“When can I see you again?” she asked.
A lump formed in my throat as I clutched the phone tightly. “Soon, Amma. Soon.”
Both of us knew that this was a promise I couldn’t keep. When I had commenced my new job abroad, I had felt that Amma was just a flight away. With the pandemic looming large, ‘just a flight’ seemed to be a lifetime away.
That night, I stood on my balcony watching the star-studded sky. I spotted a streak of light across the velvety-black sky, incandescent, and luminous. A shooting star! What did Amma tell me about shooting stars and wishes?
“I wish this soul-sucking, joy-draining pandemic gets over!” A tear rolled down my cheek.
The next day, I switched on the news.
“Asteroid ZOE 3421 swept past the Earth yesterday. The radiation emitted during its flight has caused a drastic reduction in the number of COVID cases overnight. Patients in ICUs all over the world woke up today morning, able to breathe on their own. Governments however warn that it’s too early to declare victory.”
Had the cosmos granted my wish? Like a drowning person, I clung onto that single blade of hope.
It took a month to confirm. World leaders made their announcements. Much-awaited words. We were finally rid of this microscopic terrorist that had held us hostage for so long!
That day was truly magical. We rushed out of our homes. The streets that were once empty and bereft, were teeming with euphoric crowds. We ripped the masks out of our faces and tossed them up in the air, just like graduation hats. Bless the asteroid. People talked about building temples and naming their children after it.
It took us a while to adjust back to the ‘old normal.’ We were caged animals being released back into the wild. We could touch freely, breathe freely, and live freely. We could earn our livelihoods with dignity. If this was a dream? None of us wanted to wake up.
I managed to book my tickets. I boarded the flight that would take me to my mother. The airports were in utter chaos and yet, I wasn’t annoyed. Gratitude does wonders to one’s temperament.
All around me, people were yearning to be reunited with their loved ones. I only wished the plane would fly faster.
We landed. A taxi took me to my ancestral house. The gate with the peeling paint welcomed me. My senses feasted on the familiar sights, scents, and sounds- the Mango tree in the yard, the smell of coconut oil from the kitchen, and the bells ringing in the nearby temple.
“Amma!” I yelled.
She came out running to welcome me. She had aged in the past year. Amma looked frail, but her face was intoxicated with joy.
I embraced her and let the tears flow. A warmth engulfed me as I buried my face in her saree. This was my haven, my hearth, my Hiraeth. I was home at last.
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