Nepal | November 27, 2020

Coping with corona

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SWAPAN K BANERJEE
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I didn’t see it coming: this sudden withdrawal of all essential transport services, and the bar against stepping out of the house. So time hung a little heavy.

During circumstances like this, when being at home is a compulsion, I usually catch up with my favourite writer, Allan Sealy. Allan has just finished writing Asoca: A Sutra, a novel, and you know the immediate aftermath of a finished project, writers lie fallow for a bit.

So I sent Allan an e-mail: Sir, I hope you’re staying indoors.

Here the train and bus services are suspended. Thus, everyone is forced not to venture out.

This is the season when nature’s bounty is at its zenith. Yet, people are running for their dear life. But D101 (his home at Dehradun) is a safe haven with your graceful presence, and the plants you nurture with your soul are ever watchful. I am very excited about the portrait of Dehra (his next project) you’re about to do. Although there’re glimpses of it in all the books you’ve authored, this is going to be a full-fledged one, a kind of autobiography of the town and you take a backseat; but by a strange alchemy, it becomes all the more visible. Hope Asoca is finally done. In between 2017- 2020 how a tiny branch has grown full straight!

The next morning Allan wrote back: Well indoors most all of the day except for a bicycle ride in the early morning and a walk late at night. Otherwise, there’s plenty in this house and garden to keep me out of mischief.

I’m in actual isolation since Cushla (his wife) is in Christchurch and Deepa (his daughter) in Sydney… This e-mail is a rest break and a pleasure. In fact, the internet always has been for me in this outpost a window on the world and, of course, a link with my wife and daughter. Yes Asoca is finished, and the new book begun … The virus is not just a killer but a maker of a new world or rather the world is recreating itself by the usual means. So stay indoors yourself except for those urgent errands.

I wrote again a few hours later: Sir, yester evening I was taking a stroll by the riverside (Serampore) when this wailing note of a Papeeha rent the air. I stopped in my track listening to its cry intently. I find its trait so much in common with my own nature (sadness seduces me!). Of course, your Brainfever Bird came uppermost in my mind… Allan got back the same evening: They’re calling here, too.All the birds are happy and so are the frogs, just us humans in jeopardy. Keep walking, how nice to have a river to walk by!

He ended the note with a sage advice which is vintage: Take cover not fright.

 


A version of this article appears in print on November 13, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.


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