Strange insects are buzzing by. Ants of many sizes rush on the floor; some seek shelter on my dhoti and others – so tiny they could fit into my nails- explore my back, on a hot summer evening. Birds of many colors sing and dance merrily. The squirrels on the trunk of a mango tree are absorbed in God knows what pastimes. A couple of mongoose carefully study the humans and scurry about when no one’s watching them. But I witness all of this and more from the terrace at my mother’s house.
Now it’s godammn 2.00 a.m. While the dogs bark and strange insects cry in a dissonant voice from the thick foliage in this village setting, I sit alone in my dimly lit room.
I am alone but not quite. Cancal gives me good company. (‘Cancal’ is my way of saying ‘honey ‘ or ‘darling’ while referring to my incorrigible mind). She never has a dull moment. She has fearful stories to narrate of the Covid 19 menace or she makes desperate appeals for approval. She wants control or she’s mad at the racing time. But Mr. Time waits for none. She asks if Time has taken the guise of Covid 19; is it the indefatigable Time that now threatens to invade our cities and villages, after having already attacked our psyche?
Yesterday morning, I saw uncertainty and fear loom large on the mask-covered, hidden faces of strangers, outside the local grocery store. I looked at my list of things to buy: sugar, rice, salt, turmeric, and rusk. I knew it’s two more weeks to go and then we’ll be free! Mom’s asking me daily if the lockdown would end soon. While I assured her last evening that it’s just a few more days, Cancal probes me now, “Are you sure?”
“I am positive”, I beam quietly, in confidence. She whines, “Oh you think so? Even the Prime Minister thinks so? I believe you.” Just as a self-congratulatory smile slips off my face, for what I thought was a successful negotiation with my wayward mind, Cancal grins sarcastically, “Well, does the Covid 19 know it has only two more weeks before we go free?” The question startles me. I have no idea how far, wide and deep the virus has penetrated our planet. But for now it’s surely unleashing terror.
As the human race lives and fights in morbid fear, a big size bumble bee buzzes around me; she’s disturbed by the small light and now takes shelter of the wall, while a lizard comes out of hiding for his hunt.
As I wonder when will it all end and how many lives Covid 19 would take, I witness a spectacle: the lizard zeroes on the big, black insect on the wall. He crawls up slowly. Meanwhile the bee slips to the floor and lies low. Suddenly, the lizard assaults the bee but in an instant, he’s taken aback by the defense; he slips back to the darkness behind the cupboard. Probably he was frightened by the insect’s size. Just as I thought the bee won the day, the lizard returns for a second attack. The Srimad Bhagavatam principle echoes in my heart: ‘Jivo Jivasya Jivanam’ – One living entity is food for another. I intently gaze at the lizard; his small, black eyes circled in grey are attentive. I am stunned by his maneuvers. He’s cool and slow in his movements, yet relentless in his pursuits as he nears his unsuspecting victim. Again he rushes back; I guess the insect is too big for him. I quietly hope we too can drive Covid19 back to its dark zone even as Mr. Lizard launches a third attack. He seems to possess unending zeal. Half of his body dangles from the wall and he is quietly preparing. It’s like a painted 3-D picture. This time I stomp my foot down and he scampers back with greater speed. I haven’t seen him since the last ten minutes. I think my intervention stopped his hunting game. I hope my dear Lord, watching our spectacle from above, also stomps his feet to drive away the virus forever.
No! He’s back again and this time I stomp my left foot. The six legged bee with two darting spikes and a thin moustache, however, lies quietly near my feet. She’s safe as long as I am quietly monitoring the situation. I pray and hope that my dear Lord Krishna – who I know has better things to do than intervene in our petty fetishes- intervenes and saves us from this crisis.
But am I, like the bee, willing to stay low and sheltered under His lotus feet?