The week had begun with a shocking phone call. A friend, who is young, appeared healthy and shouldered responsibilities and dreams, collapsed in the midst of a busy working day. Stroke, high blood pressure, stress, we heard, as he was being wheeled into the ICU.
Friends were quick to help and support, but years of friendship had suddenly boiled down to just standing, waiting by his wife, who was coming to terms with the shock. Greetings were six-feet-apart and solemn. Expressions and exchanges were hidden behind masks and discreet.
Eyes darted between his despondent wife and closed glass-paneled doors. Thoughts seesawed between ambitions, dreams and goals that sparkled outside the hospital gates to the helplessness and flicker of hope that loomed inside the white corridors. Life’s choices were reexamined, suddenly putting those inspiring Good Morning Whatsapp messages that were scrolled away, into perspective.
Many firsts in the UAE
Along the quiet corridors, the husband met his friend, who along with his lovely wife, had been our close companions sharing our many firsts in the UAE. Life came in the way and our regular meetings were reduced to brief exchanges over phone calls and social media, until now.
When the weekend arrived, it was wordlessly agreed that togetherness would not be on the living-room couch staring at a screen. A morning drive to a lake on the fringes of the Emirate was decided, for the afternoon would be spent at the hospital.
Outings have been in short supply, making this one exciting. Little Princess jumped in delight wondering if Corona had finally got bored and left our world. Masks reinforced the fact that safety was foremost before we set out.
Long roads devoid of rows of cars had only the patches of colorful flowers - dancing to the tunes of the wind - for company. Sky scrapers - great monoliths with their endless glass panels strung with shiny steel looked down upon them. These monuments of our time, each vertical trajectory - a dream realized, treasured ambitions and livelihoods while mirroring the sky and the soaring ambitions of the country. Gradually, tall towers gave way to rows of houses – each one a splitting image of the next, perhaps had the exact number of steps leading to that room with the window, but wouldn’t the view from every window change?
Soon, we were looking at vast expanses of sand, stretched far and wide on either sides of the road. Is this what had turned into the bustling city we had left behind?
Another world at war with a virus
After whizzing past a blur of brown, we turned into a road lined with trees. Was this an oasis, the children wondered. Didn’t we leave the now-quiet-otherwise-bustling oasis behind us, I wondered.
When we turned towards the lake with its placid water shimmering under the morning sun – we realized that birds, flamingos, swans and the rest of nature went about their usual things oblivious to another world that was at war with a virus. The silence - broken occasionally by flapping wings, gentle chirps or one of my children squealing in delight at the sight of another school of fish just under the surface - stayed deep within us on our way back.
On our return, the world was as we had left – Corona, some job losses, some wins, cricket fever, elections and my children’s hungry tummies vying takeaways and eyes vying screens.
Our friend has been recovering well and his wife’s sweet smile and gentle chuckle has made a comeback. He is re-learning everything that his daughter did, not long ago – first sitting up and attempting to stand with little support. For him, success is in little things such as to be able to grasp the phone and type on a key pad that will earn him a squeal of cheer from his daughter.
As for us – it’s relief, delight and a reminder to take care.
— Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @MenonPranitha