Dreaming in the pandemic: a metaphorical essay

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Dreaming in the pandemic is a metaphorical personal essay exploring the theme of mental illness.

An illustration of a person sitting on the bow on a boat, at night, on the sea. Their body is covered in a shawl, face unseen, dreaming in the pandemic.

@Faiza Afzaal / Behance CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Dreaming in the Pandemic 

Her eyelashes shed drops of tears in the ocean of pain that had been accumulated over the last seven perilous years. She smiled sometimes, with her imaginary vision of being in glorious palaces and glowing castles, picturesque lawns, and gardens- all the dreams she couldn’t wait to fulfill. She was locked in a cell that provided all the comforts of the world- but cells, however comfortable, are cells. And that was what the pandemic lockdown meant to her.

Her dry hair brushed against her soft fingers- all weak from the continuous hammering of her soul- a soul which was a relentless dreamer, now a withered leaf which was lying on the autumn soil. And yet, it seemed, it would be a lifetime of frozen winter ahead. When time would come to a standstill, everything will be a panorama of ice-covered lakes which had forgotten to reflect the sky. And she could not go for boating leisurely; she could go for only ice skating- which was pervaded with the unpredictable dangers of cracking of the ice followed by drowning. She was tempted to go for ice skating-all with the intention of giving up her life. That was November 2020- when time refused to progress from one world to another, from the pandemic world to post-pandemic world.

But, of course, said others, she was blind to the joys of studying and working remotely from the comforts of her cell. But little did they know about her being confined to the cell like a sleeping soul who can only dream and barely act. She had gone through two years of summer in a desert of Rajasthan, where she was always choleric. Being in a desert is no better than being in a cell, for all she could see till her sight permitted to see was a limitless sea of sand. But she hoped, that if she could endure for some time, she would be able to see a blue lake in a green oasis. And she endured.


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She endured to see a lake, and she was gifted with the sight of a lake after two years. However, the oasis was not green; it was dirty, polluted with plastics and trash. So she sat in the trash for three years, and drunk some water from the lake- an amount of water which was enough for her survival, however not for her well-being.

After three years, she was found in the remote desert by some daring journalists, put in a rehabilitation cell- with, of course, under the supervision of some of the best psychiatrists in Delhi. Owing her rescue to the profession of journalism, she rushed to be in company of other journalists. And she was admitted into a journalism school from where she was rusticated for being a lazy daydreamer.

Lazy daydreamer that she was, she still dreamt of the castles and the gardens, the palaces, and the lawns- and she wrote about her dreams. Her writing about her dreams was so eloquent, that she was admitted to a course on dream studies by the best school of psychoanalysis. However, then the pandemic came.

As she witnessed deaths caused by the pandemic all around her, her faith in the idea of dreams was shattered. But she still wanted to go to the school of psychoanalysis, for the school was the most beautiful castle, surrounded by the most beautiful gardens. After all, even as a film watcher, she craved for visual extravaganza, for beauty and aesthetics.

But she was instead asked to go for water studies, for water had helped her survive while she was in the desert for two years. She was asked to listen to the psychiatrists, for psychiatrists had helped her survive in the rehabilitation cell. And from a dreamer, she was reduced to become a survivor- a survivor of the pandemic, a survivor of the great depression, a survivor of the nightmares.

Article by
Manjima Misra

Manjima Misra is the author of two books: 'Indian Feminine Fury' and 'Unapologetically Mad'. She completed her B.A.(Honours) in English literature from the University of Delhi and has worked as a writer for various digital media platforms such as Feminism in India and Qrius.


"As she witnessed deaths caused by the pandemic all around her, her faith in the idea of dreams was shattered. "