Pandemic 2020

Vikky Abraham
6 min readDec 28, 2020


Bodies piled up in the mortuary and on the sidewalks in Chennai…

Picture Credit: pexels-cottonbro-3952240

Supriya watched it on the news. The television set was in her father-in-law’s room and she could peek in while she kept serving the hot cups of steaming coffee through the day both for her brother-in-law and her ailing seventy-year-old father-in-law. Her mother-in-law barely moved from the ‘pooja room, half-blinded from the cataract, she was homebound for the last couple of years.

The house was a two-storey bungalow in Anna Nagar shaded by palm trees, discreetly hiding its secrets from its neighbours.

The pandemic didn’t change much for Supriya, only added the additional burden of cleaning and swapping the entire house with disinfectants as no maids or help were allowed to enter any household and the Iyer’s did not like any full-time servants who may cause gossip. Like most Indian houses swapping was done in a squatting position pushing a bucket of water around with her saree hooked up to her waist baring her legs, and a large damp cloth was swirled around ensuring a clean shining floor.

A bachelor in psychology she had long forgotten the free days of her youth as she roamed Marina beach with her friends dreaming of new life as the arranged marriage to a wealthy business family from Anna Nagar beckoned her. Her dreams were full of the big car she would drive and the bigger house she would live in. The large bungalow took over two hours every morning to be disinfected as she cleaned every nook and corner with her brother-in-law overlooking ensuring she didn’t miss a spot.

What was she disinfecting?… she wondered as nobody came or went anywhere and all essentials were left at the bungalow gate to be picked up and disinfected before being brought indoors. After cleaning the house, she had to clean herself. Another ritual which daily culminated with her brother-in-law entering her lockless room and getting oral intercourse as if she was too beneath him to be touched.

This, of course, was an ongoing ritual over the past two years since she had been widowed.

The cooking of the daily elaborate breakfast of dosas, idlis and making fresh chutney and Sambhar, rasam, rice and other preparations for lunch and dinner occupied the rest of her day. Serving coffee in-between was the only time she managed to get out of the kitchen and get some respite herself.

They considered her an ill-omen as they lost their son six months into the marriage. The fact that he was suffering from epileptic seizures since childhood was not mentioned during the wedding confirmation by the pandits or the family members.

A middle-class girl was being given an opportunity to rise up in society… her parents were already overwhelmed and did not question when she reported the epileptic seizure on the first night of their wedding. They asked her to keep quiet and said: “adjust ‘ma’, you are lucky they didn’t ask for dowry”.

Post her widowhood they requested her to stay back with her in-laws as her father with his meagre earnings as a postal worker could not offer her any support financial or social. The lockdown continued all over the world and in different parts of India, the lockdown was taken seriously as the death toll increased day by day. Chennai was the worst hit.

She managed to overhear conversations of distant relatives and friends passing away. Of course, there was no news from her parents as she had no access to phone or any device. The landline barely rang if at all usually from her one and only friend who had shifted to Vishakhapatnam post her marriage to a lawyer.

It was the hottest month of May, and Supriya felt she was going to collapse with the sheer physical labour of household chores. As she sweated in the kitchen, she was overwhelmed and with a sudden burst of angry tears she collapsed on the floor crying in pain accumulated over the last two years, tears of frustration, tears of injustice, tears of humiliation, tears of abandonment rolled from her eyes in a never-ending stream of self-pity.

As the television set in the distant room gave updates on the rising death toll. Supriya looked up at the ceiling in the kitchen and wondered why she was not dead.

The air-conditioned dining room was ready as always at noon sharp, they all dined together father-in-law, brother-in-law and her mother-in-law. Supriya served them and waited on the side as always grateful for the relief from the relentless heat for a short period.

Today however they asked her to step outside as they were discussing an important family matter. The quiet neighbourhood and the stillness in the air let her overhear their plans of where the money and jewels were kept. How many investments were done. Her late husband’s property details were some conversations she managed to overhear and make mental notes of.

As May seemed to draw to an end the Iyer family seemed to be getting stomach related issues. Some vomiting too. The fear of the dreaded disease engulfed them. Supriya was fine however and rushed from room to room cleaning their vomits and serving coffee and food. A close family doctor came with much trepidation and tests were conducted on the entire family. They waited for the results and were much relieved when it was negative. However, their stomach problems and vomits did not stop.They turned to Ayurveda for digestive immunity and were pleased with the results initially. As the showers of June cooled the garden outside the unkempt bungalow, Supriya felt a little respite in the otherwise hot kitchen.

Some of the neighbours had moved away to their villages and the entire neighbourhood had an eerie silence engulfing it. The news of the death toll was rising and unclaimed bodies were strewn across the city with no one claiming them or no last rites laying them in peace. The government collected them and cremation was done on unidentified bodies on a large scale.

Their family doctor too had succumbed to the virus her brother-in-law told her helplessly as she cleaned his vomit one day. Supriya served dinner, the rasam was a bit pungent that day said her mother-in-law. Supriya said it was the ayurvedic medicine which changed their taste buds.

The entire family except for Supriya still suffered from their digestive ailments and her brother-in-law no longer followed her every morning to keep an eye on her cleaning. Every one dined separately in their rooms and were mostly bedridden with a mysterious ailment. Supriya served and cleaned as usual. As she washed the last dish and wiped her hands on the kitchen towel she let out a sigh of relief.

Curled up in her room, she had put the chest of drawer against her door so no one could get in. She watched the clock hands moving and what seemed like an eternity but was only an hour of howling and screaming from the different rooms which echoed an empty neighbourhood.

It was over…..

To continue reading…

ebook available on Amazon Kindle and Google

There is a surprising amount of material to unpack in this compact ebook. In just six short stories, using mundane events as a backdrop, you lightly skip through multiple heavy themes — child abuse, feminism, sexuality, and patriarchy — thus demonstrating their intersectionality, the breadth of their impact, and the terrible consequences of the denial of basic rights to women in India.

ebook LIGHT — A bit of fact, a bit of fiction by Vikky Abraham is about brown women from India. A series of short stories woven from the fabric of Indian society. Some dark, some intriguing, and some heart-wrenching.

As a creative individual Vikky Abraham has spent many years in Advertising, Publishing and Media.’ Light’ — is her first book, written during the lockdown, where facts of the Indian patriarchal society provoked her to think and re-examine her perception of reality.This eBook will surprise readers with the depth of truth packed in it. In just six short stories, using mundane events as a backdrop, she lightly skips through multiple heavy themes — child abuse, feminism, sexuality, social constructs and patriarchy — thus demonstrating their intersectionality, the breadth of their impact, and the terrible consequences of the denial of basic rights to women in India.