Story 7: Lambi Race ki Ghodi
Visiting the supermarket was one of the small pleasures in Mona’s life. Sure, she was a super-qualified, over-achieving professional. The kind who could buckle down and work 36 hours at a stretch. But at heart, she was a homebody who loved to poke her nose in the fridge and decide what to cook for dinner.
Of course, unlike so many of her friends, Mona did not have a husband or kids to cater to. And she had no regrets about that. She had been briefly married, in her 20s, and it had lasted just 2 years. The lack of a ‘family’ didn’t really bother Mona, and it gave her the flexibility to do things which other women could not.
Like pick up her suitcase and shift to a whole new country, where she had an amazing opportunity, to work with a hi-tech company.
“There is no future in this country…,” she said to her girlfriends over drinks, just before leaving.
It was a 16 hour flight with a longish stopover in London. Mona wasn’t much worse for wear, having flown business class. At arrivals, the immigration was quick and painless. As she wheeled out her luggage, everything appeared shiny and new. What a contrast to the tired old airport in her hometown… A high-speed freeway took her straight into the city.
Her new colleagues were welcoming, and she quickly settled in. After 2 weeks in a hotel, she found a nice, furnished apartment.
“I love it here!” she said to her mother, when they spoke. “I feel so much at home…”
Indeed, one of Mona’s worries while travelling was how to manage her dietary needs. When she became a vegan ten years ago, her mom was shocked. Maybe one could manage without eating meat but what about milk, cheese and butter? It sounded quite unwise and unhealthy. But Mona had proven her wrong. She was fit and fine at 41, active and alert.
Yes, it meant one could not eat out as much but that was a small price to pay. This was also why Mona was in love with supermarkets. Almost any dish could be made vegan, if you cooked it with your own hands. And the supermarket she encountered, not far from her new apartment… it was absolutely to die for.
Never had Mona seen such a variety of fruits and vegetables, aisles and aisles of amazing foods and superfoods. And great prices, too.
Well, just when Mona was thinking ‘how lucky she was’, her life was turned upside down. By the lockdown. Sure, there had been news reports about some virus spreading in China, but it seemed like a faraway event. Until, all of a sudden, it was at your own doorstep. One day it was ‘just 2 cases’, a few days later ‘getting out of hand’.
“Work from home,” was the terse instruction from the office.
“Jump onto a plane and come back!” her mother implored. But it was too late. Flights had been suspended, and no one knew when they would restart.
Well, at least I must stock up on groceries, she thought. And headed out with a long list in hand.
As expected, there was a queue outside the store, and only a handful of shoppers were allowed inside at a time. After a half-hour wait, when it was finally Mona’s turn, she was in for a shock.
The guard shouted a racial slur and blocked her way. The shoppers behind her nodded in agreement.
“Go back home, you dirty foreigner,” they yelled, “We don’t want you here.”
Tears pricked Mona’s eyes. She had heard of ‘xenophobia’ but never experienced it. How small and powerless she felt, at this moment.
The next morning, US citizen Mona Williams received a call from the police commissioner of Hyderabad city.
“Madam, we are very, very sorry to hear about this incident. There is a rumour that foreigners are spreading coronavirus… so people are scared… it is very wrong.”
Mona sighed… was it payback from the Universe? A world where White is the new Black.