The crackling of the wood stings my nose. The wound is severe and leaves a deep scar. The line of hurt runs from my throat to my heart and its needle like prick is agonising. I want to get up, dust myself and keep going. But, hope is dim and faith is non-existent.
I have always had hope and faith by my side. They are my “buddies”, I said often. Strangely, I don’t find them around these days. The gloom looms so large above that, I can hardly see any light. Why has it come to this? Why can’t I believe that better days will rise? Why don’t I believe that the dust will settle? I shake my head. The trouble is this — reality bleeds our system. The papers are full of funeral pyres. Red dark flames blaze through these pages and engulf our bodies. White clothes that drape the dead mock the living. Who knows who will be next. I gasp for air as I read and watch news channels in dread. They tire my senses but there is no escape from the horror.
The past week — statistics have been replaced by more pictures. It was not like this last year. The devastation was not visual. This is deadlier — they tell me. “So, there can be photographs?”, I ask. I don’t know the answer. My old in-laws pick up the newspaper. “I can’t see this”, they put it away. I don’t blame them because we don’t want to start the day by watching the funeral. It is heartbreaking and squeezes out the last ounce of hope we are all clinging on to.
“We are all going to die”, one of them declare.
“We all eventually will”, I pacify.
“There doesn’t seem to be an escape”, they believe.
I simply nod.
Thousand miles away, my mother announces over a call that she simply cannot wear a mask anymore. “What do you mean?”, I ask impatiently because, that instant, I want to be Mr Flash, who can rush to her aid and put the thickest mask on her face.
“How can one wear it even inside the house?”, she asks with genuine concern.
“You don’t have to”, my eyes pop out.
“It is air borne and everyone around me says we should start wearing one at home also”, she nods in despair.
I want to reach out to her, feel her and hope and pray for her safety.
The air around me is clear and fresh. I take a deep breath in. It clears my head. I open my eyes and I feel very guilty of being able to breathe. The oxygen that I took for granted, that keeps me alive is making me cry. I don’t know how to make up for this guilt that bruises me. Can I take deep breaths for someone else? Everywhere I look I can see despair. In a desperate attempt, I long on to twitter. My feed is filled with hopelessness. I choke, I feel short of air, I get up gasping and run to my little garden because I want to find hope. I can feel it slip between my fingers. I don’t know a life without them. I hug myself and cry looking for solace in tiny grass blades and little floral buds. And then, my phone glows. As I grapple to catch my breath, I see a little post. My friend in Bengaluru, India, is finally heading home from the hospital. She cannot smell, she cannot jog, she cannot even walk a stretch. But, she can smile and she talks to me about finding hope in people’s eyes and gestures. My eyes well up. Even at the darkest night, even when I almost give up, there, in the most precarious moment, there is a tiny flicker. I grab it up and take a deep breath in. As she continues to drive up and down the hospital to care for her sibling, I know I have to believe in life as she does. Most of all, there is hope and bountiful of them too. Perhaps, all is not lost. There is light and it is just taking a little while and life without hope is not worth living.
Sudha Subramanian is an author and writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman