We are near the end of monsoon. Of kharif season as well. Crops are close to harvest. Need more dry days than rain now. One learns very quickly here. Of what is beyond control and what can be helped.
These walks to the second farm have been instructive – from landscape’s understanding to life lessons. Was carefully walking the trail through farms in June, with a barely healed leg. There was a mild limp with left leg stepping in to offset load on right.
It is September. In the slushy, water logged trail, the injured leg is taking on all the variations well. Thought of ultrarunning this evening with a sense of certainty that has not been felt since a while.
There’s a cycle coming to an end. At several levels. Thankful. To be walking here. To be feeling this way.
Picking cherry tomatoes on the farm. Marveling at the profusion of growth all around. There’s barely anything here that does not change. Stepping in, everyday, one welcomes change. Not resent.
Intended to ride. About to leave in the evening and it begins raining hard. Mind went back to Baralach La when as we reached the summit, icy wind came along with rain. It didn’t allow any response time to even get down to the nearest settlement. Soaked. Cold. And shivering. The settlement lay in the valley. A few restaurant tents stood inna cluster. Was glad for it. Arrived. Removed all the clothes and got into the sleeping bag, to steady ourselves having managed to cut off from the wind, rain and temperature which was dipping sub-zero.
Cutting back to the evening here, the rain fell in perspective. Changed to MTB and rode out in rain. Waded little water streams all through. Plenty of muddy stretches and under construction roads later, finished at night with 68k on the odo.
Stopped in a village and ate four bananas off a cart. That’s the only stop, besides one on the waterline.
No music. Enjoyed the silence for four hours. It had been an evening of gorgeous landscapes and silent trails.
Brief: You are writing this entry in September 2023. The world has been in lockdown for three years. Besides sporadic trips to the grocery, you have not seen the outside world. Your exercise is to write a piece about your three years in lockdown. It could be in narrative form, like you are telling a story, in any tense you like. It could be a reflective essay. It could be any form you choose, in fact. But you must meet the following conditions:
1. Every sentence should either go forward or go deeper. In Vonnegut’s words, advance action or reveal character.
2. Don’t use any word with more than two syllables.
3. Don’t use adverbs or adjectives.
Fourth step from kitchen lands into the office. Three steps from the office is the bedroom. There is the possibility of an outdoor trip two steps on the other side of the bed. I feel like a tiny man in a Rajputana miniature – a compressed landscape. An outdoor trip is hard to make. In these three years scales have changed. Years. Is it even three? In the experience of them they are three light years. You know, the light from distant stars that we see today set out several thousand years back. Not three calendar years. Each hour is now two. Twenty four is forty eight. There is more work to do. My employer is delighted that no one is caught in traffic. Everyone has two extra hours to commit to office. Faces flash by all day on the two large monitors on my workstation. My colleagues are patterns of LED lights. The monitors are the world. A world reduced to two dimensions. Will my nephew be capable of interacting with his uncle in three dimensions? This worries me. That uncle is a screen. His stubble can’t be touched. His finger can’t be nibbled.
I read business news on the side during Zoom calls. That is the upside. IIt was not possible in the boardrooms and meeting rooms era. A new trend in the apparel market has emerged. Sales of trousers as a part of formal clothing have fallen. This has happened in both – men and women, categories. Fashion brands are worried. Fast fashion as they called it is down to a crawl. Marketing surveys have found that respondents have indicated that they have no use for trousers anymore. “Who needs them when the camera is only on your face?” said a financial analyst who works from home. He works for an investment bank. A class of workers who shopped often earlier. He has been on call with important people wearing only his boxers, he informs.
The industry has reorganised the labour force. We do not have blue collar and white collar workers anymore. There are ‘homers’ who work from home. The rest are ‘corona warriors’ who must get out of their homes to work. Homers tend to have higher life expectancy. Every once in a while there are homers who throw a party and destroy their chances despite surviving for three years. Corona warriors don’t last long. They are just people who ended up in the wrong profession for whatever reason.
I hear that we are fast running out of corona warriors. Statistical models suggest that more people must enter the corona warrior workforce if homers are to survive. Outlasting the coronavirus is possible if the number of corona warriors can be increased. Bollywood’s leading actors have agreed to volunteer for a media appearance in appreciation of corona warriors. They will be seen handing over a certificate to a group of corona warriors pre-screened for Covid-19.
It is evening. The boss has just pushed a few more tasks for the evening since I do not have to take the one hour bus ride home. It is three years in the lockdown and not having to commute is still a good reason. Homers might die from not having to walk more than ten steps a day.
KM 34. Evening ride. A 71km lap. Exhausted in the heat. Pace took a beating on the return leg. The highway is coming back to life.
Beautiful and a typical Central Indian sunset. Sometimes it feels that things would be okay soon. But that could just be endorphins playing up.
Bliss of a ride. The light settled gloriously on the farms.
Penning pandemic days in iambic meter.
- Did you hear the birds sing on a lockdown day?
Ajay Shah remembers his friend Thomas Laubach
“Through the following years, we met Thomas regularly, as he would visit India regularly, and we would coordinate days with him in Delhi and Bombay. He loved walking in Bombay, and his answer to `what would you like to do today’ was always “I want to see Bombay through your eyes“. “
Cities always worked better through someone else’s eyes.
Back after a long ride out in the world. Hangs in there for servicing and fitting the new shifters.
‘How did you manage to break the shifter? ‘
‘I rode a wet, muddy trail after rain. And, crashed.’
‘We usually ask about the crashes when bikes come in for repairs.’