Corona took my job and, with that, all my hopes for a better future for my family. Just when I was confident that my daughter would have a future in a better school, corona crushed my and my daughter’s dreams. My wife was not in favor of my decision to enroll our daughter, Sheena, to one of the most prestigious colleges in Delhi. In her backward opinion, girls should focus on cooking, cleaning, and other household chores. I had put my foot down.
“Sheena would not be devoid of a chance at an honorable life,” I told my wife. She did not agree, but it wasn’t her choice. Sheena’s face beamed at my comment, and that was the only reward that I wanted in life. Now that I lost my job, how would I bring back her smile? As it is, I must go back to India. With no job, I wouldn’t survive one day in this country.
A few years back, my uncle offered to help me reach Saudi Arabia. He could not afford to take my whole family with me. Since beggars can’t be choosers, and with me on the verge of becoming one, I decided to take his offer. We had heard all sorts of terrifying things about the country. You know how it is with a rumor mill. Never had I ever believed in baseless gossips. Nevertheless, my wife believed in every piece of information she got from her illiterate relatives. At one point, she worried that they would chop my head off because I wouldn’t know the Arabic language. That day I’ve had enough. I roared at her to buy herself an ounce of commonsense from the Sunday market that she loved so much.
Finally, the day of my departure arrived. Leaving behind my tear-streaked wife and daughter, I left for Saudi Arabia. What other choice did I have? My daily wages amounted to nothing. As I said, I had big dreams for Sheena. Despite my wife’s insistence to let her work as a maid, I sent Sheena off to school every single day. She would study and be a teacher. She would not be a maid. My wife was already working as a maid in multiple houses. Some of her employers treated her well, but most of them, excuse my language, were real jerks. I would never put Sheena through that nonsense, I had vowed since that day she was born.
My uncle introduced me to a wealthy man who needed a driver. The work was a piece of cake. I was required to pick and drop his sons to the school, then get back to his mansion. Trust me, you could not call his house anything less than a palace. Anyway, afterward, I had to be at the beck and call of his wife and parents. I could not believe what they were paying me. Even after working 24*7 in India, I wouldn’t have come close to that much money. I decided to send most of the money off to my wife. I urged her to quit working as a maid. After all, the money that I was sending would help her with the groceries, rent, and Sheena’s school fees. Eventually, she would be in a position to start paying off our debts.
Although language posed embarrassing situations for a while, I did not face a “head-chopping” situation. There were more rumors about Saudi Arabia than facts. If I had brought my wife here, she would have had a hard time with the wardrobe. For men, however, things were more or less the same. I heard that Saudi Arabia had relaxed many strict rules over the years, and that definitely made life easier than ever. Clearly, I landed here just at the right time. Or so I thought.
Altogether life in Saudi Arabia had been good to me. I was determined to break the myths about this country that brought life back to my miserable existence. And then corona happened. The alarming news of a virus hit us like a tsunami. Promptly, Saudi Arabia, like many others, implemented a curfew. The rules here were stricter than I’d heard of other countries. Let’s just say that if I were caught breaking the lock-down, I wouldn’t have been able to pay the fine. Then I would have found myself behind bars. I was just wondering about those details when I received a call from my employer.
In my time here, I had learned quite a bit of Arabic. You wouldn’t survive a day here if you didn’t know English and Arabic. My English was no better than Arabic, yet somehow, I managed. After a few months, I learned useful words from both languages. That helped in realizing what my boss was saying. It broke my heart and hopes. He was sending someone to take his car from my place. Long story short, he would reconsider my requirement once this doom subsided.
I didn’t that a human mind could calculate that fast. In the call that lasted just a few minutes, my brain had supplied me with the bitter reality. I could not survive there for more than one month. Until the claws of corona loosened its grip, the curfew would remain in the country. Obviously, nobody would require my services until the fear of corona receded. The reality of the situation hit me hard. With no job, I’d have to go back to India. Days after that call was a blur. I couldn’t get myself to call my family and inform them of our impending doom. It occurred to me that some people, like me, cannot run from poverty. Perhaps, these unfortunate souls were born to enslave their bodies for as long as they’d live.
The next morning, I decided to call my family. During the holy days of Ramadan, the crown had relaxed the curfew hours. So, before surrendering to my inevitable downfall, I decided to take a walk. I had just stepped out of my room when one of the tenants that lived upstairs approached me. Clearly, he was saying something, but I could not make out the words. I asked him to speak louder or remove his mask. He brought his hand to his mask but then changed his mind. The rational apprehension of Corona stopped him from taking off the mask. Instead, he raised his voice a bit and said,
“Santosh, I heard about your situation from our landlord. I shared the news with my roommates. Seeing that we are from the same country, not that it would have changed our decision if you were from any other country……I don’t know why I said that. Anyway, we wanted to help you out. Please just take it before I blabber again.”
I could only muster a barely audible thank you in response. Just as at a loss of words as I was, he simply nodded and walked away. I opened the envelope to find a substantial amount of money. It was sufficient for this month’s rent and food. In fact, if I eat only one meal a day, I would spare just enough to send it to my family. I never felt as grateful as I did at that very moment. Immediately, I called the landlord to inform him that I would not move out yet. He sounded genuinely glad. I slept like a baby that night.
The next morning, I opened my door to find a bag lying there. A few days back, I would have been suspicious of finding an unattended bag at my doorstep. But, not today! I unzipped it and found a treasure inside. It contained vegetables, fruits, spices, bread, milk, among many other food items. “I will survive!” I whispered and headed inside with the bag. While people were claiming that corona had locked humans inside, I believed that corona had actually brought real humans out of a lock-down.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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