Written by: Naqiya Mufaddal

Walls have concerned me since the lockdown. In particular, the formation and dissolution of them. As Covid-19 breaks down defense mechanisms and leaves in its wake a defenseless society, faith has erected a shield of fortification around me that I had never imagined.

I’ve always believed learning should be an existential experience. Learning is constant, however to know yet not put into action, defeats the purpose. While we have always been taught to acquiesce willingly to our destiny, even then, it took five months of quarantine for me to finally value and grasp what was right before me. To learn acceptance and graciousness. With most of our normal routine halted during the lockdown, the extra time gave space to a lot of thoughts that wouldn’t have made it to the surface amidst the daily hum drum. Dormant woes about not living in a closed society with amenities were washed away as I began to appreciate the freedom of movement my independent home offered. Having always grumbled about my husband’s long work hours with the office being situated below our home, its proximity allowed him to still ‘go to work’ during the months of lockdown. Additionally, its numerous cubicles offered invaluable relief spots outside the house to my frenzied school-going children.

Similarly, although my relationship with my neighbours over the years has been courteous, it was also complacent. The brotherhood of devotion that we shared became an agent of such compassion and care, that it set forth a series of shared meals, aid and conversations that had never seen light for over twenty years.

As a homemaker and mother, the struggle has been real. Yet somehow, I am tired – but not distressed. I am overworked – but not frazzled. There is an unyielding presence of solace and contentment that has descended in our homes which has taken firm root. My children tell me that when they speak to me now, I listen. My husband and I have had an opportunity to share and collaborate together like we have never done before. We are rediscovering who we are as a unit and where we wish to go. So many of my own apprehensions too have dissipated. Cooking was something I found tedious and messy. Surprisingly, once I overcame this mental taboo, to lay down food every day for my family that they consume heartily has been one of the most gratifying experiences. The world of domestic culinary affairs no longer frightens me.

Life in Mumbai can make you selfish, everything is so difficult, the city’s pace unbearably fast. The enforced pause on life has been a welcome relief. Have I had time for myself? Barely. But time to reflect and be grateful for, most definitely. The holy months of Ramadan, followed by Muharram passed during the lockdown. It had us up almost all night in prayer with several intersections that encompassed a lot of community engagement and service. Our days were filled with sermons and sessions on introspection and discussions on how to advance academically, mentally, physically and spiritually. I was humbled to experience first-hand how a small team of phenomenal workers volunteered to help those affected by the turn of events. Funds poured in, armies moved and help would arrive. In each and every instance, I witnessed the astounding swiftness at which relief was executed.

Over the past few months, at times my tears have wrung forth due to exhaustion, at others, out of frustration. But now I find myself primarily shedding tears of gratitude. This quarantine period has become a time to sit back and reflect on my purpose in life. It has led me to discover so many truths. To what matters the most, really. What things make our lives the most meaningful. The sweet triumph of hard labour. The sustenance that a home cooked meal offers. The bonds formed when people actually spend time with each other. The value of family. The nourishment of prayer. And the collective heart of humanity.

It’s not been a path paved with cherry blossoms, but it has led to exquisiteness of another kind.