Aasim Akhtar

Aasim Akhtar

COVID-19 and its ramifications have come to mean different things to different people. The virus that spread faster than rapid fire divided the world population into two: those who survived it and those who succumbed to it. Regardless of the divide, it taught us all how to spell ‘pandemic’. Those of us who have survived it are continuing to live in its burgeoning shadow – petrified and frightened to death. Let me admit that COVID-19 has spawned a new lifestyle, and added a few more nouns and verbs to our jaded vocabulary – hand sanitizers, face masks, social distancing, etc. Shrouded in conspiracy theories, ranging between Biological Warfare and China’s Revenge on the West, the immortal virus remains veiled in mystery, roaming free and wild, every single nook and cranny of the globe. Sixty days of self-quarantine have taught us to scramble through the mist of despair for hope and optimism, to find ways to appease our worst fears, and to put all our demons to rest lurking in the shadows. It took me a while to get used to it: to maintain distance from my mother while feeding her; to disinfect doorknobs with chemical sprays; to live without the domestic staff; and to suspect anyone with the slightest fever, cough or cold, of falling prey to the exponential virus. I realized that during this battle between faith and mistrust, the social media that thrives on sensation and scandal, turned out to be my worst enemy. If each man’s experience is his own, why should malignancy prevail?

Most people, friends and acquaintances alike, who I’ve spoken to recently about the impact of Corona virus, complained of boredom and frustration. Those who claimed to revel in its serendipity made for exceptional cases. “Thanks to Coronavirus: It afforded me the luxury of enjoying nature once again,” exclaimed a friend while a young man confided rather sheepishly that Corona had gifted him with long hours of sleep and Face Time. Corona confined me within the four walls of my house where the April sun appears in many guises, making long and short shadows, melting away every evening to turn the night into a star-lit, fragrant cloak. The large window in my room upstairs affords me the view to a mountain ebony or kachnaar, aflame with lilac-coloured orchids growing nonchalantly in the neighborhood. I sit through the afternoons, reading and writing or dusting and mopping or gardening and tending plants. I’ve reopened the dust-laden cabinets of music to listen, once again, to my all time favourites when I am not busy listening to the warblers and the sparrows making nests and guarding their new arrivals. Life gives birth to death and death, in turn, gives birth to life! But I still cannot decide if this should be the occasion to celebrate or to mourn.

May 4, 2020
Karachi Pakistan.