27 March 2020

We might as well arrest the house!

We don’t say ‘lock-down’ yet, but that’s what it is. For now, in fits and starts, but who can tell if curfew will become a regular feature of our lives? And who can tell for how long? We are in uncharted territory on this. It’s a different kind of intrusion, a different kind of phenomenon that terrorizes us.

Our movements are restricted until whenever. Maybe we should focus on the can-do things. Maybe that’s what we are all doing, happily or unhappily. It’s unusual obviously. Routines have been wrecked, especially those that require us to leave home. So, essentially, we are under house-arrest.

It’s not new though. We’ve lived through terrible times. Most people would remember the three-decades long war. Most would have seen some of it or rather experienced its effect. The older segments of the population would remember the 88-89 bheeshanaya or that terror-time which spared no one. The older segments of the population would remember the dark days of July 1983 and those  of April 1971, even though they were of a much lighter shade than what the country experienced at the end of the 1980s. The point is, it’s not new. It could get worse, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves apart from doing the basic; the precautions advocated have to be religiously adhered to. That’s non-negotiable.

House-arrest. That’s what we have been subjected to. A friend called a short while ago and said he’s bored. He’s young. Single. Lives with his parents. I doubt he ever cooks. He spends most of his time outside the house, so his boredom is understandable. It’s the same for us.

Now that we are home, maybe we can re-think what ‘being at home’ means. What makes a home and what is our contribution to that making? Well, everyone will have an answer and each would be unique. There tends to be a division of labor in the household. Some do certain things, others attend to other tasks. We all have our niche in terms of routine tasks. Some pull their weight, others are oblivious to weight and pull.

Arresting the house, so to speak, is about moving out of routine. First of all, being under house arrest gives us the opportunity to play catch-up. We can attend to things we’ve neglected or put off doing on account of being busy doing other things or simply because of sloth. Chores are not always things that give us joy, after all.

Let’s assume we’ve done the catching up. Now what? Now, we explore.

We venture into areas that have become foreign simply on account of non-engagement, the things that are typically attended to by someone else. Taking care of course not to step on toes, for sometimes people are territorial. But then again there are always the common areas, the no-man’s-lands, the uncleared areas that have not or cannot be claimed by one individual. Even in the tiniest of houses.

There are cobwebs that need to be cleared, in the hard-to-reach places of every room and wall, and in the least visited or forgotten places of the heart and mind. There are books unread because we didn’t have time or whose existence we’ve forgotten. There are always things to fix. There’s always something you wanted to plant but didn’t. And there could be things you never planned to grow but can or perhaps should considering the circumstances. Spinach, winged-bean, bitter-gourd, ladies’ fingers, chillies, ridge-gourd, brinjals, manioc, sweet potato and some leafy greens, for example.

There’s always a rearrangement plan you never got to implement. There’s a story you wanted to write but couldn’t, something you wanted to discuss but shelved because the diurnal always interrupted.

Did we notice the grass outside? Did we hear the birds at dawn or how silence slowly but surely dominated the night with its music? When last did we gaze upon the sky and realized how time paints and repaints that celestial canvass with color, cloud and star?

House. That’s also ourselves. And that’s something that we could explore through the lengthiest of curfews and never really completely understand. There’s poetry and music. There’s dynamic art. There’s sculpture that’s evolving. All around us and within the house. Houses can be arrested and can arrest in wonderful ways. 

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News' on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week]

The 'village' in the 'city' has more heart than concrete
Heroes of our times Let's start with the credits, shall we?   
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing
Is the old house still standing? 

 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds
Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ already a hurricane hunter 
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo? 
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Angeles
A dusk song for Rasika Jayakody  
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays   
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry
Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop 
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?
Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies