Picture with mask
by Smitha Vishwanath

Our city’s divided
In colors
Like our flag
Red, orange, green
We are in the green
That is what it says — the circular
From tomorrow we can roam
A reward for being good
For staying indoors

When we step out
To pick bread
At the gates.
For that is where we asked them to keep it —
The delivery boys who get the bread
We do not know their color or who made it or how
We are strict when it comes to rules — our apartment block
We wear our masks and our gloves and no outsider
Can cross our gate

Seventy-one days as of tomorrow it shall be
Since we stood at our windows
Watching —
Trees changing color from green to orange to flaming red
Birds: pigeons, crows, kites, and some others
Whose names I do not know
A few rule-breakers
And dog walkers with their dogs
running free with no leashes — Golden retrievers, Huskies, and Boxers
But all that shall end

For tomorrow we shall be free
For we are in the green
That is what the circular says — the one from the Ministry
We talk excitedly
About how far we will go
About our shoes
If we remember how to tie our laces
Our masks lie ready
Tomorrow is the big day
A few more hours to go

The guard’s feverish
The one who sits at the entrance to the garden
Nay, it’s not the excitement that has made him so
If only it were
Our gate dons a mask. It reads — “Containment zone–Sealed”
The circular says we are green
It is an hour outdated.
That is all it takes for a storm
A quake, a fever
And to move to red from green

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We had been under lockdown in Mumbai for 68 days, when  the government decided to open the city in phases. A plan was unrolled and all places in the green zone were scheduled to open on June 3rd. I looked forward to my walks, and as a family we discussed our plans over tea. Later in the evening we learned that one of our security guards had taken ill. This news came as a rude shock — like a punch in the face — because we would have to continue under lockdown. I just had to write about my feelings, and having written the poem I feel so much better.

smitha v

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Smitha Vishwanath is a banker-turned-writer and a management professional, who embarked on the writing journey in 2016 with her blog, lifeateacher.wordpress.com, while still heading the regional cards operations of a bank. After working for almost two decades in senior roles in the banking industry in the Middle East, she quit and moved to Mumbai, India, in 2018 with her husband and two daughters. In July 2018, she co-authored Roads: A Journey with Verses, a book of poetry. Other than writing, she enjoys reading, traveling, painting, and going on long nature walks.