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MyTurn: Post-Covid Anticipations

By Nandita Godbole Email By Nandita Godbole
July 2021
MyTurn: Post-Covid Anticipations

Registering for my vaccine the minute it became available to me filled me simultaneously with fatigue and gratitude. I was scheduled for my first shot on April 1. When the day came, I was distracted and anxious, lacking the focus to make even my morning cup of cha. Although friends advised a good healthy meal beforehand, I didn’t have the appetite for breakfast or even lunch. And when for the first time in 35 years, the pressure valve on my trusty pressure cooker flew off and ricocheted across the kitchen walls, I sat down to gather my nerves. I eventually settled for a calorie-laden frozen lunch because cooking a simple meal, an unflinchingly familiar task, seemed impossible.

It wasn’t all the anxiety of the vaccine. For more than four decades, the date of April 1 brought with it memories of being whisked away in the middle of the night in my white floral pajama suit, swaddled in a blanket to a neighbors’ house. I was only eight but learned later that my dad and his partner, both police officers with Mumbai Police, had been seriously injured in the line of duty. From that day, we wished my dad a second birthday on April 1—to honor his life that he had re-dedicated to the service of his fellow humans. He had shown us with his actions that a life of public service is a brave life.

As I sat lost in the memories of years gone by, soon it was time to go and get the jab. Though merely forty miles from our home, the mass vaccination center was the furthest I had driven in a year. I had expected to go into a building, but this was a large parking lot. Navigating the orange cones felt like enduring a driving test. But as I inched closer, the National Guard directed me towards masked professionals from the Department of Health. They had vaccinated several thousand people already, and I was just another person. A few moments later, I had received my first dose, and after waiting to ensure I was OK, I was waved back out. Just like that. I reflected on the sacrifices of the health care workers who had just smiled when I thanked them. The National Guards had just waved me on when I waved back in gratitude from the bubble of my car.

What a long journey it had been! The forty miles I had driven to get here were nothing in comparison to the road we had all taken to get to this point. The sheer selfless bravery of all the health care workers to serve to protect ordinary people like us, whose only job was to follow safety guidelines, was on full display. That afternoon I prayed for all those in public service working to keep communities safe—just like my father had once done many decades ago.

Back on the highway, the otherwise irksome and crowded rush hour Atlanta traffic with its fair share of aggressive drivers felt strangely calming. Crawling along the highway sporting a band-aid and sticker on my forearm meant to me that the community was inching closer to normalcy. There was unimaginable joy in being part of the mundane routine. Even more than that was the sense of relief that came from knowing that I shared this very emotional state with millions of people who were living in fear and had been separated from their loved ones.

This past year had felt like a game of Life Jenga where we found ourselves trapped in the circum-stances. But our isolation paled when compared to the grief of others. The stress had begun to wear down on our small family. Everything had been emotionally exhausting, and the vaccine represented more than a preventative measure. Even though I had only had one of two shots, the stress of an entire year had been wiped away in a matter of minutes. My home, where I had felt trapped, became a welcome sight again.

The relief and the sight of my home allowed the tiredness to set in, prompting a talab—a craving—for an afternoon cup of cha. My spice drawer yielded several pods of fragrant cardamom. I dropped a few of them into a small saucepan of water and watched them dance around, emitting tiny bubbles of flavor into the warming water. I picked out a few leaflets from my newly potted lemongrass from the garden, wrapping them around my fingers to make a small ‘loop’ so they wouldn’t unravel while they flavored the cha. Oh, how easily lemongrass grows in my mother’s garden in India, how she likes her lemongrass cha—and how she hates that its seasonality in Georgia means she doesn’t have a steady supply when she comes for extended stays!

I hovered over the pale green water, taking in the aromas of cardamom and lemongrass mingling generously before sugar and tea leaves went in. The hot water allowed the tea leaves to quickly release their flavors. When the water boiled, I poured in cold milk. The milk bubbled slowly and boiled again. I poured out the fragrant cha into cups for the family and settled on the couch under an old comfortable throw.

My now-sore arm cupped an afternoon brew whose aroma took me back to places I had not been in, in several years: mom’s kitchen and the courtyard where warm afternoon breezes carried the fragrance from her abundantly blooming garden. The aroma brought me one step closer to all that was familiar, replacing my anxieties and worries with hope. I comforted myself that when it was safe to travel again, I would be on the next plane out to be ‘back home.’ I couldn’t wait to tell mom, but it would have to wait until I had rested.

That night I rested easier than I had in more than a year. While I slept, my mother texted me a photo of herself, bravely sporting her own first jab. We talked and I told her about my own experience with the vaccine. Before I ended our call, I told her, “Mom, this year, I have planted some lemongrass for your cha.”


Nandita Godbole is an Atlanta-based author and food writer. Her biographical fiction, Ten Thousand Tongues: Secrets of a Layered Kitchen was featured on ‘City Lights’–WABE (Atlanta’s NPR), Forbes, and BBC-Future. Her sixth and latest cookbook is Seven Pots of Tea: an Ayurvedic approach to sips & nosh (2020).


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