This is a letter of love to you.
I’ve been trying to write this for a week, composing and discarding professional sounding emails. It didn’t work and at the end of each day I still had this blank page. Right now, we’re just humans, trying to make it through this unscathed, watching, horrified, at the cascading effect of Covid-19 ravaging one country after the next.
The Indian government closed schools a couple weeks ago, so all our staff is at home. Seeing how things had gone in China and Italy, and where they were headed in the US, we planned ahead and paid them early for March (someone has to physically go to the bank to do this, there’s no automatic processes in place for small businesses like KHEL). We told them to buy dry rations like rice and dahl. We told them to stay inside. They’re doing their best to stay in touch with their students but not all students have phones. We’re now starting to get phone calls that this child or that parent is sick.
Manju, our Headmistress, working from home.
By nature and nurture, I don’t scare easily. I have my practice, and the Himalayan Tradition (I hope you have a source of strength and comfort, too). And yet some days I have a sense of panic deep in my chest because I feel helpless and I’m not used to that. Sitting here in the relative safety of my US-based home I text with KHEL’s staff in Dehradun. Beni, our tireless and devoted General Manager, and his son, Keshav, are doing the leg work for Beni’s wife, Kamli, who is a City Councilor. Beni is diabetic, and high risk. He shouldn’t be outside. But this is India and there’s no other way to make a list of the local grocery stores, vegetable sellers, restaurants, and chai stands to decide who can deliver to homes and who can’t (I’m under the impression that the city government will decide this, but I’m not sure as our texting conversations are late at night for them so they’re pretty worn out). Beni and Keshav running around Shiv Puri Colony in the middle of a pandemic trying to convince people to stay inside is the stuff of my nightmares. Beni and I are almost the same age, and he’s worked for the Arya family and then for KHEL since he was 17. I’ve known Keshav his whole life. These aren’t just employees, they’re my family, and they’re risking their lives to help others. I want them to stay home, lock their doors, and talk to no one, but they wouldn’t be who they are if they did that. I have other family members out there risking their lives. Perhaps you do, as well.
If it is you, then you’re a super hero and a rock star, and you deserve the world’s undying gratitude.
If you can, be a hero to someone today. Call up an elderly neighbor before you go to the grocery store and ask them if they need anything. Find a friend who is quarantining alone and share a little of your day with them so they’re not so lonely. Explain Zoom to someone who doesn’t know how to use it. Maybe, like my rather eccentric Significant Other, you start making bedtime story videos for kids to watch, so their parents can have a 5-minute break (you can find him on YouTube – Hame Persaud). I’m taking photos on my daily bike ride and writing a haiku every day, to cheer up my friends on Facebook. Even keeping our distance, we can all still reach out to each other. We all need a virtual hand to hold right now. Last but not least, be a hero to yourself, too. We can’t help anyone if we’re falling apart, so look after yourself. If you need a laugh, look at KHEL’s YouTube channel. There are a bunch of (unedited) videos of our kids there, and they always make me smile.
What can we say to each other in the midst of a pandemic? ‘I hope you and your family are well’, or ‘I hope all is well with you.’ Does that express the depths of what we’re feeling for each other? These are not empty platitudes anymore. I really do hope that you, your family, and all your loved ones are safe and well. I hope that we get through this. I hope we remember the lessons we’re learning. I hope that, when this is over, those still standing will help lift up those who have fallen.
As always, I hope.
With love and in service,
Stomya Arya Persaud (she/her)
When this is all over, this little cutie and all her cutie friends will come back to LDA. They’ll get to play with their friends again, and they’ll get to learn again.
There’s so much we won’t take for granted.
Please stay safe.