By Melvin Durai
Coronavirus-related restrictions have kept many people
from meeting face-to-face with friends and neighbors.
This has helped curb the spreading of viruses, not to
mention rumors and gossip. But experts say it’s important
for us—for our mental well-being—to keep the conversations
going in whatever way is possible. That’s what I’ve been
trying to do. Just the other day, while sitting in my kitchen,
I had a long conversation with a couple of ants.
Me: “Hey guys, nice to see you. Can you stay a while? Would
you like a little sugar?”
First ant: “We’d better get out of here. Something doesn’t seem
Me: “Don’t leave so soon. What’s the hurry? Would you like
some honey instead? How about gulab jamun? It’s an Indian
Second ant to first: “You’re right: he’s a psycho. Let’s get out of here.”
Me: “Do you two have a big family? You know, if you come back
with eight other ants, you could stay here forever. I could be
the landlord and you could be my ten ants.”
First ant: “Let’s get out of here before he makes us sign a lease.”
I tried to be friendly, but the ants didn’t stick around for long, and
I had to spend the rest of my day chatting with my houseplants. I
began with my pothos, also known as a money plant.
Me: “You look very green today.”
Pothos: “And you look very brown today.”
Me: “Are you thirsty? Can I get you something to drink?”
Pothos: “Beer would be nice.”
Me: “Beer? Aren’t you underage?”
Pothos: “I won’t tell if you don’t.”
Me: “Okay, I’ll try to sneak you a few drops from my glass.”
Pothos: “Just spill some accidentally on me. That’s how I got
my first taste of beer. One of your guests had too much to
drink, and as a result, I had too much to drink.”
Me: “Did you get drunk?”
Pothos: “Yes, I think so. It was really weird.”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Pothos: “Well, I started having strange thoughts. I imagined that I
had been transplanted into a garden bed outside. And I woke up
with a strange plant in my bed. It had its vines and tendrils all over
me and I didn’t even know its name. I kept screaming, ‘Social
distancing! Social distancing!'”
I spoke to all my plants, but some were chattier than others. If you
never talk to plants, you may be surprised to learn that it’s actually
good for them. About a decade ago, the Royal Horticultural
Society (RHS) of Britain conducted an experiment and found that
tomato plants grow two inches taller when they hear women’s voices
compared to men’s.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to persuade my wife to go outside
and chat with the tomato plants. She hasn’t even shown the courtesy
of thanking them when they produce big tomatoes.
It usually falls on my shoulders to ensure that all our plants get enough
love and attention. But please don’t get the idea that I talk to them often.
It’s usually just a few words here and there. Truth is, being stuck at home
during the pandemic has made me engage in all sorts of conversations.
Me: “Hey, why are you so tight today?”
Pants: “Who are you calling tight? I’m the same size I was last week.”
Me: “You just feel tighter.”
Pants: “And you just feel fatter.”
Me: “Watch out. One more unkind word and I’m sending you off to
Pants: “Sorry about that. I’m just upset that you stuffed me in the washer
yesterday with so many other clothes.”
Me: “I thought you’d enjoy the company.”
Pants: “Do you like to take baths with 30 other people?”
Me: “No, I guess not.”
Pants: “You’re not supposed to wash a ton of clothes at the same time. It’s
not good for our morale. We’re not like humans—we don’t like to share
dirt with each other.”
Me: “Do you prefer to be separated? Some people separate the whites from
Pants: “People still do that? I thought segregation was over. I don’t mind a
little separation. Not whites from colors, but pants from underpants. Please
don’t put me in the washer or laundry basket with the disgusting underwear.
I spend enough time with those bozos during my work day.”
In case you’re wondering, I spoke to a psychologist and she confirmed that
it’s perfectly normal to have all sorts of conversations during the pandemic,
whether you’re talking to ants, pants or plants.
Melvin Durai is an India-born, North America-based writer and humorist, author of the humorous novel “Bala Takes the Plunge.