Rhea is a final-year undergraduate student studying Political Science at the University of Delhi. She usually only gets to come home (Guwahati) twice a year. She loves capturing candid moments where the subjects aren't looking into the camera but are going about their everyday tasks. She believes that no one story should be privileged over another and each life is worth documenting.
My divorced aunt (Jethai) and widowed maternal grandmother (Aita) live together. Aita said that she wasn't feeling well and, Ma and I came to check on her. Her face brightened upon seeing us, she claimed that she was too strong to fall ill, let alone fall prey to COVID-19. It wasn't a disease that was causing her health to deteriorate, it was this absolute isolation from the world that was slowly exhausting her.
Keeping Aita safe meant detaching her entirely from an otherwise busy schedule— she was the President of the apartment complex she lives in and also the adjacent by-lanes, a task she took very seriously. She would regularly play cards with her friends too. Times are tough now and finances aren't stable, a lot of heated words are exchanged at times. Homogeneity of her daily company doesn't help the case either.
Aita has stitched herself a few masks to go with her various outfits. She is excited to wear them once she gets to go out. She didn't like the N-95 masks that my Jethai had gotten for her. I'm sure she didn't like how they almost obscured half her face, probably even reminded her of her visits to the hospital. Who would want to live with a constant reminder of that? She said she plans to embroider a few flowers on her masks too.
Another time, we visited Aita and video called a few of our relatives. Nothing can replace face to face conversations but technology tries to bridge that gap to a certain extent. At least for a span of five minutes, the world doesn't seem so big and inaccessible anymore;, at least for five minutes Aita and I laugh and forget about the wraths of a pandemic.