By Akash Paira
It’s June. The monsoon has arrived already in Kolkata. They say monsoon is here this year on time, unlike the last few years. Well, a lot more happened this year . People are quarantined in India for almost 3 months now. A deadly virus outbreak has stopped the world temporarily (hopefully). Today is the 22nd day of June. Looking at my hanging calendar, I counted the days. It has already been a month since Cyclone Amphan hit coastal West Bengal with a wind speed up to 185 km per hour. Large parts of south Bengal (in eight districts) plunged into darkness as more than 1.5 lakh km of power lines, including 30,000 km of high tension wire, snapped.
And the Power supply in some areas in West Bengal (including Kolkata) has not been properly restored even now. We often face sudden power cuts. For the past few days, when there is a power cut, I have been going to the terrace. There, I watch the floating clouds, which look like foam, against the blue sky, or the multi-coloured sunsets and my absolute favourite: the stars at night. For the past few years, the city sky was not clearly visible to us due to heavy pollution. Perhaps, because we were so busy in life, we didn’t get a chance to catch these moments in our routined life.
It was raining today. I couldn’t but be in my room. It had been almost 2 hours since the electricians had begun fixing the electric pole. Nowadays, we are so dependent on the internet, mobile phones and our gadgets that we feel helpless when any of them are not working. I was also getting bored, wandering from one room to another.
It was then that I remembered that I had a radio that I almost forgot I owned and hadn’t played for 2 years. All of our favourite songs are now available on online streaming platforms. Quite naturally, we no longer want the radio, let alone need it. I found the radio in my loft. It was working fine. For the past few days, the news of the Indo-China clash near the borders has been making the rounds. In almost every station, the discussions were the same. I visited the loft again, and this time, I found my oil pastel box which I hadn’t touched for 8 years. I have been so busy in my work life, that I haven’t quite had the chance. I looked at my window and it was still raining. The air was ripe with the pleasant petrichor of the rain. Everything felt so calm. It was as if everything had slowed down. It felt like the part of me that was almost machine-like was being denied its power supply. Hence, the part that appreciates leisure, paints, listens to the radio, wanders about, took over.
I was out of practice. I almost gave up on this piece for a number of times. I had to remind myself that painting required patience. That I used to have adequate supplies of patience when I had started out. That I used to be an avid reader who could finish novels in a weekend’s time. How much of myself have I really lost over the years?
I returned to my desk, picked up the colours and started to draw again, slowly. Slowly, like the rain drops from the sky to the earth. Slowly, like the cool breeze that flows through my window. Slowly, like nature healing herself.
I finished my painting with slow, patient strokes. I have made better paintings. But this one is special. This one reminded me of the person I could have been if I hadn’t lost myself along the way. The lockdown has changed me so much. And I guess they are right when they say that we are not going to be the same when we walk out of these extremely trying times.
Akash Paira is an ordinary person with an extraordinary dream. He is an IT professional by vocation, a wanderer by aspiration and a couch potato by circumstances.
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