A day in COVID times

4 Nov 2020

Alia was having her morning coffee, sitting on a comfortable rocking chair by the window of her one-bedroom apartment in Mumbai. She was wearing a loose baby pink t-shirt and grey cotton striped shorts. She was looking out the window facing the road. She saw a few dogs, birds and occasionally a car passing by.
 
It was the morning of 28th March 2020, beginning of COVID infections in India. Last week when the lockdown was announced and her apartment complex banned outsiders from entering the premises, she freaked out thinking how she would manage her work with cooking and cleaning. She had her share of burnt parathas, undercooked lentils, and overcooked rice. She turned to help from internet and her mom. This is the first weekend of lockdown and she looks peaceful and settled into the new routine.
 
She kept her coffee mug on the table and lied down on the sofa. She picked her phone, opened Instagram and started scrolling down. She saw a photo of a chocolate cake, sat up, and with gleaming eyes, switched to Google. With quick taps on her phone, she searched for chocolate cake recipes. She spent a few minutes reading recipes before switching to the Keep Notes app, opened a shopping list and added baking soda and cocoa powder to it.
 
She went to her bedroom and changed into jeans. Back into the hall, she put on her N95 mask, picked up her wallet, smartphone, apartment key, and a large shopping bag and walked out.
 
On the way to the gate of her apartment complex, she saw a few dogs and a security guard donning a respiratory mask, and no other soul. "It looks so peaceful.", she observed.
 
As she reached the store, she saw a queue of two shoppers outside the store. Everyone was standing in a circle marked at a feet's distance from each other. She stood at the third spot and waited. At her turn, looking at her phone, she asked the shopkeeper for the items in her list, one by one. "we don't have cocoa powder" he said. Disappointed, she paid the bill and got out of the queue.
 
Still outside the store, continuing to hang the bag on her shoulder, she turned to her phone again and searched for alternatives. She discovered she could use chocolate syrup. Hopeful, she joined the queue again. As she waited for her turn, she looked anxious. After a few minutes of wait, at her turn, she asked for chocolate syrup and was handed over the same. With a smile on her face and in her eyes, she headed home.
 
At home in her kitchen, she mixed the ingredients into the cake batter, looking over the phone for each step. She poured the batter into a cake tin, put the tin into her microwave-cum-convection oven. She set the temperature and the timer, and waited, anxious about how the cake will turn out. She picked a book, lied down on the sofa, and 2 minutes later, put the book down and came back into the kitchen to look at the cake. She picked her phone and kept switching between the apps and scrolling. When the oven timer beeped, she ran to the kitchen, took the cake out of the oven, smiled - of relief and then a little bit of pride. She kept it aside to cool down and waited again, this time with excitement. When the oven timer beeped, she ran to the kitchen, took the cake out of the oven, smiled - of relief and then a little bit of pride. She kept it aside to cool down and waited again, this time with excitement.
 
After a while, she cut a piece, tasted, had a broader smile now - of joy, took a picture of the half-eaten cake piece and posted it on Instagram with hashtags #delicious #bestcakeever #lockdown #chocolatecake.
 
She ate the rest of the piece and smiled again with satisfaction and joy in her eyes.

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