I open my eyes to a beautiful morning and immediately reach for my phone. I sigh in relief when it turns on as I had assumed it was dead when the alarm didn’t go off. I hear the clattering of dishes in the kitchen.

“Good morning maa.” I scream and there is a brief period of silence until my mom finds her voice.
“Good morning ra! What happened?” She questions, her voice uncertain.
“Nothing happened. Why?” I scream back as I rub my eyes and enter the kitchen.
Maa scans me from head to toe as if she is seeing a ghost.
“It’s 7:15 and you woke up. What happened to you? Is something hurting?” She says and starts laughing.
“Maa stop it now, I am as surprised as you are. Even the alarm didn’t go off today.” I tell and push her aside.
I start turning off the 10 alaram’s that I had set from 9:00 am for every 5 minutes. For once I have surprised and impressed  my mom, my phone and myself just because I woke up early. 

My phone is confused and is asking me for confirmation to turn off the alarm, I get annoyed as I have to confirm 10 times. 

I step outside and see the sun is bright and shining in full force which is very surprising for a December morning. Must be the reason why I woke up early. I like these kinda days.

“Looks like even the sun has woken up early today.” My mom says and starts snickering when she catches me staring at the sun.
“Maaa! Enough okay, not even funny.” I say and glare at her but that only makes her laugh more so I give up.
“Fine laugh!! I am going for a jog.” I tell and run inside before she could laugh more.
I have made it a point to go for a daily walk or jog, depending on the time, in this lockdown for the past so many months that’s the only thing keeping me from putting on weight or at least maintaining it. 

I have never gone for a jog this early so I clean up as fast I can and run back to the kitchen. Maa has kept a hot glass of milk ready and I take my time drinking it slowly, sitting outside and basking in the sun.

It’s a very happy feeling when you wake up early, at least for me. For some reason, mostly laziness, it has become impossible for me to wake up before 9:30. It’s always the snooze button that spoils it, 5 more minutes is never ending. The worst part is that It’s the best feeling to be wrapped in cozy blankets, in the cold weather and all that but the guilt hits me as soon as I am fully awake and look at the time. This morning is a welcome change to all of that.

I chat with Maa and finish the milk and biscuits. I grab my phone, earphones and put on my shoes and head out of the house. I plug in my earphones and blast out my favorite song and sing along as I walk. I decide to jog till the park and back which will take me an hour.

I suddenly feel eyes on my back as I walk down my street, I ignore it and check the notifications on my phone. As I walk further down the street I glance up from my phone, I see some random auntie staring at me and I glare back at her. Then I realise that it’s not only her, the uncle from the corner shop also gives me a look. Did my mom somehow announce to everyone that I woke up early today? Or is it just that everyone in my street knows that I don’t wake up this early? Whatever it is, why do they have to stare. I shake my head clearing these thoughts and get back to my phone but as usual my brain goes into an override and launches a monologue.

It’s like literally everyone is looking at me, this is the worst thing that could happen to an introvert like me. There is a reason I prefer staying at home, why is that when you see someone you have to smile or have to talk to them? Social Conventions! Also you have to dress up everytime you go out!!! 

That’s the best part about Covid and lockdown, I can just about go anywhere from a Kirana store to a mall and I don’t have to dress up. Just wear a mask and no one will know who…………… My brain freezes mid monologue as it dawns on me that I forgot my mask at home. I freeze on the road as my brain replays the 3 minutes it took me to walk from my home to the corner of the road. As if it’s not clear yet, my brain then does a slide show of zoomed up pictures of the masks people were wearing who were looking at me.

I consciously make an effort to unfreeze and untangle my legs and run back home as fast as I can, ignoring my brain trying to conjure up images of the virus in the air everywhere around me. I catch my breath as I stop in front of my house, scared out of wits. I see my dad standing outside, eyes wide open trying to try to understand what’s happening.

I mouth “Mask” to him and the tensed muscles in his face relax and he shakes his head at me as if to say “When will you learn.” I wash my face and grab the mask and head out again, almost not wanting to.

As I continue the jog, my mind goes back to that 3 minutes that I was outside without a mask. I probably wouldn’t have realised that I didn’t have my mask on if people wouldn’t have stared at me. I guess they must have been thinking I was crazy, even with the numbers coming down it’s still crazy to go out without a mask.

It’s just the inherent conditioning of never wearing a mask before this pandemic, that it didn’t for one second made me feel like I was missing something. It just goes to show how much freedom is important to us, just breathing freely. Masks curtail that innate sense of freedom that was something we would never have thought of before Covid. Even after wearing a mask for the most part of a year I still can’t seem to normalize it.

Anyways, what irks me the most is how my brain has the audacity to show me zoomed up pictures of masks and covid virus in the air as I run back, after forgetting to remind me to just pick up my mask when I was leaving home.

Oye brain! Why you like this?


9 thoughts on “Unmasked

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