I was in the middle of a literary webinar, on Friday. We were discussing Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar, the lines read out by one of the speakers, “The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.”
The brooding words seeped into my innards; I felt the need to come out of it when the ‘happy’ angel of my life called. As if she knew that I needed to be pulled out of the morass of sorrow and was in need of an urgent transfer from the world of Sylvia Plath to that of Sophie Kinsella.
“DSS (Dubai summer surprises) is here, some silver lining to our colourless lives, no? Come let’s go and do some retail therapy,” cried Mrs. Kohli over the phone, excitedly.
The trial rooms sure held us to trial. I could see the lines of anxiety carved on my face in the bright light, the million litres of ice cream that I ate to ward off anxiety during the quarantine, now oozed out of me in the form of layers of adipose nudging me out of despondency
I had written earlier too that I wasn’t a compulsive shopper however when Mrs. Kohli proposed a shopping spree, I surprisingly felt allured, to go forth with the flow.
As the days crossed each other. Months passed by since March. We oscillated between certainties and uncertainties and advanced. Life at times came to a virtual standstill and at times winked at us saying, “Just a few more days.” And I’d breathlessly asked- “Weeks or months or years?”
Well, we mortals could accept the situation, take precautions and still have some fun. And for me ‘fun’ came in the form of Mrs. Kohli. I agreed to going on a shopping spree with her but myriad thoughts gnawed at my conscience, “Would participating in the DSS endanger my life? Would that be irresponsible behaviour?”
The free spirit that she was, tried to convince me, “The government has taken ample precaution. And dude, mental health is important too, come on, just a couple of hours will do wonders!”
We began our post-Covid foray into that perfumed, magical world of goodies, at Dubai Mall. She asked me to meet her in front of the huge aquarium.
I was the first to get there, masked, gloved, wearing the most comfortable of my track pants and trainers, well aware of Mrs. Kohli’s relentless, untiring window-shopping sprees.
There was temperature screening by automatic AI heat cameras. As I waited, I looked at the fish swim, with them swam away my negative thoughts. The blue water sure did away with my blues.
Defying the spiked devil
After a few minutes she appeared, in a Tara Jarmon dress with Japanese flower prints, a matching mask in tow, blingy Gina sneakers and her hair looked oh, so prettily set. I was happy to meet my friend after ages, but now we were in a world that seemed to be under an alien attack and we were here defying the spiked devil.
Then I saw the bright blue Birkins tote that she lugged on. When I asked her why was it so heavy, she said that she carried in it a flask of warm ‘turmeric latte’, another flask of warm water that she needed to sip on to “burn to death the virus, if any, loitering in her throat”, sanitiser bottles (varied aromas), disposable gloves that she needed from time to time as she couldn’t wear one for very long. This was shopping, post Covid, the new ‘abnormal’!
The first shop that we went to was Kinokuniya, that was my condition for coming along. I closed my eyes and took in one deep, masked breath, the books and stationery smelt divine!
Buying a few paint brushes and sketchbooks was ultimate joy! Then we made our way to a few shops selling garments. There were hardly people around, the outlets were sparkling clean and did reverberate with, “Your safety is our priority.” This was as promised by the DSS site.
The trial rooms sure held us to trial. I could see the lines of anxiety carved on my face in the bright light, the million litres of ice cream that I ate to ward off anxiety during the quarantine, now oozed out of me in the form of layers of adipose nudging me out of despondency.
That moment I realised that life is beautiful, we need to embrace it because when the pandemic is over, we still need to be alive, kicking and beautiful! Thank god for DSS, for me it now stands for ‘Detoxifying the Self from Solitary-confinement’.
— Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @VpNavanita