Women indoors

I’ve been in lockdown the same as everyone else in the world—everyone who doesn’t work in essential services, that is. For the first time in my life, I have effectively been relegated to ambling around my mind-numbingly ordinary flat. I am not a person who particularly enjoys living in flats. I’ve always been comfortable in my childhood home, a house on a busy street, with a balcony and a roof to walk on. There even used to be a garden up there in my childhood. On the south side of our roof, we have a few small rooms tucked away, a space for one to live in, if one wishes to avoid everyone else in the house.

In contrast, my flat is located in a quiet neighbourhood, where people speak in foreign tongues. The staircase in the building is narrow and winding, and every trip I make on it feels precariously close to peril. I go outside at least once a day, if only to just walk round the children’s park nearby. There’s always people out here, getting their dinners from the local Chinese. And during the day, people cycle to the pharmacy next door, queueing in a slightly crooked manner so as to not obstruct the footpath completely. But they’re rarely faces I can recognise as regulars. To me, the faces that walk in and out of the shops near me have all blended into one pale face with a crowning head of gold. The fair hair and pale skin stands out in the gloomy vision that this town presents. My dark skin and dark hair blend into it, and I have always been a bit grey and sallow.

I’ve been pondering at length about Tagorean heroines, the Charulatas and Binodinis and Bimalas. I prided myself on being a dynamic young woman of the 21st century, living off my own pay cheque, travelling around the continent like there’s nothing to be afraid of. The pandemic has successfully reigned in my restless feet, and entrapped me within the flat, turning me into a modern Charulata. Single, bored, uninspired and feeling unseen. Is this what women inevitably end up as? Forgettably beige?

Predictably, the only woman I can think of whenever I think of women is my mother. Mum didn’t work outside home and toiled endlessly within it. She still does, but there’s more discontent in her now than there was a decade ago. Today she often talks about feeling like her life was spent without meaning. I find that I have little to no comfort to offer.

How does one define meaning in life? What accomplishments are worthy and which ones aren’t? I personally find thespians and performers in general highly impressive, I feel their contribution to society and culture tends to be unparalleled. In contrast, I have friends who tend to see more worth in the doctors and project managers of the world and while I disagree, I don’t have enough reason to disregard their beliefs.

Of course, everyone’s life has been thrown off piste, and so we stare out our windows with glassy eyes and drawn faces, waiting for some respite, some reprieve from it all. It’s not coming.