199. Child and Adult

I’ve been musing about what it would have been like to be a child during this pandemic. When I was a kid, random adult conversations would terrify me. My oldest sister once looked at a cover of a news magazine which showed a crying child in the Cambodian War, and she remarked, “It’s like World War Three.” For years, I shrank every time a plane flew overhead.

I thought a few times about whether to write the above. I am slowly letting go of shame about fears and phobias. And I’ve consciously cultivated the instinct never to tease others about theirs. It doesn’t do anything but make a person feel even more alone with their fear, plus it adds to the existing cauldron of emotions the knowledge that when you are in a heightened state of terror, other people either won’t help you, or they will, but with impatient words that teach you to hate yourself.

One of the most unsettling things for kids about some crises has to be that their parents clearly have no answers. That was definitely a thing for me way back when. This past year, I have tried to be in each moment fully, taking pleasure in each thing we do, and being honest when I have few resources. Being the parent during a crisis is no picnic either, as many of us know too well. But our job has never been to model infallibility, has it?

Our biggest fear during this time (besides the virus) has been that A might fall back again into the ill health which plagued him as a younger child. But God is kind, and that did not happen. And R, the thoughtful older sibling, has introduced him, with inviting teen ruthlessness, to foods and routines which he never knew before. Between all of our efforts, A has grown like a beanstalk, wrapping his little bean tendrils around our hearts. Exhausting, noisy almost-man. We all love him so.

How do we as adults parent ourselves through a pandemic? I have to be honest, processing the grim news about India, right after we barely crawled out of the dictatorship pit with our lives (and many lost), has made me feel unmoored all over again.

Diaspora Indians have been accustomed, all our lives, to India being both our spiritual lodestar and a site of familial and cultural obligation. Always trying to evade judgment for being NRIs (Not Real Indians). Loving how it offered us an escape from the racism we faced in our childhood. Meeting people who were the guiding planets in our parents’ universes.

The child in me can’t help asking: How can India not have the answers now? The average person is doing the best they can and so much more because the infrastructure is failing them. Doctors are working heroically while people still attend election rallies and weddings and pilgrimages. It’s not that different from where we were, same time last year. Americans and Indians have a similarly unruly bent, and my Singaporean self has always taken note of it and found the parallels fascinating.

How does ending a pandemic fight against communal living? Religio-nationalistic fervor? Defensive censorship? Entrenched social inequity? India is not alone in these battles, but I don’t want to get tongue tied in how to talk about the crisis without offending people. I just know that I am worried about specific people and generally everyone, and I deeply admire the grassroots efforts that work around the nepotistic onslaughts. Our every prayer in this household right now is for India. We want you all to get well soon. And for the people we have lost, we will never forget you.

If you can find non-colonizer-y, non-proselytizing organizations through which to donate to Covid relief for India, I urge you to do so. Go with people who are already doing the work. A great many of us have ties to India, and can point you down those avenues. Relief efforts can be decolonized too. Just because India has problematic postcolonial realities doesn’t negate the fact that it deserves better than a patronizing, western-centric response.

Anyway, R is halfway through being vaccinated. The distance we have to drive for the selected location qualifies as a road trip, and of course, right after we committed to that, vaccine appointments opened up right in our town. *laughs in bittergourd stir fry* But we have had so few places to go this past year, even this endless drive was enjoyable. If not for these harebrained schemes, how else would an autism-focused family see the surrounding counties?

Unrelated, but if you are looking for a podcast to listen to, I highly recommend Nosy Neighbors. It is hilarious, and doesn’t try to teach you anything, while still being rich in content, and downright irresistible. I am unable to work out while listening to it because laughter overcomes me.

My 50th birthday is coming up soon. Argh. It’s been a lonely couple of centuries, and I cannot even fathom a party. But I am excited about planning my own quiet ways of marking the milestone. Every moment we are alive has come to mean something more entirely. I don’t want to waste it worrying about being older.

Radha.

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