Monday morning. 5 a.m. Doorbell rings. P. opened the door for his maid. She used to come for cleaning and cooking. After a quick nap again, shower and some breakfast, P. left for office. He was a top-notch executive in a MNC and had a busy schedule stocked with meetings - professional and social.
His breakfast was simple, mostly quick fix cereal or if there was time the maid could make a quick one for him. Lunch was outside. Dinner was a mix of self cooking, maid (if he reached home on time from work) or at a friend's place. All this unless he was travelling (for work or pleasure), which meant more fancy meals and more socializing.
He had friends, many friends and weekends were busy too - celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, successes or just catching up. Along with this, golf found a prominent place in his weekend routine, with one day almost entirely dedicated to the game and the ritual post game meal with fellow golfers, shower, nap and a dinner out with someone.
Living alone, he did not have much to bother about. Basics were looked after and his life was a tizzy running between office, social commitments and occasional commitments towards parents, living far away in a smaller town.
If anyone from outside this circle had asked him for anything that time, he would have refused, citing lack of time due to multiple commitments. He genuinely had no time to look beyond the secure comfort of his circle and he didn't need to look either. Life was good and this bliss seemed poised to last forever, well into post-retirement age. Till suddenly Covid struck and India went into a lockdown overnight.
The lockdown was announced for 21 days. On the face of it, it didn't seem like a very daunting task. P. was actually to have a break from his routine; he used this time well to catch up on sleep, cook for himself, exercise and just unwind. His friends were most helpful during this phase. Someone was always inviting him over for meals or spending the free time.
A., a close friend - same college, golf lover, lived nearby, next to family for P. -even offered him to shift to his house for the lockdown period. It seemed like a 3 weeks holiday, till the lockdown was extended to another 2 weeks and then expected for another 4 and longer. That's when life started showing a new side.
He lived alone and with no one to continuously engage with, his mind started calming down. Everyone he knew started getting busier with the lockdown life and grappling with life without household help as well as increased family time, and in the process the invitations to meet, eat and stay started dimming till they nearly ended. He wasn't sure who to reach out to, everyone he knew had families and kids to look after and parents were far. His own life got lonelier, tasks tougher, meals harder to cook and slowly the fatigue of work and isolation started creeping into him.
Suddenly, one evening the door bell rang again. Surprised, he opened the door to find a lady standing there. He knew she lived next door, an immediate neighbour, and had a small son which he had seen on his way to work or back. Apart from a courtesy nod of head incase they did cross paths, he remembered absolutely no interaction with her. And hence a bigger surprise to see her at the door.
Very deliberately and hesitantly she asked if he could help her son with his school e-learning. With the schools shut and learning shifting online, she wasn't able to help her son handle his academics.
He helped the boy out and was wondering at the digital divide that still existed. In his world, everyone was adept at technology. But there were people who weren't, always have been. His life had made him lose touch with the larger reality and with those he could help in small
He came back home toying with these thoughts and wondering why it was nearing dinner time again. The thought of toiling again for his meal after a rough day at work wasn't very appealing. Closer to dinner time, the bell rang again. This time it was the neighbour boy with a tray of food. "Mummy has sent dinner for you", he said. Clearly a small thank you gesture from her and also a realization that he is all alone. For him, it was a huge relief.
The next day when the doorbell rang again, the boy was back with another meal and wanting to spend sometime with him at his place. He had enjoyed his interaction with P. and was wondering if they could play together. P., on his part, liked kids and more than that was happy to have some company in his now lonely life.
They got along well and spent time chatting, playing games, watching and eating chocolates. It was a good day after a long time and P. felt better with some mindless innocent chit chat for a change.
And since that day, the daily meal was a ritual along with the game time with the new little friend.
When life got difficult, he found support in the unlikeliest of people, while his comfort circle had dissipated. Life had dawned a new meaning on P. - of making some time for people beyond the current circle, of taking a step towards those who seem different, of taking a break and reconnecting with the world outside his own.
(Author is a mother, an MBA graduate and part-time research consultant, currently residing in Dubai)