what wrong have I done now?

Placing his hand over the child’s eyes, the man says, ‘close your eyes, son, we are going to a new home.’

‘Daddy, daddy, are all of them going to their new homes too?’

‘Didn’t I tell you that this day was going to come?’

Day 6: The Cleansing

‘Daddy, daddy, is this our new home?’

Seeing a sprinkler nozzle aimed towards him, the man whispers to the child, ‘be still, darling, it is going to rain.’

Clinging to the man, the child says, ‘why is the rain so prickly, daddy?’

‘Don’t you remember, my dear, the first rain is always prickly.’

Day 7: The Game

‘Don’t be scared, my child, the gun the man is holding is only a toy.’

‘Daddy, daddy, why can’t I come closer?’

‘Listen, my darling, remember the game; you stay in that box, I stay in this box; cross this line, and you will lose two points.’

‘Daddy, daddy, can you make me a toy gun just like that man’s?’

Day 8: The Room

‘Do you see that window?’ whispers the man to the woman; ‘we will jump from there, if it comes to that.’

Seeing the child cocooned in a corner, the man whispers, ‘spread your legs, darling, this room is for you and only you.’

‘Daddy, daddy, what name shall we give our new home?’

‘Must you lie to her once again?’ whispers the woman to the man.

Day 9: The Sleep

Looking at the smiling girl, the boy says, ‘at last, she’s not complaining of hunger anymore.’

‘Don’t wake her up yet,’ says the man, ‘you know her habit of throwing tantrums when awake.’

‘Why can’t you both keep quiet?’ says the woman, ‘at last, the little girl is asleep.’

‘Daddy, daddy, if she wakes up, shall I tell her our story about the monster?’

Siddhartha Gigoo (Courtesy Rupa Publications)
Siddhartha Gigoo (Courtesy Rupa Publications)

Day 10: The Savings

‘Daddy, daddy, why aren’t the dogs barking outside?’

‘Because they have their tummies full and have gone to sleep, my child.’

Seeing the little girl slip a slice of bread into her pocket, the man says, ‘eat it today, darling, we will be given some more tomorrow.’

Looking at the man, the woman says, ‘what if tomorrow they don’t?’

Day 11: The Act

‘Daddy, daddy, the little girl is not waking up, is she…?’

‘No, no, son, she’s not, she’s only pretending just like that man there.’

‘Wake up, little girl, I will show you how to…’

‘Don’t you dare show her the tricks yet.’

Day 12: The Cure

‘Where is it paining you, my dear?’

‘here and here and here and…’

‘what about here?’

‘Daddy, daddy, why is mother talking in sleep?’

‘To keep us naughty people on our toes, my child.’

‘Daddy, daddy, will mother allow me to keep the new clothes?’

Day 13: The Expulsion

‘Go back to your homes, people, go back to wherever you came from,’ the loudspeaker blares.

‘But daddy, you had said this was going to be our new home?’

‘It is time to go back, darling.’

Taking a last look at the room, the girl says, ‘why can’t we stay here longer, daddy?’

Day 14: The Farewell

‘Daddy, daddy, tell them to stop raining the prickly rain on us.’

‘Daddy, daddy, can you get me some water?’

‘Daddy, daddy, I want to go back to the house with the prickly rain.’

‘What are you going to tell her now? What is going to happen to her?’ says the woman to the man.

Day 15: The Long Walk Back Home

Sitting on the man’s shoulders, and dreaming of the road’s end, the child whispers, ‘how much more, daddy?’

Pointing to the distant ball of fire, the man says, ‘Over there, where the sun is coming to rest, my dear.’

‘Daddy, daddy, look, what’s that, over there?’

‘They are welcoming you with the light of a billion candles, my dear.’

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