Humour by Rehana Munir: Scenes from a Covid quarantine
It is 5pm on a weekday. I’ve slept for more hours than I’ve been awake and this is a relief. Outside, a crow caws insistently, a bike whirrs and a distant construction site sends me a reassuring “thud”. So the outside world still exists. My phone beeps to press home the point. “How are you?” is the simple query from a concerned friend. How do I answer this accurately yet without opening the Pandora’s box of a Covid-addled brain? “Recovering well” I type, adding a smile and two hugs.
Here are the random thoughts of someone who’s caught a not-too-bad strain of Covid between the dreaded waves.
1. Finally, I can eat as much onion and garlic as I wish without repelling people; no one’s allowed close to me anyway. Ironically, I can taste nothing. (Unless you count the weird hit of spice, sugar or salt on your palate as taste.) Now that I’m deprived of all flavours, I’m even missing character-building foods like mooli and broccoli. I hope this sudden attack of conscience is short-lived.
2. How long should one conscionably put off taking a shower just because one can’t smell body odour? Socially acceptable behaviour runs deep, I’ve learnt, even when there’s nobody to direct it towards. Like spraying deodorant on when absolutely no one can smell it.
3. “Strive to be better than you were yesterday.” That’s the general drift of the motivational quotes that exhort you to compete not with others, but yourself. In isolation, you have no option. My thermometer has recorded a one-degree drop from yesterday and I feel positively triumphant. But the trouble with this ‘compete with yourself’ directive is that you can’t gloat over anyone else when you’re winning.
4. I’ve heard so much about Covid-related brain fog that I decide to keep my brain active. I choose a book on quantum theory in a glaring example of self-sabotage.
5. I am eternally grateful for all the food that friends and family have been sending over; I’ve been enjoying the colours, shapes and textures on my plate while filling in the corresponding tastes and smells from memory—a doomed task. I am now freakishly afraid of turning into that person who never returns a dabba to its rightful owner. Perhaps I should devise a sticker system. Or maybe we should all just make peace with the fact that dabbas resist all ownership norms.
6. My oximeter reading is stuck on a solid 98, like a cautious Sachin Tendulkar afraid of getting dismissed before reaching a century.
7. Updating well-wishers on the phone is a full-time task. I try to mix it up. Experiment with a non-linear narrative on occasion. An anecdote. Some current affairs. “I feel pretty much the same as yesterday” is not a line I allow myself to use; it sounds somehow unfair to the poor asker, eager for some variation.
8. The best thing about having Covid is that I’m not worried about getting Covid. This is not a minor victory. After one and a half years of “Will I/Won’t I?” I’m finally here. We live in a productivity-obsessed age where we’re supposed to learn from every experience, good, bad or deadly dull. And so, I’m committed to extracting wisdom from this quarantine. Here’s what it’s taught me: (to be filled in after having the much-touted Covid Epiphany).
9. Sex Education, Season 3, is an excellent Covid quarantine watch. (I’m part amused, part deflated by the fact that the person I identify most with in a show filled with teenagers is the protagonist Otis’ mother. What a Gillian!) The fictional town of Moordale, which looks retro but is meant to reflect modern Britain, is a cheerful place to retire to once that dinner-shaped meal is done.
10. I’m the first person I know of, personally, who’s had a “breakthrough infection”—the kind you get despite being fully vaccinated—and it hasn’t been severe perhaps for that very reason. I’m grateful for the vaccine, the masks, the frontline workers and the distancing protocols that keep us safe. May the worst be behind us.
It’s time for another swig of cough syrup and some steam inhalation. Perhaps my temperature will drop by another point.
Wild night ahead.
Follow @rehana_munir on Twitter and Instagram
From HT Brunch, October 3, 2021
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