The time of the early pandemic was one of safe seclusion for me, far away from the dance of death taking place in the bigger cities like Chicago or New York. I had a 60s ranch house with a magnolia tree and a cypress in the front and several pines and a maple in the backyard which faced a railroad. I reveled in the backyard as much as in the comfort of my house but was lonely and hankering for India and home. Yet I remained centered doing breathing exercises, walking and working out in the backyard, cooking full Indian meals, reading online and watching documentary films. I avoided the miserable scenes on CNN of Covid deaths as America plunged into gloom. The sole visitor to my house was a colleague from my department in the university. She was a from New Zealand but lived in Canada and had chosen Orangeburg, the sleepy South Carolina county because she needed a job. She would drive down with her own flask of coffee and folding chair and together we would sit at a distance chatting and watching red cardinals and fireflies as evening waned to twilight. We even shared a meal ordered from a local Thai restaurant and on one occasion our friend from Pakistan brought his own meal to share with us. Cocooned as we were in our comfort zones we managed to stay connected. For me personally it was a testing time for me since I was trapped in a country where my work as a Fulbright scholar in Residence had come to an end because the HBCU campus I was attached to had closed down and I could have returned to India but for the fact that international flights to India were no longer allowed. I had aspired to be in America and now I felt trapped. Finally on June 6th I could fly back to India. But the ranch house at Orangeburg will forever be a part of my American memory.
Vijay Prakash Singh – Fulbright to USA 2019