From the last five months, many of us have stayed confined to our tiny apartments in the cities due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The pressures of work from home and extended hours before the computer accessing the internet, watching Tv and web series in the moments when we are taking a break from the mundaneness of what constitutes the lager part of the day, has successfully pulled us away from the world outdoors, a world that we admire and look forward to from our own little confines. From work to entertainment, from being productive to being lazy- we have been locked up in tiny urban spaces and have been cut off from the world of real people and most importantly from the abundance of nature.
The coronavirus pandemic has taught me an important lesson, that perhaps can’t be learnt otherwise. The way that the coronavirus pandemic has brought the entire world to a standstill and exposed the vulnerability of the human existence has reminded me that contrary to the projections of a mighty, rationale modernist ego that feels that it has established full control over nature, in reality we are weak and vulnerable, tiny fragments of an overarching reality called nature. The virus has begun dictating our actions, determining our choices and confining us in a way that we never thought was possible in this day and age, and this is evident from the fact that from the mighty economies of the world to the most remotest tribes of the Andaman Nicobar Islands, no-one has been spared from its spell. Our modernist ego that claimed to have attained all control, projected itself as if it has dispensed all mysteries associated with the unknown and become the master of nature- has been shattered by a tiny virus that no nation has yet been able to find a convincing cure for. My eyes have opened once more to the fragility and futility of this ego and made be humble to the human world of vulnerabilities. It is very difficult to live in such tiny apartments in the cities for months. In many of our urban spaces there is no connectivity with nature, all we see everywhere are jungles of concrete and vehicles that fill up the landscape with all that is man-made and cut-off from nature. The skyscrapers, an endless riverlike flow of cars, the overcrowded market spaces and the toxic and ugly tv debates have bored me and perhaps made me cynical. I have decided to reclaim my original existence and to find back a sense of the self that the pandemic seemed to have snatched away from me. The people living in the remote and distant villages of Uttarakhand surrounded by scenic and magnificent mountains, or those who find themselves near the oceanic waves and spectacular sunsets in Kerala’s coastal villages where silence and peace prevail over all emotions and people who still have the opportunity to trek to the Himalayan peaks in Himachal and be surrounded by the singing of birds and flying clouds, remind me that I too must take a plunge. How lucky are these people and how fortunate is their existence as we continue to find ourselves locked up in congested tiny apartments in overcrowded cities.
To give my soul a refreshing departure from the concrete jungles of urban spaces and reclaim my true existence, I took my mind to the distant and snowy peaks. I smelt the fresh breeze carrying a scent of the pine trees and felt the calming touch of the mountain breeze run through my hair. I witnessed the sun setting with splendid colours and a meditative silence fill up my inner being. The imagination was constantly running in my mind. I was imagining myself looking at the mountain peaks, trekking, listening to the sound of the rain, flowing river and the great silence that echoes all around. I can’t explain in words how beautiful it was just to imagine myself in the laps of the mountains. After many months I was feeling a great joy, a freshness and an excitement. Now I have decided to visit these places in the laps of nature in person and become one with nature.
I called up a friend of mine living in Nainital. I shared my idea with him. He told me that people are coming from Delhi but most hotels are not operational yet and one has to follow the guidelines issued by the government. He was willing to arrange a cottage for me. I enquired about all the processes involved from him and later from various other people. The process involved getting tested for COVID-19, applying for an e-pass and reaching the destination within 72 hours after the test reports indicating one is Covid-19 negative arrives. I started the process. I booked a taxi. The driver told me that he didn’t need to get tested. He was aware of the guidelines. So I got tested for COVID-19. In the next 40 hours I got my test report, it was negative. Thank god! I applied for e-pass. I just had 32 hours to reach my destination. So I was waiting for the pass. They took 20 hours to send me the pass and this happened after I called the authorities many times. Now I just had 12 hours to reach Uttarakhand. I packed my luggage and in the early hours of the morning,I started my journey. It was great to see the highway, feel the fresh wind welcoming me. It was a moment of freedom and joy that all of us should experience once in our lifetimes. It seemed as if my dreams of venturing into the open were finally coming true. I had left the city behind, I was seeing the first rays of the sun, they were touching the white clouds. I reached Garh Mukteshwar- a riverside place in UP. No breaks were required. I wanted to keep going. The roads, villages, people, green fields, animas all captured my imagination as the wheels of my vehicle were keep moving and it was making me feel as if splendid chapters of a beautiful world were opening one by one.
My car crossed Uttar Pradesh. We were stopped at Uttarakhand Border by the authorities. They allowed us to enter after a brief verification. Now I could see the great mountains and the splendid and grand beauty of nature, the landscape was changing. Again I was stopped by authorities at another check point. They saw my COVID-19 report and e-pass. They started telling me that I should have stayed at home and refrained from coming in the first place, but my happiness and excitement were too high to pay heed to their discouragements. They asked me to sign an undertaking which said that I would engage in home-quarantine for 14 days and carefully noted the details of the place where I was going to stay.
Finally I reached my destination. It was a beautifully furnished room and the windows overlooked the spectacular and scenic mountains. I opened the door of my balcony and closed my eyes, the mountain winds and my tears were infused in each other. My wish came true. I was standing in the laps of the great Himalayas, reclaiming my existence. It was a moment of acknowledging a sense of great reverence for mother nature.
I am reminded of Bob Dylan’s well-known song, Blowin’ in the Wind,
“How many years can some people exist, Before they’re allowed to be free? How many times can a man turn his head And pretend that he just doesn’t see?The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.The answer is blowing in the wind”
Apurva is a Theatre Activist and Independent Writer.