Is it isolation or room service?

Is it isolation or room service?

Mirror on the Wall  

I’m getting a fever, he called her aside and said in a low whisper. They exchanged glances. What next? Is it that? Both didn’t want to utter the C-word. I will isolate myself in a room just in case — let us wait and watch, but take all precautions, he said. Yes, they decided that is best.

After all, children were getting ready for exams and this should not affect them. He went into the room. Later on, it was explained to the children. He informed his colleagues that he will not come to work. They were concerned, but they pacified him “Don’t worry, it will be nothing. Meanwhile, enjoy all the room service.” He shared this and asked her — what do we do, let us find out how to do this room isolation. This is not just room service, right?

Her mind raced. Not one, two, but several years back. She remembered her mother and sister going off to a corner of the room every now and then and asking her to get this and that. As a very young girl, she wanted to graduate to that very soon. Don’t wish for this, her mother said. She heard whispers amongst her friends about “getting big”. And finally, after a day of a new kind of pain, she got it and yes, she graduated to that corner. Oh yes, my turn to demand room service, she thought!

You will keep a separate set of vessels with you — food will be dropped on to them — no touching of vessels. She started hearing more Dos and Don’ts — No, you are not supposed to access the toilet from inside the house, use the outside one. No, you are big now and shouldn’t be scared of the dark.

Touch me not

Her friend came to play with her — no playing, you can sit far from each other and talk. Her cousin came with a toddler who would normally rush to play with her. No touching, stay away from him! No going outside this corner, they said. And then, night happened. No, you are not supposed to sleep on your mattress. Get the spare carpet from the shed and sleep in this corner. She begged — I have never slept alone, I feel scared. Well, you are lucky you are able to sleep in the same house, the grandmother said. In our days, we had a common room at the end of the street and we had to stay there for three days! What will happen if I touch you, she asked. Touching — you should not even come near us, the grandmother was very clear! Did her mother and sister also go through this, she wondered. She had thought they were getting room service!

  Shouldn’t we find out how to do the room isolation, he asked? No, I know it, she said leaving a set of plate and glass near his door! Isolation or room service? We have been doing this to our young girls for ages! It is one thing to follow doctor’s advice in the context of a pandemic, but what to talk of the practices we follow? Isn’t this the starting of discrimination, that too from our own homes? It starts here, right in our homes and then extends to the larger society. Isn’t it high time we throw out this excess baggage from our past?

(The author is the host of a podcast that examines challenges faced by today’s Indian woman. She proposes actionable strategies set in the Indian context.)