by Mythili Tarakad Seshu
“Haan Ma, hum bahar to nahi jayenge. Tum aur Papa bhi mat jaana. Teek hai baad me baat karte hain. Bye. Bye.”
I hang up the call, already feeling the first headache of the day coming.
Ram comes out of his room, holding his laptop in one hand and a few papers in another.
He has his air pods on and is in a call with his manager, Ravan.
He fixes his new workplace to the dining table for a few hours.
All of us need a change in scenery.
It has been fourteen days since the lockdown started, and it has slowly begun to sink in that this virus is not going anytime soon.
“Bhaiyya, bhabhi, main baahar ja raha hoon,” says Lakshman, evidently sick and tired of being stuck in the house for the entire day.
He came over for a few days and got stuck here due to the lockdown.
Getting some fresh air would be good for him.
Ram just nods, while I give Lakshman a mask and sanitizer, which he accepts gratefully.
“Sithe, thodi chai bana do na.”
I demurely agree, then head off to the kitchen to make Ram a cup of tea.
When will this forced exile end?
“Ma, thoda neeche kar do. Haan, Papa ko de do. Haan, haan, ab theek hai.”
We are having our compulsory weekly family Zoom call.
On the top left of the laptop screen is my respected father-in-law Dashrath, who was constantly fretting over Ram and couldn’t stand the fact that we were unable to visit them at this time.
Next to him my parents, my kind father Janak, who had finally adjusted the phone so that we could see him clearly, and my innocent mother Sunaina, who is still learning the intricacies of technology.
I can see Mandavi and Shrutakirti too, both of them on the phone with their respective husbands, coaxing them to join the call soon.
Urmila and Lakshman are not present, both of them talking to each other privately in the confines of their bedrooms.
Ma Kaushalya, Ma Kaikeyi and Ma Sumitra are also on the call, fussing over us and our health.
As all the elders talk in unison, trying to make sure that all of us are safe, Ram holds my hand.
Maybe this exile will be good for me and Ram.
Maybe we will learn to love each other a little more because of it.
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Cartoon credit: From the Japanese anime ‘Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama’ made by Yugo Sako