Peter’s gaze fell on Elvira, his wife of two years. The warm golden rays fell upon her pale form, giving it an eerie glow. He touched her and her ebony eyes flew open.
‘Oh you! You won’t let a pregnant woman have her rest!’, she muttered, feigning annoyance.
‘How could I? I have limited time with you, you know!’ He felt a familiar stirring. He playfully pulled down one of her nightgown strap, revealing a perfectly ripe breast.
Adjusting herself Elvira admonished, ‘Oh no you don’t mister Sailor. I’ve barely completed three months. Any hanky panky couldn’t be good for the baby.’
Peter immediately composed himself. ‘This will be the longest trip till March 31st. Are you sure you will be okay, my love?’
‘I will be just fine. Even though I wish you simply would quit the sailing life forever.’
‘This is for the future of our baby. Whatever money I make would be for her!’ said Peter.
‘How do you know it’s not a boy?’, Elvira questioned.
‘I would love a boy but I much prefer a mini- you!’ Peter said.
They embraced and then she got up and began helping him pack his suitcase.
The same evening he set out to join the Silja Cruise line. He was the head steward and would be away for 6 months. He was worried as Elvira would be relatively alone during her pregnancy. She had lost her parents in a bus accident many years ago. His mother was in Dubai and was helping his younger brother’s family raise twin boys.
Elvira put up a brave face and let her husband leave. Inwardly each time he left she was ripped to pieces.
She whispered sweet nothings to him over the phone. She sent Whatsapp pictures of her pregnant belly at Christmas time.
‘Ours will be an Easter baby,’ she told him over an IMO call in January. ‘Doctor mentioned April 12th would be the due date, Easter Day!’
‘7 months up, Peter,’ she lovingly told him over the phone. ‘ The baby craves Goa sausages!’
‘You can take the girl out of Goa but you cannot take Goa out of the girl ( and baby)’, Peter teased Elvira.
‘Oh you, you are too much!,’ she complained.
‘Be careful babe. In Wuhan, China a deadly virus is on the prowl. The city is in lockdown and it appears to be spreading rapidly. Try not to go out too much!’
‘Yes, I’ve been watching the news. It seems scary as it is affecting older folk. Dear Mrs Dias is so kind.
She makes such lovely dishes, the other day Chicken Cafreal with succulent pieces of chicken,’ Elvira said patting her now burgeoning tummy.
Mrs. Ruby and Mr. Eric Dias were their next door neighbours. They doted on the couple especially since their own kids had migrated to America.
5th March 2020.
‘Peter, the virus seems to be spreading. I saw some folk wearing masks and going about.
I have also bought a few. I wish you could come home earlier.’
Peter managed to calm his wife. Inwards he was terrified himself. He didn’t mention that some passengers from Italy had apparently brought the Covid-19 Virus on board. The S.S. Dolphin Silja was supposed to dock at Malaga in Spain soon. But the Spaniards appeared apprehensive and were unwilling to accept passengers and crew afflicted with the deadly virus. A few of the crew were also showing symptoms and Peter’s friend and fellow steward Ravi Chetty had already been quarantined.
15 March 2020.
Peter had been running a high temperature. He mentioned not a word to Elvira.
‘ You don’t seem yourself, honey! Is everything okay?,’ asked a worried Elvira.
‘I am fine, don’t you worry. You take care of yourself and the mini- you growing inside of you!,’ lied Peter. He was finding it difficult to even swallow. The doctor on board had taken his throat swab and sent it for testing in Malaga. The ship was doomed to sail endlessly. They were being denied entry at all ports.
Elvira frantically searched for news regarding Peter’s ship. Very soon India observed curfew on March 22nd.
Then a 21 day lockdown was declared. Elvira began experiencing constricting pains in her abdomen.
March 25, 2020.
Mrs. Dias heard a frantic knocking on her door. A distraught Elvira looking for solace, said, ‘I haven’t heard from Peter and it’s been 24 hours. He usually calls twice a day!’
‘There, there dear. Come on in and stay with us for a few days. This lockdown is depressing,’ said Ruby Dias.
Elvira welcomed the care. She was besides herself with worry as all calls to Peter and to the ship’s main extension board went unheard.
Eventually on March 31st Elvira had to be driven to the hospital and on April 1st she delivered a healthy baby girl.
Running, she was running. Blood was seeping down her dressing gown. Where was her baby? And Peter? There was smoke, haze, confusion…
Elvira was woken up from her dream by the sound of her phone.
‘H-h-honey it’s me, Peter. I am sorry I couldn’t call you. I have contracted the virus and I have a weak lung. You know because of my drowning episode when I was young. I was taken by air ambulance and have been in the ICU for a week now!’
Tears of frustration mixed with joy appeared on Elvira’s cheeks.
‘Honey, I wish you could have shared that you had fallen ill. I prayed and had hope in God that you were somewhere safe. We are parents my love. You got your mini Elvira.
Let’s name her Hope April D’souza!’
With a happy heart Peter answered, ‘ Hopefully they will fly me home after April 15th darling. I will be well by then. I cannot wait to be in your arms and hold our Hope close to me!’
Author’s Note: Lakhs are stranded due to lockdown. Prayers for all of humanity.
Photo By: Tapio Haaja
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