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So, here I am at last, in Beograd. That’s Belgrade in local parlance and the place where the Second Born resides. The word means ‘white city’ or ‘ white fortress.’ More about the why’s and wherefore of it later. Today I have a different story to tell.

This trip had been planned for April 2020 and we all know why that didn’t happen. The world was held to ransom by a microscopic virus. All of us everywhere had to cancel plans and modify our lifestyle. Hugs had to be put in cold storage to be retrieved only when times got better. Sanitizers, mask and soap became our constant companions.

Talking of masks, here’s something funny I noticed at the airport while waiting for our baggage. There was a woman from the same flight standing a little away from the baggage carousel like me, while her almost-teen daughter was on the lookout for their bags. (The L&M was on duty to get our bags).

After a while I noticed the daughter excitedly waving her hands and pointing. Apparently the duo’s suitcases had been spotted and were making their way towards her. The mother smiled pleased, but surprisingly soon her brows knit and her beautiful face registered annoyance. She let loose a barrage of words. Though I couldn’t understand a word she said (except the one word ‘mask’) I knew she was letting her displeasure known at something the child had done.

Had the girl taken off her mask? Was the mother’s concern for her daughter at the root of her annoyance? In the best people-watching tradition I turned discreetly to look at the daughter and found her hurriedly removing her mask! That’s when I realised the mother had just ordered her to take off the mask she had on! I may not know the language but the tone and actions and the response made things abundantly clear.

The mask had been mandatory on the flight. But once we deplaned the L&M and I had noticed that mostly everyone had taken off their masks. Having heard from the Second Born that mask was a thing of the past in Belgrade, we understood. But to find a mother angry over her daughter continuing to wear one on the home soil amused me.

All of that slipped my mind when we got our bags soon after and walked out to meet, and hug, the Second Born and his girlfriend who were waiting for us. Finally, after three long years, we were here at last.

© Shail Mohan 2022