Thoughts from an Eph on campus

Novera R.

The other day, I woke up from a long afternoon nap and thought to myself, “What day is it today?” Minutes passed by as my eyes squeezed shut to focus and keep me from looking at my phone or the calendar, but I just could not remember the date, or the day. This is what it feels like to be here on campus, disconnected from time and the rest of the world, and stuck in a limbo.

Since the cancellation of in-person classes last month, I had been eagerly waiting for classes to resume online, hoping that it would keep me motivated to work and, in some ways, connect me to all those people, the faculty, my classmates and my friends, around the world. I reassured myself that since all the courses will be graded on a pass/fail basis, I will not be stressed out by grades. By the end of last week, I realized that was not going to happen as I half-heartedly completed my assignments and quietly exited most of my Zoom lectures before they were over.

The campus and the mountains look equally gorgeous during my short, impromptu walks. However, they seldom keep me from agonizing over my immunocompromised parents in lockdown in a faraway and overpopulated country with nonexistent infrastructure to deal with a pandemic. All my thoughts and concerns about the uncertainties regarding their health and jobs and my stranded status in the U.S. incessantly echo in my head. I try to remind myself that almost everyone in this world is facing some form of difficulty due to the pandemic, no matter how big or small it might seem to me, and that I at least have a shelter and consistent source of food even if I am thousands of miles away from home.

I admit that I, too, have been spending unhealthy lengths of time gawking at screens showing glimpses of individuals making scrumptious meals, exercising indoors, refining and demonstrating their creative skills and, most enviably, spending time with their families or loved ones. I also admit to having shut down all forms of exposure to social media and news portals for a while, but even that did not help with the restless bouts. Every time I see someone in the dining hall or around the campus walk by me, I want to stop, smile and say hello. I do look into their eyes and smile instinctively but realize, a second later, that my smile was hidden under my “mask.” Swallowing the fact that I must have come across as a creep staring at them, I keep walking. Every time a dining staff hands me a box full of food or a custodian walks into my bathroom with cleaning supplies, I am racked with guilt, thinking about how they agreed to continue taking care of the remaining students, risking their health.

It is hard not to be hopeful in times like this. Perhaps what I feel is not hope but denial — my denial of the fact that the world that has been brought down to its knees by this microbe is not going to go back to its former state anytime soon. Hence I bury my head, deep into the worlds of novels that I am binge-reading and tell myself that just like the tumultuous periods in those stories, this phase will end too. And spend hours coercing my tired hands to paint dreamscapes of crowded cities where coronavirus is unheard of.

But then again, hope is what keeps us sane and gives us the courage to continue with our lives amidst chaos and uncertainty.

Novera R. Momo ’21 is an art history & practice and math major from Sylhet, Bangladesh.