“I struggled explaining the pandemic to Bhau, my grandfather. He had a hundred questions”

“I struggled explaining the pandemic to Bhau, my grandfather. He had a hundred questions– ‘Why aren’t you going out?’, ‘How will you work?, ‘When will my daughter come to see me?’ I sat him down and explained, ‘For the next few days, we won’t be going out. We will all be together.’ He was just happy that I’d be spending more time with him.

But it was easier said than done. After his health scare last year, Bhau was mostly confined to four walls. And now, because of the lockdown, he was robbed of his morning newspaper, the vitthal temple’s aarti and his afternoon chats with our neighbours.

Bhau had a nanny for help; another maid helped Mumma, my grandmother– I strictly prohibited them from stepping out of the house. Twice a week, I’d run errands and buy groceries. Bhau is 93 and diabetic– I didn’t want to take any chances with his health. So, I restricted myself from hugging them or even going near the kitchen.

As time passed, both my grandparents became anxious. Bhau loves a house full of people and even though he can’t hear properly, he’d just look at everybody chit-chat and smile. But now, even my Masi, who lives nearby, wasn’t able to visit us. To distract Bhau, I’d invite him for a game of chess and crack jokes. He’d tell me his childhood stories and tales about his office.

A few weeks back, our help went to the market and 5 days later, she developed a fever. I was terrified! Even before we got her COVID test results, Bhau was burning with a high fever. ‘I don’t want to scare you but let’s be practical; it might be what you think it is,’ Bhau’s doctor said. Bhau and our help, both tested positive.

Bhau was surprisingly calm when I broke the news to him. But when I told him that Mumma and I would be moving to Masi’s for a while, he was shattered. For the last 65 years, Bhau and Mumma have never been apart– just seeing us around reassured him. But we couldn’t risk Mumma’s health, so I lied that Mumma had to go to the doctor for her knee pain.

Over the next 10 days, he’d call us 3-4 times a day and ask– ‘Is Mumma fine?’, ‘When are you coming to meet me?’, ‘Are you coming tomorrow?’ Mumma’s very strong; but this time, I could feel that she was longing to be reunited with Bhau.

Miraculously, Bhau recovered–10 days later, he tested negative. When Mumma and I moved back, he almost ran towards her with a wide smile and touched her head affectionately. Bhau and I hugged each other tightly.

It’s been an emotional rollercoaster but the silver lining in all this is that we got to spend a lot of time together. We’ve become closer; I’ve learnt to read their silences. And he keeps saying this to me, ‘I’m at least going to hit a century; not going to leave you so soon!’’

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