Petrichor, a beautiful word but rarely used in everyday conversations and language. Only times I have used it is in trying to explain to my little one, that the earthy, feel-good fragrance that he can appreciate is actually the fragrance of freshly soaked earth after a long awaited rainfall!
“Oh, I didn’t know this was called something, mumma… wow!” His words!
This is the point where, ideally, you should close your eyes and recall that aroma that fills the air during monsoons! It’s the fragrance of the previously parched earth, now gurgling and heaving in pleasure of being satiated. This is the season when all creepy crawlies are forced to venture out of their dark holes and onto the path of us humans. Walkway’s become obstacle courses as we try to avoid squelching a snail or an earthworm. There’s generally a feeling of calm contentment, when leaves have been freshly washed and seen to be singing in the rain.
Go back to the times of jumping up and down in muddy puddles. Perhaps not your own childhood but that of your little one! Sound of wet shoes and feel of wet hair after a rain shower!
Hot beverage of your choice… mine would always be cocoa.. and perhaps some fried goodies. Warm socks and wood wick candle?! Ok… now, I’m confusing rainy season with winter’s. Never mind… you got the gist, it’s all hyggelicht. (That’s my next favourite word, BTW). 😊
This New Year’s Eve was a bigger and an even more dramatic, “end of era” celebration world over (despite all the restrictions), honoured with even more zest and jubilation, than the change of millennia, some20 yrs back which I, a 20 something then, had participated in all its glory.
It’s heartening to see people embrace hope and positivity and look ahead wishing for a “normal “ year ahead. While I’m honouring positivity this January, I don’t much care for all the flak that the last year got.
Did you know that the word January originated from the two-faced, Roman god of doors (and transitions) called JANUS… with one face looking ahead to what will be, and the other looking back to what has been. The transition between a new beginning and an ending.
And looking back to the notorious year 2020, I honestly don’t have particularly strong negative emotions.
Accepting that “life as we knew“ dramatically changed, the last year was a unique time in all our lives.
• A unique opportunity to stay at home and wear PJ’s all day! It was like a summer vacation that we grown-ups never get.
• Even if there was work from home, getting up late (No horrid commute) and still enough time to enjoy brekkers with family.
• Potential morning hours for a quick run or spin.
• Casual dressing!! Yay! Bath, totally optional😂
• Leisurely lunches (despite having to have prepared it on your own)
• And the added advantage of having learnt new culinary skills!
• Now that we were spending so much time at home… the house was cleaner and better organised.
• My eyes opened to the fact that I have a beautiful house with many nooks and cosy crannies to lounge in all day. And Work could be done lounging in a recliner or on a deck chair!
• Made the effort to be in touch with family and friends with regular calls (no more excuses of a very busy day)
• I read so much more.
• Some others “watched” so much more.
• Had time to appreciate the sunrise and the sunset… the glorious skies and the cool breezes!
• …. and the silence in the neighbourhood.
• Which meant we could hear the melodious song of the birds!
• For a change, life did not revolve about “me and mine”… but I felt part of a larger community, “the human race“ and part of a global phenomenon… the pandemic.
• Learnt to be more grateful. Grateful to God for keeping my family safe, grateful for a wonderful family, an awesome support group of friends, a comfortable house to be cooped up in, a cooperative neighbourhood and grateful to all public workers who made our lives easy while risking theirs every day.
• Learnt to be content. Life during last year was surely not about acquiring more but learning to make do with what we already had and being content with it. Be it the lack of fanciful groceries, premium wines or imported products that we thought we couldn’t do without. Well, we did manage with what was available and fairly well!
• Learnt to be calm. By basically tuning out negative news and negative people. Honestly, life is too short to waste on people that don’t add value and positivity to your life.
• Learnt the advantage of healthy habits- the endorphin rush! The most positive aspect of the whole year was the fitness regime that we started and have managed to make part of daily practice. A friend introduced me to a “20K steps for 20days” challenge… which thankfully lasted rest of 2020 and propagated to a fitter lifestyle where I started running and cycling as well.
So, you might see my point of view, that all was not lost and all did not go awry last year.
I don’t need to list the downside of this period, in our personal lives or through the world. There is no way we can ever forget. People lost their lives, their dear ones, their jobs, financial stability, basic freedom of movement and social interactions. But.
But. We survived. We adapted. We learnt and we grew. And perhaps become a better version of ourselves compared to the year before. We learnt to count our blessings. We learnt to be content. We deciphered how little one needed to still be happy and we identified true friends which add meaning to life.
