Love in the times of Corona 

3 min


Rukshana was disillusion personified. She wished that she wasn’t awake but in the middle of a bad dream. Sadly, the messages on her inbox were everything but a dream, the stark reality. 

“AI 137 to Milan departing on 23rd March 2020 is cancelled” 

“Vogue fashion week is cancelled” 

A year before, childhood friends Rukshana, a budding fashion designer and Aman Mehta, aka The Wolf on Dalal Street, became live-in partners. Rukshana moved into Aman’s Worli Sea face condominium. Aman was Chalk to her Cheese. He had an aristocratic aura about him and a disarming smile, Rukshana drew attention with her dusky girl next door presence. They rubbed shoulders with the elite Mumbai socialites and made heads turn in awe wherever they went. 

Rukshana had graduated from NIFT and after a few short stints with leading fashion houses Anoli Shah, Amara, etc, she worked as a freelance designer. Visibly at ease as a lone ranger, she was smart to foresee the trend and to venture, much against convention into haute couture, ready to wear garments. She relished the freedom to experiment with her creativity and garner wider exposure through her online portals. And that’s how Roberto Cavalli, S.P.A, Milan discovered Rukshana. Two Skype meetings and a trial event later, they agreed to launch her ethnic gown designs in the upcoming Milan fashion week. Securing a deal with Europe’s iconic fashion house opened doors to the international arena. It was her gateway to glory! Time to stand up and be counted. 

It was hard to remember when and how the strain in their relationship started. Was it when Aman lied about his flings that the tabloids carried or was it when he didn’t thwart Sr. Mehta calling her a Muslim gold digger while on the car phone with her? It eventually morphed to a stage where tensions were stretching at the seams of their co-existence. Though they had not declared the breakup, both were sure that post Rukshana’s trip, this was inevitable. 

But now, hell broke loose. 

She didn’t fathom that things could escalate so quickly for the worse with WHO declaring nCovid-19 disease a Pandemic. She received a small part of the retainer from Cavalli’s office as a force majeure compensation for the cancelled event, which rather spelt the end of the road for her. The world was crumbling right in front of her eyes and she had no place to hide. She was stuck with the man she wanted to run away from. She wished she had moved out much earlier, but where to and with what? Rukshana was still living off him! 

The coffee had gone cold. Aman came over and replaced it with a fresh cup. She scowled. The bastard didn’t even bother to ask if anything was wrong. Aman had laid out breakfast on the table. She didn’t bother to brush her teeth and picked up a plate. She walked to the couch with the breakfast and ate noisily ignoring his exasperated looks. She finished breakfast, threw the plates into the sink and went back to bed. 

Rukshana woke up at half past noon. The house was in great order, as usual. Aman’s obsessive cleanliness habits annoyed her. She was embarrassed to see her used garments that were stashed recklessly under her cot, now washed and drying on the line. The PA system inside the condominium was blaring instructions on staying safe indoors and other health advisories. Lockdown was imposed in the state for three long weeks. 

Days crept by insignificantly at a lethargic pace. However, trivial necessities warranted that they talk again. The conversations were getting lengthier and more courteous, at times entertaining too. There was laughter again, too. 

They froze as they made eye contact for the first time in months. 

In those fleeting moments, she looked back at the last six months. There was no denying that the spark was between them was all but extinguished after the flurry of incidents that stretched the space between them, but he didn’t treat her badly either. He still cooked breakfast, did the laundry, including hers, paid her credit card bills and didn’t ask questions. He was always trying to reach out to her. He could have easily thrown her out. But he didn’t. He even paid for her events, though she insisted that to be treated as a loan. She now felt remorseful, that she never endeavoured to forgive him. She failed to see that he was trying to make up, undo his errors. 

Now, stuck with him through the unexpected turn of events around the world, these insights made her cringe in self-defeat. Milan or no Milan, she realized that she would be a nobody without him around. 

She sobbed inconsolably as she melted into his extended arms. 

Moments later, he was helping her drag her belongings into their room. She stood under the shower feeling lighter as the layers of negativities seemed to get washed away from within. It dawned upon her on how she missed their bathroom. She didn’t bolt the door, furtively hoping that Aman would walk in. She didn’t have to wait long. 

Later, in the still of the night, she stood in the balcony, soaking up the beautiful sight of the well-lit hanging bridge of the Worli sea link which seemed to be more visible these days. She felt strong hands wrap her from behind. 

It was well past 8 in the morning. Distorted crackles from the PA system filtered through the window and woke her up. She got up to close it and draw the blinds. All she could comprehend from the announcements were the words “safe distance, isolation.” She giggled at the irony and flung herself on top of Aman, waking him up with a flurry of kisses. 

“My body’s wisdom tells and tells again That I shall find my rest, my sleep, my peace And even death nowhere else but here in My betrayer’s arms” 

(from Kamala Das Poem)

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Photo By: Arnel Hasanovic

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Ranjit Narayanan
Ranjit is an Engineer by profession, does a sales job that takes him to different corners of earth and those journeys make him pen down few words to lean away the boredom of constantly watching the lazy clouds outside the window of airplanes.

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