Life Finds A Way
Written by
Samya Senaratne

I want to tell you a story about a girl who is not the most ambitious, hard-working, disciplined or deserving of the pedestal of a heroine. But in this scanty tale, I feel, she had somehow just passed muster to be a protagonist.

She is slightly, or some may find mostly, odd. Even while not being ambitious in general, as already established, she cherished this one dream wildly- that of becoming a raving writer. But curiously, she did not believe in channelling every ounce of her energy to achieve that dream either. She rather preferred putting in the bare minimum effort that would just about get the work done. The energy and spirited enthusiasm she hoped she thus saved, was employed in other creative pursuits. Funnily enough, it had worked out for her so far.

Until….enter the villain- Quarantine.

The villain accosted our heroine on the most inconvenient footing, when she was in transition from one job to another. She was poised to start work on the 18th March 2020. But Mr. Quarantine bound her hand and foot, shut the doors of her house and even the gate that led to the small by-lane she lived on. She had no choice but to seek isolation in her home, more accurately in her cosy bedroom, with the blinds drawn and in half-darkness, as was her wont.

In this stupor, she passed many hours brooding and pondering about topics ranging from pandemic socialism to general human ingratitude, even with the new responsibilities she had taken upon with the new job, pressing on her mind and weighing her down. The commitments were constantly pulling at her hair demanding her attention, especially when her creative juices started flowing and she took pen and paper in hand, to ink her incoherent thoughts.

In such nerve-wrecking and unsettling times as these, such constant demands of responsibility felt suffocating. Every morning, sharp at 10.00 am she had to force herself to wake-up and chase away the half-darkness that enveloped her in a slumbering hug, so that her new boss could take a good look at her face in the ‘Zoom’ call to see if there was a trace of annoyance, all the while barking (well that’s a figure of speech, no offence to lovely dogs) orders at her.

She wished and wished and begged and pleaded with the heartless Quarantine to stop. But he just laughed in her face, punishing her with more and more weeks of isolation. She heard the constant bad news delivered by Quarantine, in dismay and terror. There was no getting out of this.

She felt that the isolation away from family and friends itself was horrid enough, without the reeking daily conference calls. These calls went on for four or five hours at a stretch, sometimes even more than once a day, with a generous serving of pretentious chatter and morbidly forced banter that one simply had to suffer through. She often muted the mic and whispered to herself in utter annoyance that the work itself, she could have managed, ‘without these good-for-nothings breathing down her back’.

She sighed and stared at the pen and paper lying untouched and unread books gathering dust in the far corner of her study table, while the rest of the table, her bed, and the book cupboard lay strewn with drafts, legislation, Codes of Law, articles and pieces of paper with notes.

“What if I got the virus, and am dying?”, she asked herself aloud all of a sudden, with her voice booming in the silent room, in the silent house, in the silent town. She let the papers fall off her lap, as she stood up and go to the bathroom and take a good look at herself in the bathroom mirror. She saw a funny-looking woman with lifeless eyes staring back at her. She didn’t even know who that woman was anymore, with such cold, vacant eyes enveloped by dark rings.

‘But wasn’t writing what you wanted to do?’, the eyes seem to be mocking her.

Well, that was a different kind of writing. You see, now she wasn’t writing for herself. She was writing for other people, who mostly unheeded it and were thankless. It was all but a trivially minute contribution to a work that belongs to another.

Even after working every day, late into the night and even on the weekends and the usual public holidays, the calls never stopped. She considered letting her phone die. The realization that she had achieved nothing in this oh-so-wonderful period of mindfulness and self-improvement, had made things worse.

She suddenly asked the mirror, ‘so, is this how Death will find you?’. We may never know what the reflection said in reply, but I’m sure it mumbled something incoherently about the necessity of money in these difficult times, but very weakly. I only saw her smirking at the mirror and returning to her room with her nose in the air.

Next day, after the end of the I-don’t-know-how-manyth conference call discussing nothing, she was seen dialling her boss’s number again.

“Hello sir?”

“Yes, what’s it? I thought I clarified all the points and that there were no more issues”.

“No, it’s not about that sir. I just wanted to let you know that I’m quitting”.

“What?”, a dismissive tone, as if he can’t even bother to be surprised. “What’s this now?”

“I quit. I don’t want to work under you anymore, as it is very stressful for me. I have worked over and above the usual working hours, even on the weekends and holidays. This would not do. I want to live my life, at least before death finds me one way or another. I don’t want to kill myself before

that, especially for someone who wouldn’t even be there by my hospital bed, where I lay sick or dying.” I have to say, I was quite surprised that this man, who lacked any sort of empathic tendency, listened to this monologue through.

But then as expected, it went over his head. He added insult to injury by forcing out an apology- in a tone laced with sarcasm- for being late in depositing this month’s salary and asking for her bank account details.

She told him this much, “it’s not about the money. I do not like the job. I am sorry, but I’m quitting”.

Of course it didn’t end then and there with such a dramatic final curtain. He followed up with persistent, irksome calls and further pestering, to which she, surprisingly, didn’t yield- as her old self would have done. In the end, she agreed only to finish up the work she has already taken up.

Oh, but if you could see her in her home now, you’ll see that Quarantine had become quite her chum. She is often found frantically writing or reading in her semi-dark room, with tea cups and freshly-read books neatly piled up around her. If you go really close as I once did, you might even see her laughing and sharing a joke with Quarantine. That day I was struck by a great similarity – like Mother Nature herself; the fragile human life too, in the end, finds a way.


Written by Samya Senaratne
Illustration by DRG


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