A salute to the little heroes of pandemic
Bus rides to and from school was one of my favourite part of school years.
A few images stay with you for a long time, rather they haunt you. As I pen this down, my mind is clogged with pictures of ordinary events of the times we’re living in — of kids attending classes, playing in the soccer fields, and boarding school buses. A particular one that leaves me edgy is that of a seven-year-old boy seated in his school bus. He’s in the lovely school uniform, white and grey; he’s wearing a face shield. Next to him, lies his backpack, with a hand sanitiser holder hanging from it. He’s alone, on the seat next to him is a sticker that reads: Thank You for Social Distancing, with arrows in red jutting out and indicating the distance, six feet apart. I am not sure if the kid knows how to spell out the word distancing, or maybe he too, like many others, has become Covid-literate and his vocabulary now includes hard-to-spell words like quarantine, efficacy, and pandemic.
Bus rides to and from school was one of my favourite part of school years. We’d fill in each other on everything that we hadn’t managed to share during the morning assembly, lunch break, zero periods, or in between classes. The friendships born out of these rides had no barriers — we could befriend seniors as well. As we speak, a large population of the children are still at home, for safety reasons. It worries me — how does one go about without talking nonstop on a bus ride; worse not seeing school friends, the only ones, who get the inside jokes, for an entire academic year? And yet, go about writing exams online, celebrating birthdays without distributing candies, and fist-bumping in the air to greet friends. It also makes me wonder – where are these kids getting their courage, maturity and patience from? From where I stand, I can only salute them for being truly heroic. For whilst as adults, we found a respite in Netflix, many of us, rightfully, put time restrictions on screen time for our children, who are already spending nine plus hours, attending to digital school. We relied heavily on chatting apps to stay connected, as we realised that children don’t have a lot to say to each other on Google Meets, as their idea is to play and not merely exchange pleasantries.
I’ll leave you with an anecdote which too, like the images, will live with me for long. The other day, a child shared with me how she and her friend were having a sleepover, I was curious and worried. She added, how both would log in to Zoom at 9.30 pm on a Thursday night, eat potato crisps and cupcakes for dinner, show each other their new LEGO blocks, and sleep not before 12! She was excited, having both accepted what lay ahead and finding joy in the pixels. In the midst of all this, when I hear the adults complain of pandemic fatigue, and hence the need to ‘catch-up’ with one another — at homes, in clubs, and more — my heart goes out to these children who have gone without a play date for a year, who are on the soccer field kicking the ball as they are masked, who have been told to stay away from the swings, who can’t hug their BFFs…
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