I shudder at the thought and under the weight of all the dreams, desires, wishes that will remain unfulfilled if this pandemic devours me

The World Health Organisation defines a pandemic as “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people”. The definition includes nothing about population immunity, virology or disease severity. The ongoing Covid 19 pandemic has already killed a large population since its outbreak in December 2019. Although it cannot be seriously disputed that the Covid 19 pandemic is a natural disaster, but some folks are even making outrageous claims that the coronavirus causing the pandemic was engineered in a lab and deliberately released to make people sick. I am not writing this to blame anyone for the outbreak of this pandemic. In fact I don’t even know who to blame; the people around me still refer to the virus as “markazech chaal” and walk fearlessly out of their homes. Or the authorities, who had already became helpless a year ago and have left us with no other facilities except death beds. I belong to a world, to a community and to a family, where only fates are blamed for anything wrong that happens, i.e, “mye chu kismatei kharaab”.
But for this thing, I can’t even blame my fate here, because this is something that is almost everyone’s fate. So here, “kismat” is definitely not “kharaab”. Then what is “kharaab” and who to blame and what to do?
I don’t know the answers to these questions and I might never know them, but what I know is that for the last few months I’ve been mourning my death, which is yet to arrive but may arrive soon because of the pandemic. I’ve been mourning the end of this world, when the world hasn’t ended yet, but it might end soon because of the pandemic. I’ve been mourning my unfulfilled dreams and desires, that are yet to be shattered but might get soon because of the pandemic. I’ve been mourning my loved ones who are still breathing and living but might die soon because of the pandemic. And so on.
Right now, all I’m doing is taking all necessary precautions and mourning the events that might happen soon, very soon. Here is a list of my most heartfelt desires, or more appropriately, dreams, that I fear might remain unfulfilled if this pandemic marked my end or simply the end of this world:
1. First and foremost, I fear I’ll die unmarried. I can tolerate whatever state I am in at the time of my death, but not of a bachelorette. I might sound mentally retarded to all the married people reading this and equally stupid to the unmarried ones but that doesn’t bother me for now. Because for now, I’m literally waking up in the middle of the night to the thought of dying without getting married and I’m crying and mourning over this probable event, that might or might not happen. I want Lord Byron’s She Walks in Beauty to be practically applied on the day of my marriage, which I think of as the day of resurrection too (I know people might think of killing me for this, maybe my own parents, although they’ve had a beautiful and successful marriage, alhamdulillah). So, in short, I think I might die unmarried and this thing is something “jo mujhe andar se khaaye ja rahi hai”.
2. I will fail to visit Pampore. Again, strange, funny, stupid, lame, dumb and their synonyms. But, I’ve literally prayed to get buried in Pampore after I die, though that’s not probably possible. I feel my skin is engraved in every language and geometrical shapes of that place. The place where I’ve never been, the place where I’ve not known anyone and the place where I don’t even want to know anyone except the place itself. Although people think I’m attracted to saffron but to their utter surprise, I’m allergic to saffron. So, saffron isn’t the reason. I don’t know the reason and before I could even know the reason, I might die leaving yet another dream unfulfilled. I curse this pandemic.
3. I might not even be able to complete my graduation, again because of this pandemic. However, I’m in the earliest stage of my graduation or college life, more appropriately online college life, and I’m okay with it. I’m okay with doing my bachelor’s online but I’m totally not willing to miss my graduation ceremony because of this pandemic. I definitely don’t want a graduation in absentia in my life. I’ve always been admiring to pursue my graduation and the main reason is the ceremony, besides adding a degree to my CV. I want to experience that symbolic act of tossing my cap in the air and everything else that’s a part of that ceremony. But I fear two things, two conditions that I think are likely to take place. Either I might not be able to complete my graduation, or if I do, that’d definitely be a graduation in absentia since everything is working in online mode now. So, one more desire, one more dream could be shattered because of this pandemic.
4. To earn, or what people nowadays say, to stand on one’s own feet (I don’t like this phrase though). So, I want to stand on my own feet, not because I want to create that drama of giving my first salary to my parents and all that. In fact while I get my first salary, I want Baba and Amu to add some more money to it as a gift for their daughter who has been able to stand on her own feet. Lady Lazarus is a poem written by Sylvia Plath and at the end of the poem, she writes,
“Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.”
So, that’s a desire and that’s a dream. But, since the pandemic has overtaken all my dreams or is about to overtake all my dreams, this too might or might not happen and according to me, might not has more probability than might. And this fear of might not has taken me to a stage where I’m looking for data entry jobs now and repeatedly failing. I’m looking for a content writer’s job and article writing or anything related, but no one wants me, and even if someone gives me a job, they don’t pay me. So, here I can for sure say that “mye chu kismatei kharaab”. But apart from that, “I curse this pandemic” is still relevant.
5. Last one that I could mention here, since the list is unending: I want to become a better person, more appropriately, a better version of what I am. But I might die without that because of the pandemic. Again, I curse this pandemic. When I was in my school, mid school, I used to top my class every year and on the results day when my parents would see my results, they’d be happy. At that time, I used to think I’m the best person around because for me, making my parents happy and classmates equally sad was the best I could do and I never thought about being a better person or something. That was the best for me. There are many other such instances where I used to think the same. But, now that I’ve grown up, I’ve realised that “tu shaheen hai parwaaz hai kaam tera; tere samne aasman aur bhi hain”.
But the virus has overtaken the asmaan too, because of it’s airborne nature, so for now, “mere samne aasman hai hi nahi”.
This pandemic might be the end of the world, but this list surely isn’t the end of my desires. There are million more, from growing sunflowers to learning piano and to visiting Paris. There are countless dumb, lame, stupid, strange, beautiful, hilarious, shocking, exciting wishes too, that won’t find enough paper ever. Honestly, I feel “mere zamaney mein sach mein bohot dukh hain mohabbat ke siwa” and dukh here refers to the responsibilities I carry on my shoulders, responsibilities of my own dreams and desires. And I would definitely not want to die as an irresponsible woman, an irresponsible person.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

—The writer is a bachelor’s student at Aligarh Muslim University. [email protected]

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