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Sarvik Chaudhary

A learner forever

Surat, India

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It's the 3rd of February, the world's at its best pace. I'm on my terrace, walking, thinking, dreaming. The sky looks beautiful in its deep blue. The orange sun is yet to set. I start browsing, I witness a myriad of vacant rooftops and just one or two human figures, either in search for a dependable cell phone network or peace. I come here for the latter. My father is a social worker, he has devoted his life to service. While I was in school, I wouldn't see him for days, even if he was still in town, by the time he'd come I was mostly asleep and by the time he was up, I was in school. My sister is completing her studies in a different state, I don't even remember the last time I talked to her for more than five minutes. My mother is a homemaker, but she's  barely home probably because she's a "social person" and when she is home, I either have an assignment to complete or some place to visit. It's been ages since I've had a proper conversation with any of them, or since the four of us sat together talking about the good times and amusing. My family is just one of the thousands of things that pop up in my head while I'm up here. I walk further to the edge of the terrace, I bend slightly to get a peek of what's going on in the world below. I discover a bevy of kids playing soccer, people wrapping up their days, cars honking moving around in a rush, a couple walking hand in hand, a small time grocer trying to desperately sell literally everything he has to a single customer. I see the kids again, this time half of them celebrating their victory by hugging each other and laughing in delight. Besides them, I see two women, probably neighbors, fighting and abusing each other with complete vigor. One of them is now looking  skywards and yelling some terrible words, I wonder who she's shouting at, there's nobody up here except me. Oops, I better get back to my walk. So basically today looks just like any other day! Now let's fast forward a little to when a pandemic took over our lives and everything just flipped. It's the 26th of march today. A few days back our Prime Minister announced a complete lockdown in our country. I still come up here, on the terrace, but it's an entirely different sight nowadays. The sky is still in its deep blue, I still hear noises, but this time not of the cars honking, today I hear the sounds of humans, a lot of humans, to be fair. The rooftops that once never showed signs of life, now look like a carnival, only a socially distanced one though. On any other day I would've been slightly disconcerted by the fact that the only place I turned to for peace had transformed into some kind of playground filled with people. But not today, and to be honest I actually feel delighted, because I don't just see individuals, I see families, families that have probably laughed together for the first time since ages, families that have conversed with each other as a whole, families that held hands like there's no tomorrow. Even I am not alone today, I'm walking alongside my father, talking about things we never thought we'd ever talk about, discovering interests, we never knew we had in common, exploring my plans for the future that I never thought would fascinate him. A few feet apart, I see my sister and my mother sitting together and laughing about how terrible my sister had cooked last night, and surfing for new recipes on the internet for my father who's next in line to cook dinner, and it's not just the four of us, I see joy and happiness all around me. Funny, isn't it? The times that are the hardest, are the times I am surrounded only by felicity.  My father went and sat next to the mother-daughter duo, gesturing me to join, I tell him I'll be there in a minute. I would've just gone and sat with my family, but I'm so amused by looking at everything around me, that I was tempted to uncover this new world. I see a young couple teaching their toddlers badminton, I see a mother teaching her kid to ride a bicycle next to her husband who was listening to his daughter explain some features about the laptop, I also see the neighbors who once used to come to blows quite often, today sit on their respective balconies, chattering. I smile to myself and go sit with my family. People feel that the pandemic somehow forced families and individuals to come closer, but I feel that the pandemic just gave us a reason to pause and reflect. We'd all been so worried and in such a rush to get the best of our lives that we missed savoring the most beautiful moments. The pandemic, let us stop for a moment and breathe, it let us contemplate, realize and understand all those pieces that we had missed in these hasty lives of ours. I'd once read "Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone's hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours." This pandemic made us reach out and hold one's hand as well as let our hands to be held.

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