There were people dying everywhere
And yet there were those who refused to see the monstrosity unleashed by
a tiny virus…
But there were angels too- who reached out quietly
in their own ways, to those in need.
My story is about them …..
I was something of an electrician at one point in time before the Great Pandemic. I was eighteen and despite having very little knowledge about my job, I survived through sheer wit. Whenever I was called upon to repair something, I would declare that the whole dratted thing needed to be replaced. Sometimes, the client would ask me to do the needful. I would oblige and come away richer than most my age.
One of my favourite clients was a family of two ladies, both septuagenarians. Each time they called me for any work, my antennae would shoot up because I smelt pink notes – the high denomination ones.
One hot afternoon in March, 2020, I received a call. My eyes lit up. Business hadn’t been doing too well of late because of the damn virus outbreak and I was running out of money. I cleared my throat and answered the call most affably.
“The light in the bathroom isn’t working,” the lady announced. “Could you come and attend to it?”
“Certainly, Madam,” I replied, trying not to sound too delighted. “ I will be there in a bit,”
I let out a tendril of smoke from my bidi, threw it down and resumed my chat with the old man at the tea stall. He had a mask on. I teased him and he stared at me seriously.
“This is a critical time. Don’t laugh. The pandemic is spreading fast.”
“Nothing’s going to happen,” I chuckled. “People are overreacting.”
“Wait and watch,” he replied coldly. “Lockdowns have already been declared in some parts of the country.”
I shrugged and picking up my bag of tools, sauntered off to the building across.
The lady greeted me with a warm smile.
“Now wash your hands,” she instructed me.
Another paranoid human, I muttered to myself, as I scrubbed my hands. They were smelling good though, after the wash and I couldn’t help noticing that my lifeline seemed interestingly long. No virus was going to kill me, I chuckled to myself.
I got down to work, hoping that it was a mere case of a fused bulb. It wasn’t and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what the hell was wrong. I quickly went out of the house to Google out a solution. Nopes, no luck there. For one thing, I couldn’t really understand much of the jargon that Google spouted. Besides, each time I opened the Google page, a whole lot of stuff about the virus kept popping up.
I went back to the house and declared to the lady that the bulb and its holder needed to be replaced.
“Are you sure?” the lady asked me.
I nodded regretfully. “I will be back in a jiffy with the things.
I strolled down the half deserted road, sneezed, incurred a wrathful curse from a masked passerby, shrugged and reached home. I proceeded to dig out the required things from my cupboard and headed back.
An hour later, the mission was accomplished – but not before my hands and the things that I had brought in were duly sanitized under the vigilant eyes of the lady.
“Rs 1200,” I announced.
She looked at me suspiciously.
“The fittings cost Rs 1000. My labour charge is Rs 200. I have not included my travel expense.” I explained, donning a sweet smile.
“Hmm,” she said.
Just then, the other lady emerged from the bedroom and stared at me groggily.
“Don’t you owe us Rs 2000?” she asked.
Shucks, the old lady actually remembered!
After a moment of feigned memory lapse, I smiled.
“Oh yes, I had forgotten that. I am so sorry. You needn’t pay me anything today.”
“And what about the remaining 800,” she asked, her shrewd eyes piercing sharply into mine.
“I shall pay it to you the next time I come,” I said breezily.
“Tomorrow,” the devilish lady said. “Or else we won’t call you in again.”
I nodded. Her goodwill was needed to ensure that I stayed in business.
Hell, what a day this was turning out to be! The fast buck that I had hoped to earn today was out of bounds and I had to shell out another 800. I sought solace in several cups of black tea and two bidis.
That evening, the Prime Minister addressed the nation.
“I appeal to you to stay at home for the next 21 days,” his deep baritone rang across the country.
Reality hit me hard. 21 days of a lockdown simply meant no earnings – perhaps even starvation. I really hadn’t saved much in the six months that I had been in this city. My heart sank.
Minutes later, the phone rang.
“Are you at home?” I heard the old lady’s voice on the other side.
“Yes,” I replied in a low voice.
“Dear Lord,” I thought to myself, “I hope she doesn’t expect the money right now.”
“Come over immediately,” she said peremptorily and disconnected the phone.
With much trepidation, I walked up to the apartment and rang the doorbell.
As if on cue, she opened the door and stared at me, formidable as ever. “There is going to be a lockdown. You don’t have to return the money.”
I was relieved.
She then handed me two pink notes.
“Keep this,” she said. “Difficult times lie ahead. You will need it.”
I stared at her, dumbfounded. There was a glimmer of kindness in her eyes.
I couldn’t bear to look at her. I took it, muttered something in muffled tones and left. As I reached the bottom of the stairs, I heard her call out. “Stay home and if you or your neighbours need anything, just give me a call.”
Photo By: Nicholas Thomas
Find Pandemic event guidelines: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/pandemic/
Join ArtoonsInn Room8 on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WritersAndReadersRoom/