Weed out unhealthy habits, useless people, and maximalist, unsustainable lifestyles.
And welcome the year to be, riding proudly on the small and big achievements of the year gone by. Be happy to be alive and be hopeful.
The online world is full of posts labeled lockdown diaries, lockdown blues, how to cope, etc. That makes my task, of having to write an account of lockdown, for posterity, a tough one. The two major challenges are, what to call the post, without it sounding redundant and secondly, the approach for the article.
I must have spent 15 minutes trying to decide if my post was going to be a motivational speech, a rant about people and attitudes, or a post full of positivity. Not finding peace with any one approach, I decided to do what I think I always manage best. Blurt out everything pell-mell. Because since when do we have fifty shades of black or white? It’s always a shade of Grey…or is it Gray? 🙂
Let’s start at home. We fall squarely in the classical mid-zone. Happy to be home but unhappy without the bai – the bane and boon of our lives. We were definitely happy about being home 24 x 7, days on end…the feeling was akin to a summer vacation which we grown-ups, never get! As our little one put it, it was two months of back-to-back Sundays, because Sunday is the day when K has no school, momma has no cases and Daddy has no office. Family-time, in a big big way!
But (…and there always is a but), we didn’t have house-help. And have a big(gish) house which though, utilized to the hilt, did not seem all that cool, now that all 3300 sq ft needed to be swept, mopped and dusted, some of which in the form of balconies which were a playground of pigeons (I’m sure some of you urban dwellers would get me when I confess that the first thing on my amazon pending cart were bird-spikes)! Yes. Painful.
I discovered that when forced to, I could cook well and honestly don’t care about being modest. I fed my family for two months and churned out some remarkable, inspired dishes. The north-Indian bahu, finally fermented idli-dosa batter at home, good enough to knock the socks off of a Tam-Brahm.
I was given ample opportunity to be grateful. Grateful that we have mentored a calm, patient kid who can entertain himself, most of the time. Happy that we could spend so much time with him, reading, cooking, baking, doing chores, and hopefully, imparting some wisdom.
Grateful, that I have a kind husband, who helps. Having heard of some true-blue “Husbands”, who live up to their status of bread-earners and remained foolishly proud of not doing any house-hold work, making their trophy- wives realize their actual role of a “kam-waali” (who cooks, cleans, mops and preens, herself) during the lockdown. Obviously, I could not, but thank my stars…that aligned so well on the Janam-patri! 😉
Once again had to be thankful that I chose Radiology for post-graduation, when I did, as we were well suited to working from home and were practicing Telemedicine (in the form of Tele-radiology), long before that became a norm in the Corona-times.
So much more, time to read!
Re-discovered and put to good use, the miracle machine, Dyson, that was only randomly used in the pre-lockdown era to vacuum the carpets but now took over as the mainstay in cleaning. Wow, what is with us Indians, that we would first sweep the whole house ensuring all dust particles get afloat and settle on our precious tchotchkes and upholstery. Then we go about dusting the hell out of everything, thus re-displacing this “not-so-magical-dust”, only to be mopped up this time with a wet cloth. Seriously?!? all that precious time wasted!
Ramblings aside, it was fun to be the Queen of my own house, though it was more like Queen-bai, than Queen-Bee. There is to be found, immense satisfaction in knowing exactly what is kept, where in the house, and kept the way interior designers planned them to be kept, not like a dumping ground. It was very tiring but yet satisfying to cook meals the way Thomas Keller and such, have propositioned that mankind should cook. It was smugly satisfying to wear smart clothing, gently ironed by your own hands. And talking of hands, I now understood how Rhett Butler figured that Scarlett’O’Hara, was working in the fields, just by holding her hands. I, the working woman in the most honest way, had now developed hard calluses, holding the mop and the hoover.
I was proud to be self-reliant in the department of self-grooming, unlike many of my comrades who suffered the loss of self-esteem having gained a near handle-bar.
The Pros and Cons.
It was all very interesting, to study mankind, and how people respond to confounding conditions. Of course, life turned topsy-turvy. All of his conscious childhood, we have tried to teach our little one the importance of a firm handshake. Now, tucking our not so proud tails, we had to teach him and ourselves, the value of a humble Namaste.
No more eating out or ordering in, no more home deliveries, no catching up with family or friends on weekends or jumping into cars and heading to Sunder-nursery.
