August 17, 18, 19 of 2021: And thus the story changes

August 17, 18, 19 of 2021: And thus the story changes. It has been raining a lot. Interrupts the flow of life which has taken on a continuous characteristic where the incredible variety of tasks seem to collapse on the limited time that physics, conniving with biology, allows me. All of a sudden, the narrative of normality has become real. This is not a drill. Real people in real places are doing real things now in the real world. I am dragged out of the virtualized that I inhabited for some time. The lines near the night clubs of Sector 5 are real as a newfound freedom has settled into the city where the limits of freedom have been extended two hours into the night. The limits of freedom are being tested in every space I am connected with. New living space, new mate in the room, roaming the hallways, looking for the laundry, access to a wheelchair, the need for feeding tubes, the restlessness of the uncertainty that awaits us. These things happen in my spaces. Everyone is wanting to break free of something, those things that were denied, those things that were offered. Break free of all of that. At every space I dwell in, new kinds of freedom are being sought and found. As a bondhu WhatsApped me, “Ur life u decide.” This has been the illusion that many of us like to hold on to. As in many things the pandemic shook up this illusion sometimes in unexpected ways. Travelling internationally in October 2020. My life, me decide. Not allowed to leave the house in April 2021. My life me decide? The choices that the pandemic created and took away are now quickly disappearing because the pandemic is “gone.” Autonomy and the sense of agency was also shaken up in the last 18 months, in some areas all autonomy disappeared, and in some domains a new sense of autonomy was offered. But now with the pandemic “gone,” I am restricted in “my life me decide,” because there are other forces at work, some of which might have been strengthened by the pandemic, who have great power to impose their stories on me. All seem to want to use the pandemic to create their own narratives to explain the world that we have been living in for the past 18 months. The question is which story wins to answer questions: Why does he travel to India in the middle of a pandemic? Why is online teaching unacceptable? Will I be able to show my face in public? During the pandemic there were different answers to such questions because the pandemic seemed to have opened the space for many stories to be told. But that opening is now shut, today, most stories begin with the words, “because of the pandemic…but now…” and then it is completed by anyone who has authority over you to complete it. Authority has often been amorphous and derived from a conventional sense of normality. And the pandemic threatened the normal and conventional. Now that the threat has been wiped under the carpet, authority comes back. Order is restored and autonomy is sacrificed. Now things are normal, the narrative has been controlled. This is why the narrative of the pandemic must eventually be erased from our memories. Because in many ways it threatened the systems of authority as does any moment of interruption. Now we must believe the interruption is over. All is well. But the glass still shatters for the people in glass houses as stray stones get lobbed. Mask mandate tomorrow. Yes, really, by law. Fleetwood Mac once warned. “Another lonely day/You can go your own way/Go your own way.”

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