In my Utopia….
by Pavithra Jaivant
As I drop my children off at school, I don’t think twice before hugging a friend that has become family over the years as we greet each other that morning, which happens to be her birthday. My children are playfully wrestling with their friends as they play a quick game of tag before the bell goes off for them to go into their classrooms. One of the children sneezes three times in quick succession and someone says ‘Bless you’ but no one thinks it could be anything more than dust irritating his sensitive nose.
A gardener who works at the school is retiring that day and a group of us have come together to give him a little retirement gift and we don’t panic inwardly as he shakes hands with our children saying ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’.
I see a mother who looks new to the school. She doesn’t seem to know anyone and seems a little nervous. I catch her eye and smile at her and she instantly relaxes and smiles back because she can see my smile which is not hidden under a mask.
One of my children’s friends has had a baby sister. She is three months old and has come to school for the first time and a few of her brother’s friends come to say ‘hello’. Some of them hold her tiny baby hands and no one worries about this. No hand sanitiser has been whipped out of a bag to quickly clean all the hands around.
I go to the supermarket and the friendly merchandiser there helps me pick out the ‘perfect’ avocado for my children as we chat about how his son with a heart ailment is doing back in his hometown.
A few of us friends have decided to play tennis since the weather is so nice and as we finish, we give each other sweaty sideways half hugs like we always have. No one moves away or refrains.
After a couple of hours of work, I book tickets for the upcoming school break. We will go spend a month with my parents and my brother and his family will join us too. My parents are eagerly looking forward to this as am I. I am not wondering when airports will open and once open, when it would be safe to travel. We aren’t concerned that we will catch anything more than a flight on the journey. We aren’t worried if anyone of us is asymptomatically carrying an infection that we would not want to expose our parents to. I won’t hesitate to let my children snuggle their grandparents as soon as we arrive. I wouldn’t be concerned about giving my mother a tight squeeze and my father the half hug that he is used to.
I don’t hesitate to read the newspaper together with my children because it has no stories that will break your heart and make you angry all at once. I am not struggling for words as I try to explain to one of my children why there is a toddler trying to wake her dead mother at a railway station or why a grown man is weeping at not being able to make it home in time to see his dying child.