(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal
Devoted to English Language and Literature)
Dr K.V. Dominic, born on 13th February 1956 at Kalady, Kerala, India, is an English poet, critic, short story writer and editor. He is a Retired Associate Professor of the PG & Research Department of English, Newman College, Thodupuzha, Kerala, India-685585. He has authored/edited 40 books including two short story collections and eleven books of poems—six in English and one each translation in French, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and Gujarati. There are five critical books on his poetry. He is the Secretary of Guild of Indian English Writers, Editors and Critics (GIEWEC) and Editor of two international refereed biannual journals--Writers Editors Critics (WEC) and International Journal on Multicultural Literature (IJML). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Have you booked your ticket, dear? We are all worried about you. Are you alright there?” Merlin enquired over phone to her husband Clement.
“Don’t worry dear Merlin, I am fully well. By the grace of God I have got the ticket for next Saturday’s flight to Kochi. The flight will reach there by 2.30 pm. I will take a taxi car from the airport and reach there before evening. How is father now? Could you get the telemedicine for his asthma complaint? Have Meena and Jaison slept?”
“Glad that you got the ticket after a long wait! Children have already slept. Since there is no regular class and homework they went to bed at 9.30. I got prescription from the doctor online and bought father’s medicine yesterday. Since it is rainy season his condition is worse now. By the by, our house is in the containment zone now. You should come directly to our house and should not get down anywhere.”
“Okay dear, I have been watching the news there every day. Since expatriates are arriving there in large numbers, the number of positive cases shoots up day after day. In fact we are all eager to fly back there to save our lives. Our Kerala government will save us, we are sure. I have to be in quarantine for 14 days before mingling with the family members. So ask mother to make a bedroom ready for me. Let it be the room near to the kitchen. There will be inconveniences, but we have to face it. Till the quarantine is over such adjustments are necessary. Goodnight dear! I shall call you tomorrow.”
Clement has already been lying on the bed for sleep when Merlin’s phone call came. Goddess of sleep hesitated to descend, embrace him and kiss on his eyes since his mind was meandering on the ocean of his past. His mind dived deep to his childhood and started recollecting.
Clement now 40 was born and brought up in a poor family. His father who is an asthma patient now, was an auto rickshaw driver and mother, a housewife. Clement has a younger sister who is married off. Since he was very studious Clement was sent to a government college for degree and then for M Sc Mathematics. Though he passed the post graduation with a first class he couldn’t get any government employment. He taught Mathematics in a tuition centre for two years earning a very low salary. Meanwhile, one of his college classmates, Arvind invited him to UAE where he was working as an accountant in a shopping mall. Arvind offered Clement all expenses of his visa and travel. Thus by the benevolence of Arvind, Clement went to UAE and started working as an accountant in another shopping mall. The salary was not very attractive but compared to what one earns in Kerala, the amount was not bad. After his expenses Clement was able to save Rs. 30000 each month which he sent regularly to his father’s bank account. After three years, with the money sent thus, his father bought a small house in a five cents’ plot. They had been living in a rented house. Clement’s sister was married off after two more years with the money amassed. Then took place Clement’s marriage with Merlin, who belonged to a poor house. As Clement was against dowry he demanded nothing from her family. She is good looking, loving, meek and gentle. Two children were born to them. The elder one, daughter Meena is now studying in the 3rd standard and the younger one, Jaison in the 1st standard.
Covid-19 gripped UAE along with other Gulf countries and the lockdown started there on April 5. Clement working in Dubai became jobless as part of the lockdown. The pandemic started spreading like wild fire and the patients flooded to all the hospitals there. Of the ten million population in UAE, Keralites are one million. A quarter of the Keralites’ population has registered in the embassy for their return home. Since flights are very less, the passengers had to wait for a long time. Clement has been jobless for nearly three months now and he has been living with the little money left. The total positive cases of Covid patients in UAE have gone up to fifty thousand and more than 300 died. The Arab shopping mall owner has been compassionate and Clement was allowed to continue in his residence without charging any rent. A good amount had to be paid for his chartered flight ticket to Kochi. His wallet is almost empty now. ‘What shall I do after reaching home?’ Clement’s mind wailed. ‘There is no bank balance and how will the family survive? Since the lockdown drowned the economy of Kerala, there is no scope of getting any employment even as a salesman.’ Unanswerable wounding thoughts made him most upset. It is midnight already and Sleep fears to embrace him. Clement took a sleeping pill and swallowed it. Since the lockdown started he could sleep only with the help of the sleeping pills.
Saturday came and Clement arrived at the Dubai International Airport sufficiently early. Antibody test was conducted at the airport and Clement got the negative certificate which is a requirement for arriving at Kerala airports. When the flight landed at Kochi and Covid-19 protocol formalities completed, Clement phoned to his wife, “Hello Merlin, the flight has landed at Kochi. I will take a taxi and come home by 6 pm.” “Already reached? We are all eager to see you. Come soon dear.” The phone was grabbed from her hand by the mother-in-law and she talked, “Dear son, Clement, our papa is serious now. Breathing is very difficult for him even though he is taking the inhaler and tablets. Dear son, will you spend the quarantine period in some hotels so that there is no risk for papa?” “Mama, I have no problem, the negative certificate is with me. Home quarantine is enough just as a precaution.” Clement replied. “Still isn’t it better that you spend isolated in a hotel room? Only 14 days there.” Mother continued. He was shocked to hear this from his own mother. With a sigh he replied, “Okay…mama.” Tears started running along his cheeks. He is denied entry into his own house, which he built with his own money. For the past twenty years he has been working for the welfare of his family. Unable to move further, he sat on a chair near to the exit. ‘What shall I do now?’ He asked himself. ‘There is no sufficient money for hotel quarantine. For 14 days they will charge a good amount. There are no government free quarantine centres for expats. Where to go now?’ He wanted to cry out loudly. Other passengers were going out one after another. “Clement sir, do you know me? Why are you crying sir?” A young man around 35 came to him and asked. “Sir, I am Krishnan, your student. Tell me sir, why you have been weeping. What’s the problem? I am bound to help you whatever it be. Had it not been your help I would not have come to this stage. I failed my tenth class public examinations and only because of your tuition class for Mathematics I passed my exams in the second chance which paved my way for higher studies. I am now an Assistant Professor of English at a government college at Sharjah. Since the college is closed now as part of the lockdown I am going home. What help do you need, sir?”
“Dear student, Krishnan, glad that you remember me. I too recollect you. I have been weeping because I have nowhere to go now.” Clement cried out tears flowing. He then told about his mother’s phone message.
“Don’t worry sir, kindly come with me. I have got a large house which can easily accommodate you. My wife will only be happy to have you in our house for two weeks. We have got a maid who will serve you food in your room. There is TV and other entertainments in the room which will make you comfortable. God has given me a chance to return service for what you have done to me. My house is only twenty kilometers away. We shall take a taxi and go.”
“God save you dear Krishnan!” Clement replied. “My service to you is negligible compared to your return service offered. I have taken classes for you and many others and I have received the payment for it. Look at what I receive as return for the lifelong service to my family…” He started sobbing. “Don’t take it serious dear sir. It’s because of medical ignorance that your mother reacted so. Please come with me. The taxi car is waiting.” Krishnan consoled him. Clement thus went with Krishnan to his house.