Delhi’s Bandaged Heart – Covid+ Jonaki Ray’s Poem on Omicron Variant, Chirag Enclave
Poetry in the city.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
She was Covid-free. Fully jabbed, always masked, she had been working from home since the coronavirus pandemic gatecrashed our world in early 2020. Finally, last week, omicron caught up with her. The first two days passed in a blur of high fever (102 degrees). Jonaki Ray, technical editor in a software multinational, is now feeling better, she says on phone. “I don’t have much appetite, I’m having sandwiches and soup.” Being a published poet who picks ideas for her verses from the immediate world around her, Ms Ray hasn’t let her infection go in vain. On Sunday night she transformed her positive status into a poem, which she agrees to share with The Delhi Walla. Still in isolation at her apartment in Chirag Enclave, her photo dates from before the third wave.
Ode to the Small o
I dream about you telling me about the trauma
of being neglected always, while your elder brothers,
Alpha and Delta, venture out into battle—real or corporate.
They are winners, the ones whose names make people shiver.
Your sister Omega stays at home with you, but is equally a leader.
You are the afterthought—Now, you flex your biceps, reveling in the fame
that being named after a variant has brought you. ‘Forget geometry,
or the angles of trigonometry, I will be forever immortal in history’.
The fever in my body ascends—leaving me shivering.
I pile on my favorite college sweatshirt, then the winter moss
colored one I bought at a forest reserve—then my cardigan. I learn
the meaning of ‘the cold made my teeth chatter’. My knees and back
hurt, as though I’ve been running, while my throat sandpapers.
I call the lab and no one answers, again. I try not to think about the years
spent coughing, the ‘asthma diagnosis’ I’ve had, the what-if-this-gets-worse
scenario with not enough docs or beds, and even the faces of people lost past months.
The medicines start working, and I feel each pore of my body burning
until my clothes are soaked in sweat. I dream that I’m traveling in a plane,
watching the Lotus Temple float amidst the Nehru Place towers and park greens,
shimmering like a pearl. You tell me that the virus was named after you because
the other letters didn’t suit: ‘Nu is confusing and Xi is too common. Kindness, that
is what they were aiming for’, you murmur, getting up to give me your seat on the metro.
I wake up; the fever’s gone, my hands have stopped shaking, and there’s a basket outside the door—broad beans, carrots, and peas’ soup and bread—dropped off by my neighbours.