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Lockdown Logs

black pen on the open pages of a diary.

Leaving his home to go back to mine. Fuck. I really, really hope that we can work things out. Why are we not able to communicate? Why does the gap feel so wide no matter how much I explain, again and again, that I do not mean to hurt him… hurt any of them? I feel torn… but Amma and Appa need my help at home. Lockdown has been so damn hard. It was hard enough getting tickets to go back.

Day 1 (first half): Numb. Numb. Numb.

Day 1 (second half): No, it’s a mistake. We just spoke after ten days. He will come back. This feels too hasty. We talked for like, 20 minutes. On the phone. Who takes only 20 minutes to break up?

Day 3: Phone beeped. He sent me a picture of all my things in his house, packed up. Asked me what I would like him to do with them. Throw them in the gutter, I wanted to say. No call, no reassurance. Okay.

Day 8: It’s okay. Maybe we will get back together. We have too much history. We should just let things take their course.

I decided I needed to do something while I waited. I needed a job. After having quit the plum corporate non-profit post, mostly so I didn’t have to face workplace gossip over my failed engagement, I was back in my old room, my old city, trying to make sense of my shattered self. There was a vacancy in the school nearby. Might as well, I thought. I enjoyed teaching, right? It had been nearly five years since I was a full-time teacher, but it can’t be that different, I figured. The pay was abysmal, over 10k less than what I was receiving earlier, but I didn’t have it in me to negotiate. I signed the appointment letter without protest.

Day 15: Maybe he’s just waiting for the right time. It’s lockdown na, hard to move around only. Can’t cross state borders yet. I’m sure he wouldn’t want to have this conversation over the phone. He likes things to be done properly, after all. I just need to be patient.

Day 20: Maybe I should call him. But what will I say if I call? I can’t tell him I have decided differently. Because I haven’t. And I can’t decide that, being here at home with a million things to do everyday. Why does he not get that? I don’t want to give him what he so deeply desires simply so that he will be happy, anymore. Not when it’s causing so much pain inside me.

Day 28: You bastard. You’re throwing away all our history, EVERYTHING we have been through, because I want us to live separate from your parents? Can you hear yourself? Do you realise how absurd that sounds?

Day 40: … Is he… not calling? Is he not coming back? No one from his side is talking to me. His friends unfollowed me on Insta. Do they all hate me so much? If an entire bunch of people feel like we shouldn’t get back together, does that really mean I am a fuckall person?

I sat at the dining table, with my laptop in front of me. To my right was a notebook with lesson plans for the day ahead. To my left was my phone and morning coffee, soon to get cold. They said that for the first month I was to only observe classes, and that I should have my video and audio off so as to not startle the children. Ingenious, how the multiple complexities of 3D existence could be contained in 2D windows. It must be one heck of a vacation for the kids.

Day 60: Maybe I am not worthy. There were so many things I did wrong. I shouldn’t have said what I said to his sister. And then his mother. And his father. Maybe they all felt that I was not a good human being. Not caring. Too self-involved. Too self-serving.

Day 61: Too dishonest. Too manipulative. Not like their people. No poise. No grace. Not… good… enough.

Day 62: Terrible Therapist says, you need to look at things more objectively. Is it rude to flip her off during the session? That’s what my best friends say. That’s what random Instagram support pages say. That’s what the Bumble bff I confided in for no particular reason also says. All saying shit without any explanation because they’re tired of my tension.

“So as I was saying, the Mughals introduced many things to India. But can you guess which everyday activity was introduced by them?”

“What’s an everyday activity, ma’am?”

“Like a hobby. Which one do you think it is?”

“Ma’am! Football!” “Ma’am, gunfighting!” “Cooking?” “No, it’s wrestling!” “How is wrestling an everyday activity, da?”

A shy voice amidst them all, spoken by an icon with a large grey N in the middle, “Ma’am, is it… gardening?”

