A recent Photograph

“ Can you feel it mom?”

“ Yes, sweet heart, I can feel your hug. Thank you beta.”

“ I will call you again at the end of next week. And mom, please make sure not to go outside.Not even to uncle’s house. Instead, call all our relatives and talk to them on the phone. We have so many family members that a month will not be enough!” Anika says.

“ Read some magazines or reread some of your favorite books. Okay mom, bye, take care.”

“ I will.Bye beta,take care.”

Anika logs out from her Zoom call and closes her laptop. As the corona virus made its rapid advance across the country, forced sweeping closure of schools, workplace and businesses with millions of people self-quarantine, Zoom has become a way of life.Anika had a plan to visit her mother in May, but now there is no hope to travel anywhere and God knows when. She pushes her chair back to stand up.

“Mom!”

Her daughter Sinchan stands at the door holding her coloring book. “ Are you going back to work tomorrow?”

Anika hugs her daughter. “ No, I will work from home. And you can play in my room. How come you are not in bed?”

“ I should color one more page before I sleep.” She replies sitting on the floor. “ Yesterday dad told me that coloring relaxes your brain and helps you to fall asleep.So you should color with me to take away your stress from work.”

Anika chuckles pulling her daughter closer. She doesn’t want to miss this opportunity to spend time with her daughter. Bonding is good! Who knows what will happen in this pandemic time! ““come! Let’s color together.” Sinchan opens her coloring book and the box of crayons. 

Next morning, Sinchan wakes up early. She has not seen her friends for a long long time! She counts with her fingers and nods. “It is a very long, long, trillion years! Yep, that is correct.” She walks into their living room and pulls a chair close to the front window. She climbs on a chair and opens the blind to check if any of her friends are there on the street. She finds a few cars parked outside. One black cat is crossing the road with her tail straight up in the air as a flag pole. Sinchan glances to the front yard of their neighbor. The old lady of the house is calling her dog Shi to come inside. Sinchan laughs as she watches Shi running around in the yard and tries to hide in the tall grass in her lawn. Shi does not want to go inside! “ I wish to play with Shi. Mom will not let me go anywhere except to walk with her on the trail. Then we have to wire the mask covering half of our face. I don’t  like it at all!” But her mom tells her dad that the face mask is like a special bar of gold and they laugh. Sinchan walks away from them. Suddenly, Sinchan’s eyes fall on a fat brown squirrel in her front yard. It is running down from the tree with two nuts in its mouth and stops at the middle and then runs faster. Sinchan tries to trace the squirrel. Her face is pressed flat on the glass of the window. “ Where did it go?” She could not find the squirrel and nor any of her friends. She climbs down from the chair. 

Sinchan decides to play with her imaginary friend Reema, a chimpanzee.She walks into her room and there on one side of the bed her friend is still sleeping. “ Good Morning Reema!” Sinchan pulls out the blanket from the top of Reema’s body. “ Wake up! Come,let’s play hide and seek.” Reema pulls the bed cover up to her chin and closes her eyes. 

“ Reema! Come! Let’s go outside and play!” Sinchan shouts. “We have so many nice hiding areas and you will love it!” She begs her friend to play standing at the doorstep.Reema somehow understands her,she stretches her hands up, yawns and slowly sits up on the bed. She climbs down from the bed and rushes to the bathroom to wash her face. Reema slams the door and  runs past Sinchan to their backyard. “ Now we will have tons of fun!” Sinchan follows her friend. Reema runs towards a big tree and hides behind it expecting Sinchan to look for her. Sinchan runs after her, giggling. It lasted for a while until they were bored. So they started a different game- Reema would dip a branch of the tree and Sinchan would jump. If she touches her feet, she wins. They are not keeping score, but are pretty happy.Once Reema gets tired of the game, she wouldn’t come down, only laughed and dropped leaves and twigs on Sinchan. Reema bounces off with her usual feckless joy and signs ‘ chase me’. Reema- she shouts. “ Come, let’s go inside and play something different.”Reema follows her friend.

Inside the house,Sinchan’s mother has almost done with reorganizing her closet. “ Hi, guys did you have lots of fun?” She asks folding a blue dress and arranging it nicely on a hanger.

“ Yes, mom” she replies leaning on to the bed. “ Now we are hungry, hungry like a hippo.”

Her mother laughs. “ Go first wash your hands, change the dress.And remember to count one to twenty while washing your hands.”

“ Mom, my hands will get very dry so I will count up to ten not twenty.” Sinchan says leaving the room.

“It has to be up to twenty dear!” When Sinchan comes out from the bathroom,her dad has switched on the TV to watch the current news. She doesn’t understand why her dad likes to watch the same stuff again and again- stuff on the crazy virus and people protesting on the streets to respect them and treat them equally. She runs to the sofa where her dad is sitting. “ Dad, remember that you watched this last night. Why don’t you watch a story, a happy one?” 

“We need to know what is going on in our city, in our country.” her dad says.

“ But if it is the same stuff going on,then we should watch something different.” Sinchan demands.

Her father switches off the TV,sends a few texts to his brothers and says,

” How about we play Mancala together?” Sinchan claps. “Yeah!”

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