When I decided to write a modern-day fictional adaptation of Mughal-e-Azam a couple of years back (still writing it BTW), I didn’t realize my art (if you can call it that) was going to imitate life. Cut to the present. April 2021 - the condominium in which I live, is inching close to being sealed by the authorities in Gurgaon as we have had a significant outbreak of coronavirus infections.
Now I truly understand what Anarkali must have felt like when that first brick was laid.
Okay, I guess I’m being slightly dramatic here. I’m not being walled in. One of our gates has just been sealed and residents have been asked to clamp down on visitors and domestic help. Not just that, there are a couple of Plods manning the main gates and several inside the condo making sure folks don’t break rules. So if you are out without a mask or two, gossiping in a group or trying to sneak out after curfew hours for a drink with your buddies, you will be marched to prison. Do not pass go. Or collect the 200 dollars. Straight to prison I expect. Or worse, the entire condominium will be sealed off from the world at large.
Mughal E Azam 2.0. Except my Salim is sitting beside me, balding and spectacled, completely zoned out from being on zoom calls with clients. On my part, I’m jumping around from one room to the next like a cat on hot bricks. I don’t think that qualifies as dancing.
I’ve been told our condo is a containment zone. That’s what they call places that have a huge spike in infections. By policing it, the authorities hope to bring down the cases. A few of my friends whisper conspiratorially (over the phone) that they are in Large Outbreak Regions. All of these sound like names out of a dystopian novel -- so you have to excuse me for hyperventilating a wee bit.
Breathe in, breathe out.
I haven’t had any visitors or domestic help for over a year. From the first week of March 2020 to be precise. I’ve been scrupulously washing my hands using up gallons of liquid soap, wearing an array of masks and staying away from everyone and her aunt. Other than minor episodes of cabin fever, things have been mostly fine. But now, things are getting tricky.
In my version of the story, Anarkali escapes by taking a flight out of Gurgaon. I’m not sure that will be possible in real life. Perhaps I could be a fly on the wall instead?
(To be contd)