In an instant, times changed from when kids would be deterred to have an online presence or their own web-accounts, to times when schooling including PE and extra-curricular, shifted online. Kids now had their own zoom, teams, and such accounts, were constantly attending online classes, chatting with friends, playing chess online, and sharing screens. It took absolutely no time for a seven-year-old to learn how to export documents to word/ notability/ other such apps, modify, save and import their answer-sheet, and finally hand-it-in to the class teacher. I’m sure some teachers would have spent more time figuring all this out, compared to these COVID-kids or more acceptably, the Generation-C kids!
Tech-worthiness was now, even more, a necessity than ever, not only to be able to work from homes, but to be able to learn from home, what with a plethora of webinars, zoom sessions, free online classes and discounted courses, social-media challenges, and likes, hounding you to be productive! The pressure to achieve had never been more. How to smartly utilize this unusual amount of time that some of us had on hand and what new skill to learn?! The pressure to be funny when you don’t feel it, and upload quirky videos on Instagram, just to amuse others? Raging online debates about China and China-made, including Tik-Tok!
These were the times to be part of social movements, helping your fellow human beings, and the non-human strays. Make more Rotis, donate here, help, feed there. At no time, have the upper/ middle classes been made to realize the value of those less fortunate, who until now, silently build our worldly castles and now had been left, literally in the lurch. Commendable are those who came forward with ideas to help those in need, because every roti-donated for the needy and every vegetable peel for a stray was much-needed.
People realized the art of simple living and re-visited the teachings of the older generations. Remove your “chappals” outside the door, wash/ sanitize your hands after you enter, clean the vegetables, and clean them some more and cover your mouth. Not that any of this was new or path-breaking, but it was something that most people only preach to their kids but somehow, forget as they themselves grow older and in their heads, wiser. As a party host, I have been previously scoffed at, for asking guests to leave their footwear outside the door, but now was happy to see, everywhere shoes piling outside the pretty facades.
These times also brought to fore the germaphobes and mysophobes of the world, who went about locking themselves in a world of extreme cleanliness, and sometimes paranoia. But, we would leave everyone to their own devices as long as that gesture is returned. People needed to do something, I agree, but that should be mostly about minding their own business and being less of snoops. There were those who had to shame that one father who chose to take his son, cycling in the sunny afternoon when most choose to stay indoors anyway, or those joggers who forego their sleep for an early morning or late night run. While firmly believing in the importance of distancing and avoiding walking paths in the crowded evening hours, I don’t understand the rant against those maintaining social distancing and choosing awkward, uncomfortable hours to get their bit of exercise.
Definitely, interesting times. Not because people being sick or dying was something interesting, but interesting to see the power of human adaptability. No wonder that humans have succeeded where no other species did, adapting to changing times. It’s heartening to hear stories of kindness, stories of survival, and those of perseverance. We have and will continue to change but hopefully in a positive way.
But why all that plastic again? My one rant which will never end. Just to hide from Corona, we have produced probably more plastic than ever, in the form of sanitizer bottles, shields, masks, etc. Time to ponder people. Time to change.
1. The starless sea: mentioned on some Instagram post but what caught the eye was a quote from the book “not all stories speak to all listeners, but all listeners can find a story that does, somewhere, sometime.” So of course, I picked it up.
2. The song of Achilles: which I came across on Scribd… and how can one not read a book about a hero after whom is named one of the thickest tendon in our body. Ok, I’m a medico. I can’t help this weird thought process.
3. Grandpa’s great escape: because my son made a book review for the same and I needed to have my facts correct
4. Twilight: because I wanted to feel mushy and romantic… again
5. Gone with the wind: because I haven’t read it in last 5 years… so high time for a Re-read. Plus I need Scarlett O’hara’s tenacity right now.
6. And yes… intermittently some cookery books. Self explanatory.
This is in the midst of all house work (we Indians are used to house- help, cooks etc and we are truly struggling under lockdown) and WFH. Though also rediscovering our passion for cooking, getting over some of our cleanliness OCD’s and finally getting work done without domestic squabbles.
For some, end of the day relaxation is achieved via Netflix (or some such…). For me and hubby and the little bibliophile that our combined genes have concocted… a good book and a good story is the way to wind up a day. Or to catch a break. Or just relax.
So when you’re prompted to say something about books… people like us don’t know where to begin or end. And we babble…
“For in books, one can climb the highest mountains and dive into the deepest seas…” well, Dumbledore said something similar about dreams, but he wouldn’t really mind if I extrapolate dreams to books… cause at both places we are lost, on purpose.