When I bake bread – gluten free as ever – my favourite recipe uses two egg whites. This means Ram then gets to make mayonnaise with the two egg yolks. He beats them by hand, adding oil, lemon juice, salt, a bit of garlic, a hint of mustard, and taking much longer than I take to make two loaves of bread. The mayonnaise is delicious, served on the bread toasted and with a few sprigs of germinated mustard seed. But, during the lockdown, the other day I launched into baking bread on a recipe that did not involve two egg whites or any egg whites at all. So, when Ram came along to make the mayonnaise, there were no egg yolks. So, undeterred, he cracked open two eggs, and put the whites aside, and made our mayonnaise with the yokes. Then, for tea, he made meringues with the whites. Beat them up with the mixer, adding sugar, then putting them on a greased baking tray and baking them for ever-so-long in a not-so-hot oven. Served with cream left over from the Indian Guava Compote Ram had made the previous day, they were utterly divine.
When there is not a lockdown, we would most likely not have behaved this way. Next, Ram will be making meringues, then, ki-a-fer, have to make mayonnaise because of left-over egg yolks. The supermarket, I remember telling about this in a previous diary note, had sold us a tray of 18 eggs. 18 or nothing.
So, being at home changes us. But some things stay the same. Jean-Yves forwarded us a series of films on the history of the working class, as a Labour Day present. So, I downloaded one, then Ram supplied his pen-drive, which would have been a blessing, had the film fitted on it. It didn’t. A blessing because Ram never loses sight of his pen-drive for long. So, I transferred one of the series on to my pen drive. It fitted. And I put the pen drive in a good place.
This morning, we decided, before fixing an hour to watch the film – what with our busy schedules – we would try it, just to check that the film’s technology corroborated with that of the TV.
Three of us have been hunting for my pen drive all morning.
To no avail. So, my losing things has not changed. Once, a couple of decades ago, we lost the kettle. It was an old one, all black from sitting on the gas ring. We hunted everywhere. No-one would steal it, that’s for sure. But it was gone clean missing. It turned up in the fridge. Books I am reading often get lost, too. And then found in, say, the tinned food cupboard.
Which brings me to my reading matter. The lockdown meant I soon ran out of books to read. My suppliers live far enough away that any policemen flagging people down for breaking the curfew would have called me over and asked me where on earth I thought I was going. And they would not accept any cock-and-bull story about desperately needing a novel from a friend I share books with. If I started making up stories about pharmacies, I would soon get tied in knots. Why not go to the pharmacy in Bambous, the police officer would ask. I say this from experience. Last time one stopped me, when I was outside of my “tablisman” limit, and I tried this line about the Bambous pharmacy not having the medicine, he said, “IBL, pena?” meaning you could well have gone to Cascavelle Mall. So, I ventured another lie. I tried at Cascavelle, I said, No luck. He then asked me what this rare medicine was, and I had to make up further stories. He eventually said, “Ale, ale, ale!” And what was I in fact doing? A friend and I were taking a food parcel to a friend of a certain age who lives alone. I thought the policeman would not warm to the truth. Why would anyone do something like that, he would think. And then, if he booked us, we would have difficulty getting a “Certificate of Morality” when hauled before a magistrate after the end of lockdown. So, all that to say I have been re-reading old books. These are not in short supply in our house.
I am re-reading, at the same time, and quite by chance, two books that shed bright light on the lockdown, which in turn sheds bright light on society. First there is Alice in Wonderland, where I find described a land not unlike the one we live in and not just during the lockdown either. And then there is Kurt Vonnegut’s Hocus-Pocus, which makes me wish Vonnegut had not died and was still here to write a new novel set in the times of coronavirus. In it, in now rural, once industrial, upstate New York, a college becomes a New York State Maximum Security Adult Correctional Institution, or some such Americanization. More recently, it has been the rural hospitals replaced by prisons.
I fear that, if we do not get organized enough, we are in store for dystopias worse than any imagined before. More than ever we need to aim not at utopias, though they are the opposite of dystopias, not at dreams to avoid nightmares, but to work with what we’ve got in society and move forward. A tall order.
But, so it goes.
for LALIT, a personal perspective.