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Lovers in the Lockdown

Short Story by Vaman Acharya 

Stay home and stay safe mantra was effective on the people of Pavanpur town during the year 2020. The lockdown was imposed to fight the coronavirus. In those days, the town had a different look. All the shops were closed. People stayed home closing the doors. There were no vehicles and pedestrians on the road. Stray dogs were barking, probably observing the quietness everywhere. 

One day at 8am, a young woman, who appears to be a labourer was riding her bicycle on the road. Woman constable  stopped her and started beating. She introduced herself as Parvati, a labourer in Arunodaya multi storied building under construction, just opposite this road. She told the reason for coming out was  to buy medicines and requested with folded hands to release. This scene was observed by a young man, Pratap, a mortar worker in the same site, where Parvati was a labourer. He  rushed to that spot very fast. His  breathing was fast and it was difficult for him to speak properly. He regained strength after one minute and requested the Police to release her. Police gave a warning and released her.  Both went to the construction site and continued their work. Pratap and Parvati  became lovers  just a day before. 

In the evening, Parvati suggested to Pratap that she can spare a small room for him in her house. He agreed and left on her bicycle. He sat behind her as she was riding. On the way, they were laughing, dancing and enjoying the bicycle riding. Parvati stopped bicycle at Indira slum where her house cum hut existed. The  incident that happened in the morning was a turning point in their life. Pratap was given a small outside room. 

Another incident happened in the same building under construction after one month. Parvat's duty was to fill the waste materials in an iron basket and throw it outside in an open place. She felt too tired due to non stop hard work for about one hour. Parvati was about to fall due to giddiness, Pratap came and  rescued her. He took her to the nearest lady doctor. After examination, it was reported that she was pregnant. Pratap and Parvati became happy. She congratulated him for becoming a father. The common features between them was that both were orphans, school dropouts and poor. 

Lovers start living together. He goes out to buy things needed during non curfew time taking all the precautions like wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and frequent hand washing. The grocery shops open between 6 and 10 a m. Medical stores  open from morning to midnight. Both leave the home for work early in the morning with a box containing food and return in the evening. After five months, the doctor advised her to take rest. She remained in the home.  He goes to work alone. Pratap learnt the art of cooking from Parvati. 

In the Indira Slum, there were about 15  kutcha houses and 5 huts. About 100 residents were residing. Municipality had provided electricity, water and a connecting mud road to the town. 

One day, Corona warriors visit  Indira slum to distribute food materials  packets to each house. Pratap and Parvati worked as volunteers to prevent misuse. She accompanied him taking care of her six months of pregnancy. Every visit of corona warriors,  these guys help them for smooth distribution. This was objected to by Palakshi, a kirana shop owner and a don in the locality. The duos were not only appreciated by the slum dwellers but also by the government officials.

Pratap watches tv news regularly to know about  coronavirus, number of cases, number of discharged and number of deaths.  He was worried about the increase in coronavirus cases. He affectionately calls Parvati as Paru. She calls him Raja. Parvati said she had some personal problems. He said he too had problems. 

Parvati  was a good singer of old Hindi film songs. Her pet song was 'ek pyar ka nagma hai'. Neighbours gather and hear her songs.  Pratap was a mimicry artist. It was a God gift to him. Those who come to hear the film songs and mimicry sit on the floor outside keeping social distance. Pratap and Parvati spend time exhibiting their talent. 

Parvati lost her parents at the age of eight. The fate was cruel for her. Last year she was married to Bhojappa, a painter and the only son of Palakshi. 

Bhojappa was painting a new house  using a broken ladder and fell down from the top. Within a few minutes he was declared dead. His mother Palakshi was  not happy with Parvati and sent back to her house and demanded rupees twenty five thousand towards the wedding expenditure. Parvati refused to pay the amount. 

Pratap and Parvati shared their personal matters. During the lockdown period, she was shocked to know Pratap diagnosed corona positive. Though she was six months pregnant, took him to the  primary health centre  and got him free treatment.  She attended to him in the hospital. Pratap  was fully recovered from the coronavirus after seven days. He expressed thanks to Parvati. The tears rolled down on her cheeks. Pratap and Parvati were successful in getting two shots of vaccination to themselves and all the residents of Indira slum.

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