“Yes, Naren! It is indeed gardening. They introduced the large, geometric charbaghs, and while it was many, many years before people had their own private gardens (that came with the British) the idea of a green space that was also made stylishly came from them. Thank you Naren, that was a good guess… Naren? Are you there?”

“Ma’am he isn’t in the class anymore. His phone probably died.”

“Been happening a lot, no?”

“Don’t worry Ma’am, he bunks other classes also.”

Day 63: What if the roles were reversed, they ask, what would you think? Well of course if they were reversed, I would look like a colossal bitch because I just let someone I love go because I couldn’t even think of living just two minutes away from my parents’ but the roles are NOT reversed and he’s a boy and I’m a girl and what he wants just feels… So. Fucking. Justified…

Day 75: State borders have opened. Still no contact. He had said if we broke up now, before things got worse, at least we could remain friends. What a fucking joke.

“Ma’am, you still haven’t corrected our homework!”

“Yes ma’am, it’s been two weeks already!”

I can feel my eyes burning, my lower back aching. I do everything recommended by all the well-intentioned people in my life to fix it. I leave the laptop every 20 minutes, walk, stretch, drink water, eat well. I walk as much as the limited space in my 10 x 10 room will allow, open the window for fresh air. But the minute classes are over, all I want to do is sleep away the pain around my eyes. But the pain doesn’t leave me, and I’m resigned to nightmares so vivid, I wake up tired.

“Ma’am? Can I request something?”

“Of course, dear. Tell me.”

“Ma’am, my sister and I cannot submit homework on separate accounts. We are using the same phone and the Teams app can only have one account at a time. Can I just submit her homework and mine on the same account?”

“Yes, definitely. Don’t worry about it.” I say, not referring to the fact that I haven’t checked either one’s homework in the past term.

Day 81: Signed up on a dating app. Swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe. Match. Everyone’s a traveller. A rider. A diver. A ‘misfit’. With a million one-word describers. Why are men?

Day 82: Let’s meet, says a bee in the area. Wtf, it’s still lockdown. Red flag red flag red flag. App delete.

Day 90: Texted the ex. Some books were left over at his house. Told him I’ll get them picked up. He asks, “Are you back?” Something boils with anger inside me. I moved to your town because of you and only you. Why would I be ‘back’? “No”, I said. Silence.

Day 93: Finding solace in feminist decrying of marriage. And male entitlement. Relationships in India. Monogamy. Patriarchy. Heteronormativity. It’s all a terrorist plot.

I sat in a classroom empty of students. It’s November, the rainiest month of the year for us. The only ones here are two other teachers, all of us sitting about 10 feet away from each other. We have arranged the classroom to accommodate our privacy, using chart-paper partitions and noise-cancelling headphones. But we still disrupt each other’s classes.

“Why they can’t just pay our internet bill and let us stay home, I don’t understand. What difference does it make, taking online class here or at home? At least there I can get the chores done. We are not even wearing masks!” a senior teacher grumbled.

“As if teachers don’t have families. I have a five- and a seven-year-old at home attending online classes. Who is supposed to take care of them?”

“What about your husband?” I asked.

She laughed. “My husband can’t find his way to the dustbin in the house, let alone cook. It’s better if I’m there, otherwise there’s too much work when I get back.”

Day 127: Had a call with a friend today. Finally talked about something other than how I am doing mentally… Our views on education, childhood. Manipulative teachers. Felt a rather warm stir in my heart. But then we don’t get in touch for months.

Day 130: Re-installed dating app. Adjusted filters. Swipe, match. Hello, the bee said. Didn’t ask my name or my number, for once. Ranted over everything from Modi to monarchy and the cats we love. Somewhere, in the gap between the screen and my face, it felt like a first date going well.

Day 150: Phone beeps. Oh right. Forgot about the bee. Ugh… can’t be bothered, it’s still lockdown. App delete.

Cover Image: Photo by Grianghraf on Unsplash