A familial pandemic

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By Huda Mohammad

Sitting on my workstation on a Sunday evening, I look around for some mental relief amidst the pressure of trying to meet my assignment deadlines. My mother stands next to me, stating I should join the family since it is Bon’ Appetite time. I give her my ‘I am in the middle of something’ look and she is quick to retort, “You always end up doing tasks at the last moment? You are even the last one in the house to have dinner”. She smirks while saying this and leaves. While my mind thinks about a comeback to this statement, of how the pandemic has burdened most of us with assignments, it also makes peace with the fact that my mother is absolutely right. But then, ideally what would a family who has such a wonderfully talented daughter like me do? They’d obviously praise the daughter for working hard all the time, and when they see their child struggling with deadlines, they try to help them out.

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My family is quite the opposite you know, as we truly believe in ‘Do your own work’. I, would like to put it more aptly – which is, ‘Apna Apna Dekh Lo’. Since the past one week, I have been screaming my lungs out, clearly stating about my deadlines and how I didn’t want to be disturbed until then.

Today morning, my father woke up and came to inquire, “Hogaya? (Have you completed your work?) Come let’s go on the terrace for some fresh air.” I told him if I fail the semester, he will once again have to pay eighty-six thousand rupees for my fees. Dad casually shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘Paisa kya hai, haath ka mael (dirt). Kharch kar dena chahiye. Lo, tum juice piyo.” (Money is meant to be spent. Don’t worry and drink some juice.)

I literally pinched myself to believe what I had just heard. This wasn’t exactly the kind of support I was looking for (I would rather have them help me in my assignments), and I am sure my dad would be the first one to reprimand if he knew I failed, but nevertheless, at least his words sounded good and made me feel much better.

I told him I had a brilliant plan to save his money. I needed to shoot a slow motion video for one of my elective subjects this semester. I had the idea chalked out in my mind and now required his help for execution. The idea was to fill few balloons with water and burst them one by one. I would shoot the entire act on slow motion, capturing the detailed effect of water splashing. But you see, the plan is never the difficult part, the execution is.

Tagging my younger sister along, we went on the terrace to shoot. Covid-19 has literally taken us from global to local, from the scenic outer world to the unplastered walls of my terrace. After filling balloons and placing them in the right position, I asked my sister and dad to burst them so I could record. Now the real problem lies over here. Prima facie everyone in the family is eager to help but the truth is that no one really wants to move a bone. Well, lockdown and lazing around is the best combination ever, because one doesn’t even feel guilty for being unproductive. After hours of begging and agreeing that I’ll name my future children after my younger sister’s name, she finally agreed to help me in the video. The video was shot, and the output, well, it was horrible. From my framing to the background lighting, nothing seemed to be in sync with each other. My sister concluded, ‘Artist bahut achchey hain, lekin director hee kharab ho toh kya kar sakte hain.” (We are great artists, but you are a terrible director.)

I was disappointed. Not just because of my terrible skills but because I had to meet a deadline and it made me anxious. An entire year rested on my assignments and I could fail if I didn’t submit on time. All the balloons were used up by then. I picked up the residue to head back towards my workstation. My father saw the look on my face and said, “Go back and work on your assignments. I’ll buy more balloons and re-shoot everything. Just leave your cell phone here.” I looked at him and smiled. With a faint voice, I told him he didn’t have to re-do it for me and that I would manage with whatever we had recorded. My father always understood those feelings that lied behind my faint voice. He said there was no harm in trying once again. “Mausam itna acha ho raha hai, aur waise bhi humlogo ke paas kuch kaam hai toh nahi. Enjoy hee kar rahey hain yeh task”, he said (We are enjoying doing your assignment since the weather is pleasant). I gave him a wide grin, hugged him and gleefully went back to finish my other assignments. My younger sister did make weird faces and gave me deadly looks for loading her with work, but the poor thing couldn’t do much, because after all, lockdown didn’t just mean isolation, it also meant spending good family time.

 

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