When I was about twenty-two or thereabouts my cousin who had just become a teenager decided to sort of pay me a compliment. She claimed I would make a very good sidekick or in her words “You’ll make a good best friend of a leading star”
I wonder if it was her wry way of suggesting that I should be a sidekick to her being the superstar or she was just being philosophical and pointing out that maybe I was not the superstar of my own story!
In the past few months, I remember these old decades-old conversations often. Especially since I have not seen so many of my friends or family members for months and possibly won’t seem them for several more months.
I am one of those fortunate enough to stay at home, waiting out a global pandemic while reading and coming across terrifying reports of overcrowded hospitals to vulnerable people who are poor risking their lives to do something simple as make rent, buy food, buy life-saving drugs.
As the world goes still, I exchange words to my friend in Nigeria, or one nearer in Pakistan or catch up with a childhood friend from Mumbai, we hardly mention the Covid-19 pandemic. We all just know it exists as a disruptor at best and a terrifying calamity at worst. We just know and do not mention it by name. It is a pall that hangs over all our heads and many of us simply cannot do much but sit at home and maintain social distancing.
I have been thinking of my cousin who now lives in the U.S and about that sidekick role I would be supposedly good at playing. Our lives now put into a forced safe mode; I often wonder – will we come out of this as a more compassionate, empathy filled species?
It is difficult to miss that the world is incredibly unequal even when things were normal. A global pandemic has laid bare the brutalism of a capitalistic world that lacks solidarity. Our systems privatized and our information corrupted and faked; each second of our lives being valued down to a dollar, humiliating us, coaxing us, shaming us to be more productive, more efficient, and ruthless.
The other day I spoke to a friend in Bangalore and we were wondering what really does being productive mean? Why is spending time with a loved one, a friend over coffee considered leisure? Why is it not considered productive?
Maybe my cousin was onto something. We are all stars of our own stories, our own movie. But there is no “movie”, no “we” and no “our stories” without us acknowledging that we are all each other’s sidekicks and that good friend.