The girl in the red plaid dress

Another morning out. I should give up the pretense of shopping for supplies and see it for what it is, the need to walk. In the absence of ambles in the woods or jaunts around the neighbourhood, I found myself picking threads from little vignettes that played out on the street or the voices and noises from households, some of it, violent. Some threads were ripped from an unruly heart, some from cold waters of reason and much unravelled in letters that remain piled on my desk. But, this is about today and a walk under a summer sun with my beautiful bald pate, a half masked face and skin that drank sunshine.

It’s been a couple of days since the hair came off and with it, everything that weighed this old head down. I suddenly feel ageless and in a manner of speaking, outside of the limitations of gender. It’s liberating in such a primal way as though the rules of convention don’t apply anymore. Perhaps, this is what monks and nuns feel? Them of the beatific smiles and melodious voices.

I’m out in a running singlet and find that my feet want to let go and break into a jog. It’s that kind of a day when the body feels its sinewy strength and there is pleasure to be taken in being alive and strong. I feel the ripple of energy in my back and legs as I move. It reminds me of long walks on the beach with the sun on my face and water lapping against my feet and I wander into memories of the sea and it’s incredible silence. The next face I see reminds me that we’re in the middle of a pandemic and all those images of sunkissed shores are a long way off.

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So I walk, soaking in sights of a changed world. I walk past a school with one hundred windows- all shut, cross a much dead cat with dried skin and ashen ribs that have no takers, watch winding lines outside liquor shops and cops who have given up trying to tame the crowds. The trees are in bloom and I hug one of the Indian Cork ones. They’ll sway in monsoon winds in a few months and their lovely blossoms will make beautiful scents. Again memories, of night time walks in my invisibility cloak. There are people out and about as though it is time to shop for Diwali, most in masks but else in thick groups. Mostly men, some women and no children except the little masked girl in a red plaid dress, walking with her father.

It was a stark reminder of the missing children of a pandemic. And I wanted to mourn for the ones with loving families and those with hateful ones, the ones with food aplenty and those who go hungry, the ones with lovely homes and those who hustle on streets, the ones with friends and those friendless, the ones who dream in colour and those who live nightmares, the ones with pretty smiles and those with haunted eyes, the ones with grand plans and those without, the ones who get cuddles and those who get beaten. I wanted to grieve for all the little children and the unborn who’ve inherited a blighted planet.

Sometimes, the need for a mourning as such is to mourn the fragility of human lives and a poem springs-

I feel the urge to keen

lament in beautiful tongues

that I don’t understand

I want to partake

the bewilderment

Of a species as it mourns

I want to

share their grief and

walk to distanced funerals

And along with all this

I want to keen

for losses of another kind

That of little children

and a lost summer of

urchins and the home schooled

The little masked girl haunts my today. She was the only child I have seen outside in all these days of lockdown. Perhaps it is also a feeble hope after 40 days of suspension that a little girl appears in a red plaid dress.

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