Living History – Usha Alexander, Sector 24, Gurgaon
Life during Corona.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
At this time of the year, she must be in the US, visiting her mother.
Or, may be she is travelling in East Asia.
But no, she is still in Sector 24.
Author Usha Alexander, a former Silicon Valley professional, is stranded with her partner, author Namit Arora, at their house in Gurgaon in the Greater Delhi Region. Both are passionate about travelling but then coronavirus started its own world tour.
In her 50s, Ms Alexander admits she was very anxious about the virus in the early days of the lockdown but “little by little normalcy has returned and I’m back to writing about something even more depressing than the pandemic.”
She means climate change.
She responds to a set of questions The Delhi Walla has been asking people from diverse backgrounds in the Delhi region to get a sense of day-to-day experiences during this history-making event.
Things you’ll do after the pandemic is over.
I don’t know what it will really mean for the pandemic to be “over.” I expect that gradually the risks of doing certain things will decrease, as public health factors change, and at the same time, our individual willingness to accept slightly higher risks will increase, so that we can get on with our lives. At the most manageable scale, I can’t wait to visit in-person with friends, to meet them somewhere bustling but wide open for a drink and a snack. Or to visit a coffee shop, to sit in a cozy chair with a leisurely cuppa and a book for an afternoon. But as further levels of risk become acceptable, the main thing I desire is to travel. We’ve now hardly moved out of our square little colony for too many months on end. Living in the midst of a mega-city, I’ve begun to feel claustrophobic at the heels of so much chockablock concrete and steel. I feel starved of broad and natural vistas, hungry for the sky. I would like to go to a familiar patch of seacoast—in Pondicherry or Goa or Mumbai—meet some friends there and share a meal near the surf. Traveling overseas will be crossing yet a different threshold of risk, probably somewhat more distant in the future, but I am eager for that as well, so that I can visit my family and friends who are scattered on different continents.
The view outside your window at the moment.
Muddy streets and clean leaves, washed by last night’s rain. Broken pieces of steamy grey-blue sky, cut out between the crowded angles of townhouses and the sweeping curves of bending branches and the rising flanks of office towers in the middle distance. The street dogs are wagging about, clustering in playful groups in front of their favorite homes, enjoying the cool breezes after so many days of dripping heat. They frolic or sleep between the jumble of cars, the crumbling hills of malwa, the spilling bags of scattered trash—the bags torn by these same dogs or by the visiting monkeys, who just passed through (the kuda-truck hasn’t made its scheduled rounds for days). Aha! Just now comes the missing kuda-truck, playing its silly, cheery, Gurugram! song. Sunlight settles, moist and heavy, between the thickening clumps of growing leaves. The dusty little park across the street now glows green and brown and earthy red from rain. It’s the everyday clutter and mess and brilliance and life of our little corner of the world.
What’s going on in your mind right now?
I’m thinking about the sweat collecting on my lip and chin. How long should I wait before I remove the mask and wipe my face? Kobita is cooking in the kitchen and we’re all wearing masks. When she comes, once a week, we have all the windows open and all the exhaust fans running. I’m feeling grateful for her help. I’m thinking how lucky I am to have this little house. How lucky I am to have enough to eat. I am grateful for my health. These thoughts cycle through my mind many times a day, nowadays, much more than six months ago. I think about the future and try to make peace with the uncertainty that muscles in and hustles it away, leaving all the paths forward hidden in shadow. I worry about my loved ones far away. When will I get to meet them again? I think about the people beyond our colony who are hungry, whose lives are even more uncertain than ours. I think about the heat, the changing climate, the transforming world. I wonder what will happen next, where the world and we will be in two weeks or two months or two years or two decades.
Objects in the house that give you solace in self-isolation.
First, there is food in the cupboards that gives solace—or at least, a very fundamental peace of mind. After that come my laptop and phone, which both connect me to everything vital: loved ones beyond my home; nearly all the information and/or books and/or films/serials I seek; nearly all the old photos and all of the current correspondences that I treasure; several sources of ongoing food/essentials provision. Beyond love and gratitude and awareness, the laptop and phone are the most important things in my house. Right now we live on them, in them, through them, whether we want to or not. Other than that, there is really nothing; I am not much attached to things as things.
Her slice of the pandemic