15 Mar 2020  |   04:14am IST



The strays who have made the large ancestral mansion in a remote South Goa village their home, are confabulating with the four cats and a couple of kittens, partly playing, partly fighting, wondering why empty spaces and human silences which enveloped them through most of the day of working days, have been replaced with all folks staying at home.

The kitchen, which saw activity in sporadic spokes when one or the other members of the house wanted to make snack or rustle up a small meal, was full. The fires were burning, full-fledged meals were being cooked, there was laughter and gentle ragging, younger folks were getting teased, the baby of the house always the and attention was all over, the Rosary was read, the family gathered around the table and altar, meals lasted for hours as conversations centered around the good old days, stories of interesting family characters and reminiscences of important events like the eldest son’s wedding.

The word was out, among the community of canines and felines, that this was the case in many homes in the countryside. Men back from the sea are not going back, planes are not flying to many p laces, some are not going out because they can’t come in because some great powerful unseen force called a Corona virus has put even the most powerful lifetime OCI visa in its place, keeping those outside India with Goan roots and hearts and with foreign passports, right there. Their counterparts in Goa are not traveling on work or holiday because once out, they won’t come in. What a great leveler Corona is. Those with their red passports which could get them anywhere need to now figure how to stay at home.

The end result is that this virus considered the biggest enemy of humankind, is actually helping bring families together. The old guitar is coming out, the rusty drum set too, the harmonica can be heard with one family member playing it sitting in the corner of a Balcao where no one has sat for years, the weeds in the backyard, of what was once a manicured lawn where parties and dances and barbeques were held, are being removed, the old windows are being cleaned, the holes in that fortress-like walls through which gunshots were fired hundreds of years ago, are being peered into after years, just for the fun of it and there are more family members living in other homes visiting because they too do not have outside engagements and members who are artists and display skills as varied as mimicry who bring the house down.

Schools are shut, so the children are home and in larger families siblings and first cousins spend precious time together, actually getting to know each other away as they spend more time. With too many people, the need to go to phones for company is less as everyone partakes in the excitement of family conversations and meals.

This is also the time when the best meals are had, not in expensive restaurants but at home. Each Goan home has a retinue of home chefs which would give any fine-dining restaurant a good run fo r its money. The curries, the bakes, the roasts and the stuffed delicacies are all on display cooked by one or the other chef, cutting across both genders, the home bar is always open and cashew or Urrack , as fresh as ever is drunk copiously, also because, as we are told, even the Corona is wary of the healing properties of our Feni and Urrack.

As night falls, and as family members retire, it is time to introspect, While wishing each other well, maintaining hygiene and not going out, precautions are being taken to ensure that this agent of grief doesn’t touch anyone. At the same time, we can’t help see this as nature forcing us to course correct, relook at the way we lead our lives and force us to look back at the way we lived. The Corona virus has forced us to appreciate life and look at powers beyond us that control our destinies. And above all, it has humbled us into accepting that we are not supreme. It has led many of us to take to prayer and meditation and acknowledge that everything is not in our control and there is value in surrendering ourselves to the creator.

Most importantly, wealth and the measurement of it have become relative. The wealth of living amongst nature, breathing fresh air, eating clean food and appreciating the value of the community, of people in the village, buying from small establishments, generations of your family went to before the supermarkets came, has been driven home. So has pure love, between couples, siblings, parents, and friends. Togetherness, which was natural and intrinsic, has been felt in the last few weeks, albeit out of necessity. But the value of it will now be long-lasting.

This is love, in the time of Corona. (With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his great work Love in the Time of Cholera)


Idhar Udhar