On the 23rd April 2020, a vaccine developed by Sarah Gilbert and her team at Oxford University, England, and a control vaccine which protects against meningitis were administered to two people. One was given to a microbiologist, Elisa Granato; and the other to cancer researcher Edward O’ Neill. They had both volunteered for the trials.
In India, the second phase of lockdown was going on.
//———Recollecting where we left——–Mohit was contemplating whether to tow Adiya along and enter into the turbulent waters of the ocean of love or to let go… Adiya was having difficulty envisaging the possibility of a possible connect she had never encountered before———————–//
Mohit had a group meeting where Sheena was present and after the meeting, Sheena spoke to him in a private chat. Just casual stuff; she was trying to make up for the rude disconnect that she had exhibited ever since he had asked about Adiya.
Sheena had been feeling compunction after the initial anger and shock subsided; though she was still surprised why Neel wanted to know about Adiya whom he just had a brush of an encounter with.
That night when Sheena had first met Mohit and called him for dinner, she was getting ready with a light makeup and hairdo before he arrived and when Mohit rang the bell she had asked Adiya to open as she didn’t want him to be standing outside for long, least any of the neighbours whines, the lockdown restricted any visits after all.
Adiya had been upset anyway with the overall situation, she burst out, “You are breaking your own rule. You asked me to be invisible. I don’t exist.” She carried the mood to the door as she opened it and saw Neel, without giving it a thought and against her nature, she blasted him too.
Sheena had come out hurriedly and managed the situation but Mohit’s subconscious picked up an everlasting impression in those couple of minutes which Sheena could not have guessed and neither could Mohit himself fathom till he had the unsettling dream.
Mohit’s housing society was particularly strict about the rules of social distancing, but people could walk alone around the huge campus. Mohit walked and walked and walked, almost never slept and forced himself to work to keep away Adiya’s thoughts and then the designated 48 hrs were over; he was tossing and turning on the bed when the bell rang. He got startled and ran to the door, expecting her. And she was there with the milk packet in her hands. “I can’t live without you Adiya,” he blurted out in an impulse and held his hands beneath hers, with the milk packet still on hers.
They just stood there, looking at each other. Mohit could feel the chill of the snow-clad mountains; he could hear the roar of the oceans; his feet felt the soft leaves on a forest floor and his hands were melting under hers… Adiya was the first to break the spell, she slowly slid her hands out such that the milk packet dropped on to Mohit’s hands, “Message me,” she said softly and walked away. He nodded and kept staring long after she had gone.
The door opposite to his opened, an uncle came out and saw a young man with a dishevelled look, standing with a milk packet in hand, staring at nothing. The uncle cleared his throat but Mohit didn’t buzz. The uncle said, “Did Milkbasket do a door delivery?” Mohit looked at him, still phased out, and gave a nod with a curling of the lips which sort of resembled a smile. He then turned and went inside closing the door behind him.
Mohit jumped and kept jumping; he rolled on the bed, tried a weird dance, and finally decided to take a bath. He made and had breakfast and got ready for office, all the while thinking of Adiya. It was a relief not having to push away her thoughts. The decision was made, he had put the cards on the table, now he had only to get her acknowledgment, which he felt he had.
Sheena asked Neel if he would like to join her for a walk after office. Mohit agreed, he wanted to tell her. The discussion started with the office, as usual, all the while Mohit trying to figure out an eloquent way to put forth his feelings towards Adiya. Sheena started complaining about the lockdown and stated how she was finding it utterly disgusting to have to share her space with a person she despised.
Mohit was lost in his thoughts and was hardly paying attention, till that point. He was flustered to hear such a thing. Sheena continued her monologue about how she was waiting for the day when travel will be allowed again so she could bid ‘her’ goodbye, hopefully forever. Suddenly she turned and asked Mohit, “Why did you want to know about Adiya the other day? Were you very hurt by her behaviour?”
It was Mohit’s turn to flee. He answered vaguely, “I just thought who she was since she is living with you…”, made some lame excuse and sprinted his way back to his flat. Mohit was utterly confused. ‘Why would Sheena talk such malice about Adiya? She was the sweetest person in the world he had met’, he thought.
Mohit took up the mobile and started messaging Adiya… he typed and deleted, typed and again deleted and kept at it till he reached the end of his frustrated efforts and send a ‘hi’ instead. There was so much to talk, so much to know, he just didn’t know-how. Yet the thread of thoughts started flowing and the chatbox started filling, first with words, then small sentences, paragraphs, and finally essays. This was their only means of communication as a call could be intercepted by Sheena and they both knew she would not take kindly to it.
The lockdown phased over to the 4th and the restrictions started to slack, outside their gated community. Mohit continued to work from home. Adiya started applying for schools/colleges online. They desperately wanted to meet in person, and such a chance presented itself one fine day. Adiya was in need of some toiletries, she asked Sheena if she could order online for them but Sheena declined, she suggested that Adiya could rather go to the nearby shop and get her things.
Adiya messaged Mohit and they planned an outing to the shop. This would be their first meeting and both were rather edgy. Mohit shaved; sprayed deodorant; put on a white t-shirt and faded blue jeans. He checked his wallet, checked his mobile, there was still a quarter of an hour before he had to leave, but he was ready and pacing back and forth.
Adiya had to keep her anxiety under wraps but finally got ready, she wore a knee-length frock, a shade of pale yellow with light blue and pink flowery embroidery on it. She dabbed perfume a light lip gel, tied her hair in a ponytail, and picked up her bag all set to step out. “Wear your mask and get some eggs too”, Sheena’s voice came from her bedroom. Adiya said, “Okay” and moved out swiftly.
Mohit had already reached the supermarket and was waiting outside impatiently. He caught a glimpse of Adiya coming along and was about to wave when he saw a woman just a step behind her. They came closer, the woman was an elderly lady, she was incessantly rumbling and the target was Adiya.