Lock-down luxuries

The phone rings. It’s the courier. “Sir, there is a Blue Dart consignment to be delivered at your home. It’ll arrive between 2-4 PM.” “Okay, thanks,” I reply matter-of-factly, ready to hang up, when he asked, “Will someone be at home?”

I was taken aback. I know that is a regular courier question, but then again, nothing is regular anymore. For a moment, I wondered if this guy was even real or if Blue Dart was still delivering packages from2019. Or maybe I was the target of another lockdown scam.

“Is there anywhere else to go?” I questioned, to ensure he wasn’t from another planet with this being their first delivery to Earth.

“No, sir, because you are a doctor, I wondered if you would be at the hospital and hence, just needed to check if someone would be home.” That was an efficient comeback, I thought. I gave him credit for his concern and thanked him for a job well done.

While I am a doctor, it would be unfair for me to bask in the credit our fraternity is getting for tackling this pandemic. Surgeons are not on the frontline. Physicians are. Intensivists are.Nurses are. Surgeons are at home just like everyone else with our families, who are sincerely hoping, after having overdosed on our presence in the house, that we get called in for emergencies at the very least. “You don’t have surgery today?” my 4-year-old checks when I try to distract her from the iPad. “At least go and do some work or no one will know you work at the hospital!”

For some surprising reason, even neurosurgical emergencies have reduced. Our country is the road traffic accident capital in the world, and over 3,000 people get killed daily from head injuries. In the last month, however, we have had fewer than 50 deaths cumulatively. While the virus is taking away lives and livelihoods at one end, it’s trying to make up in some esoteric way. The other really relevant effect of the pandemic has been the complete elimination of people shooting menacing Tik-Tok videos in my picturesque lane.

A popular quote floating around nowadays is that if you don’t come out of this quarantine with a new skill, more knowledge, and better fitness, you never lacked time. You lacked discipline. Most of us men think we will come of this looking like Hrithik Roshan. We know we are kidding ourselves. Even Hrithik Roshan will not come out of this looking like himself!

But I have acquired a new skill. Every morning, I sit and have chai and toast on my ground floor veranda in DadarParsiColony, spending the early hours of my day writing while the kids are asleep. The new skill, of course, does not deal with having tea or writing: it’s being able to have meaningful conversations with some birds, crows in particular, who are constantly eyeing my toast. Our colony is Mumbai’s Amazon (not the online shopping and delivery portal but the forest), and it has many hues of green that one won’t find even in their most jealous enemy. At the risk of sounding elitist, I realize how much of a privilege it is to be in a lockdown in environs like these.

Nearly every morning, a crow comes and sits on my railing at a distance of 6 feet from me; I’m not sure if he’s following social distancing norms or is frightened of my piercing looks. He stares right back with his beak pointing toward my toast. I raise an eyebrow. He replies with a harsh and raucous “Caw, Caw Cawwwww!”

He inches closer to test my response. I dip my toast in my tea. At the same time, I notice three other crows strategically placed over the entrance gate and lamppost, cawing in unison to grab my attention, silencing the chirping of other more melodious birds. While I’m distracted, the crow in front of me takes a short swift flight atop my head to see if he can whisk my toast. I fling my hand brushing him aside but acknowledge the game plan.

He goes back to his original position, making a more dignified plea with a gentle forward-backward motion of the neck and no boisterous cawing, instead of producing a soft gentle melody that reminds me of the opening notes of Bohemian Rhapsody. I’ve read that crows are quite intelligent and can mimic other birds, animals, and even human speech. I had to give him some credit.

I flip him a piece of toast that has softened in this entire war planning. It lands on the floor. After cautiously surveying his surroundings for all of 2 seconds, he makes a nimble flight, picks it up in his beak, and lands himself at a safe distance from me. Clasping it between his claws, he pecks on it as his colleagues watch the show, little butterflies fluttering around just to add some beauty to the scene. Only to be fair, I cut up an apple into pieces and distributed it to the rest of the gang. On each day, we have an understanding and routine just like everyone else in the world now has.

I’ve also started calling one friend daily to check on them. I could call a few more but nobody picks up the first time, even though I let each call span 10-12 rings. After an average of 2-3 missed calls, they call back. “What are you doing? Why don’t you answer my calls?” I ask. The response is almost universal. “Sorry, yaar, I was washing my hands!”

One Comment on “Lock-down luxuries”
  • Vipul Vaibhaw says:

    Amazing write up, i read all of your blogs.
    I don’t know if you remember me, i am a guy you brought back to life, call me up sometime! 🙂


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