The Viral Veto!


It seemed like a conquest for Umashankar. For the first time after more than a month of continuous stay-home he had ventured out; he had taken this momentous decision considering the utmost necessity of some natural physical movement apart from the arbitrary jumps and jerks he indulged in at home every morning; he had to ensure that he is still a normal man. The infections rose ominously recently and in view of that the restrictions were intensified, not allowing strolls and jogs even within the housing society campus. For a senior person like him stay-home was more severely enforced, both by the society and the members of his family. But he had to feel normal, he decided. So, one afternoon when his wife and daughter-in-law were taking a nap, his son out on emergency office work and his grandson busy with his online classes he ventured out, taking the house keys along.

He felt a bit apprehensive approaching the main gate, but the security guards only stated at him, not saying or questioning anything. Once out of the campus and hitting the lane he was free and enthralled. To make it better, the patrolling cops were also not in sight. Yes, the world did not change permanently in the meanwhile, with more cars, tempos and cabs plying now. Of course, pedestrians were conspicuously less in number and, persons of his age were a rarity. He started walking briskly swinging his hands and flexing his muscles.

In a few minutes Umashankar reached the grocery supermarket, a place he visited so often with his wife or his daughter-in-law. He stopped, feeling tempted to go in and shop as usual. People were going in and coming out; some loading their cars with the ration purchased; some crowding around the staff-desk outside for the compulsory hand-sanitization and thermal check; and some members of staff hurrying here and there checking and supervising. He killed his temptation. No, he cannot afford that, many of the recent infections were traced back to the store and, he, being a senior citizen, must show his love and gratification for his family’s responsible actions.

He looked around and decided to cross the highway. On the other side most of the shops were open. Walking along a service road he noticed that his favorite restaurant was also open, the manager relaxed and yawning behind the counter and a few of the waiters adorning the doorway looking at him hopefully. He stopped, feeling tempted again: he wants to just occupy one of the tables arranged seductively and sparingly too, and order one of his favorite dishes to be packed. No, he cannot afford this, for the same reasons and one more, the virus is believed to last longer on plastic packets. He started walking again. At the crossroads he turned right to the main arterial road which led to the busiest market area.

A few stores of various kinds were open only on one side of the road, and the vegetable-fish-meat market was closed. He saw a tiny tea-stall managed by an old woman open with no sippers around. He felt the urge of having that pleasure again; ah! this simple indulgence now seems like a sought-after luxury. The tea-stall triggered in him a much stronger urge: ah! how desperately he wants to have that indulgence again in open air again, sans the mask. However, to his disappointment or relief, not sure which, those kinds of small shops were still closed, or more correctly, still not allowed to do business. He turned his attention to a stationery store that he frequented, and again felt tempted to do some minimal shopping. No to all, he mutters sternly. He walked on taking the circular road back towards the highway.

As he waited for the signal to turn green at the highway crossing, he observed that the traffic looked almost normal. A half-empty city bus stopped at the stop just on his left, and he felt tempted again to jump in and indulge in that pleasure so sorely missed in the last few months. Further, he thought, the malls are allowed to do business now with strict norms, and so, why not visit the nearest one, only for a change, if not for shopping. Immediately, Umashankar killed that lure too, for the same or similar reasons.

Umashankar started feeling scared: how his now-proven fickle mind has been rather cruelly exposing him to all sorts of impulses, desires and temptations, making him more vulnerable than even his age can do. The moment the signal turned green he crossed over hurriedly in a half-run and started walking back home. The security guards just looked at him, with utter indifference that got further heightened by a yawn.

Reaching his floor, Umashankar quietly inserted the house key and opened the door. His grandson, watching television now, looked up at him ominously. He gave the kid a benevolent smile saying that he just had a look-around in the campus. As he sat down contentedly in the sofa Umashankar felt happy that the daring outing had granted him at least a good opportunity for a natural physical movement.

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