Do hardships make us stronger? An Open Letter in the Lockdown of Hope.

Anukrti Upadhyay
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Anukrti Upadhyay

Locked inside the house for more than a month now, it’s the birds, the trees, the changing seasons, and some persistent old memories that keep author, Anukrti Upadhyay, company. Is everyone experiencing the same gamut of feelings, she wonders, in this letter about the passage of time and life. 


In these days of isolation, I feel an urge to write you a letter, a letter that would capture my bewilderment, disbelief, anxiety, hope, sadness, joy, peace. A letter, in short, about life as it is and as it passes. 

Summer has arrived, I want to write, the leaves have lost their spring softness, their green has turned deeper, hardier. They are no longer fragile, easily bruised. The summer sun’s harshness has made them robust. Does that happen to us too, I wonder? Do the hardships make us stronger, the famed immunity of drinkers of polluted water and dwellers in unsanitary conditions which scientists have begun speculating about? Still, the loss of that early tenderness of newly emerged leaves fills me with sadness. I will celebrate hardiness another time. For now, I am willing to barter it for freshness and for freedom.

The trees around my windows have greened the sunlight, I want to write, the pair of Indian grey hornbills has returned this afternoon to roost among the areca-nut palms. The fruit has ripened and turned from pale green to yellow-orange to aubergine-black. One of the hornbills plucks a fruit in its sharp, hooked beak. The other one swings on a branch above. Opening its broad grey pinions, it lifts its long grey neck and calls out, a raucous, harsh call. The first one hastily swallows the fruit and responds. They mate for life, these hornbills, and their togetherness is natural, effortless, I want to say, as is ours. The microbe driving us apart into unnatural isolations cannot succeed. We will find ways of reaching each other, through the ether and through dreams. 

As the mid-day heat builds, I set out bowls filled with water to quench the thirst of the birds. The water-bowl I have placed on the planter beneath my window is claimed by a raven. It is a large bird. Its glossy jet-black plumage gleams with notes of blue in the sunlight. Its beady eye trained on me, it dips its ebony beak into the water. It drinks unhurriedly and flies away. I feel the air stirred by its wings on my face. This brief breeze reminds me of the wind one morning on Marine Drive. I remember the sudden flutter causing me to squeeze my eyes shut, I remember the laughter, warm and bright like the morning itself. Do you remember the morning and the wind and the laughter as well, I want to ask, for old memories are all important when there is no assurance of creating new ones. Memories imbue these anxious days with hope and with the joy of hope. 

For the longest while I had believed that words mean everything. Only recently did I learn that it is actually the silence between words that makes the words meaningful. A sounding silence spattered sparsely with words. These days, as silence stretches between us, I pretend that it is the silence between the words that will eventually and inevitably follow. Like monsoon follows the summer heat. No pandemic can stop the cycle of seasons. Our hearts have seasons too. I will wait for the season to turn and our hearts to renew. For I am certain that everything will renew and flow again in a deeper, richer stream. 

I know my wait will not be futile and while I wait for your words, I want to write this letter to you and tell you that hopes joined with prayers are a promise of fruitfulness. There cannot be a lock down on hopes, I want to say, or on prayers or promises. 

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