How Long Do We Stand and Wait?

They also serve who only stand and wait– thus reads the last line of John Milton’s poem ‘On His Blindness’. My mum introduced me to this line when I was a little girl since patience was never my virtue. She drilled it into me that the poet had written this when he was struggling with his own blindness and may be trying to find his place in God’s larger scheme of things. I don’t know how he found it in him to place his trust in God and submit himself but considering his body of work post disability, he did a fabulous job.

By nature, I am a doer who I believe wants to be part of the solution and not the one who cries about problems. There have been times in my life though, when I have found myself at my wit’s ends where there’s nothing I could really DO but stand. Stand and wait, I did; because it seemed better than giving in to frustration. I have, in those moments, revisited this line and it has served me well.

For all of us, 2020 has been an endless test; the questions of which were out of syllabus. We were unprepared but we have all tried to do the best we could. On my part, I have been in Mumbai for seven months and waiting to find my way back to the country that’s home for now. I have seen the blossoms in February make way for summers that bowed out to the mighty Mumbai monsoons. Ganpati paid a visit but I didn’t go to meet him even as he left. I thought I was doing my bidding as I stood and waited for my time to come.

When I write this on Wednesday, I had tears of maddening frustration in my eyes. There was a flight next day that I hoped to catch from Delhi but I didn’t know if I would be in it. As the sky bursts into a myriad of hues, the soothing sounds of evening Azaan failed to pacify the maelstrom inside me. The sky and the call of prayer have been my constant companions through the entire lockdown as I have looked out from a window from the room, I’m holed up in. 

I eventually did not get that flight so I am completing this piece on my birthday questioning the wisdom behind standing and waiting. After 48 hours of agony and anger, the conclusion that I have arrived at is, waiting patiently makes sense where you really have no control over the situation. No point fretting and wasting your energy. Wait for the trouble to travel its full course because something usually happens before it arrives.

However, when you know that things could have been managed better and it’s the lack of intent that is messing the situation, that is when it is difficult to stay calm. In our country, I strongly believe that there is this lack of intent to tackle the situation at hand. They’d rather distract us with rubbish than take concrete steps to control the damage. Our country continues to be a high risk one but all the energy is being spent in mindless shenanigans.

That probably is what’s making me angry and lose the patience that I have so carefully cultivated over time. I don’t know what I can do in this situation and that makes it worse. I hope that India comes to its senses and starts accosting the authorities. There are too many questions and I can’t see any answers coming.

Dr. Shivani Salil

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