Last few months.

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.

The Pros.

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.

The silver-lining. It’s still a beautiful world.