The New Normal: ‘Each Day of this Lockdown, I Choose Myself’

Another day, another week, but who really understands time anymore? The number of cases are steadily rising, but so is the frustration and anxiety from being locked up at home for such an extended time – even if it’s for our own good.

But we’ve got to sit tight – many of us even after the national lockdown comes to an end and when certain pockets and locations see a relaxation of the rules. After all, the end of the lockdown will hardly mean the threat of coronavirus has been put to bed once and for all.

As we continue to trudge on, and keep our social distancing vows, our ‘new normal’ continues to warp and morph and change to the demands of an ever changing uncertain world.

So write in to us at [email protected] with your experiences – in no more than 200 words. Mark the subject matter as ‘The New Normal’ and include your age and where you’re from in the email.

Here are some of the accounts that were emailed to LiveWire this past week.

Sanjana Chawla, 20, New Delhi

I belong to a ‘hardcore’ Hindu-Punjabi family and my parents are too blinded by political leaders that they believe in every WhatsApp forward or video about Muslims.

Despite being a student of journalism, I’ve failed to present and explain the reality to them in an effort to erase the hatred they’ve grown up with. Arguments and fights over their “Muslims did this, they did that” and my “can you stop making everything about religion” aren’t new to my household, but their “inki wajah se coronavirus spread ho raha hai” is a new addition.

No amount of facts or statistics seem to be of any use or help because their hatred runs deeper than the truth. I hope things change and they understand the actual reality some day – and not just what political parties sold and biased media feed them.

Siya Mulge, 18, Solapur

As a student preparing for the engineering entrance examinations, there are many questions in this uncertain time – the dates keep getting shifted and so does our consternation.

After sitting at a study table for over two years to prepare for that one big day, hoping somewhere that it would be postponed for eternity but also desiring to get it done with all at the same time isn’t a feeling anyone wants to experience.

As much as I like the idea of the exams being pushed back, I hate myself for being indolent too. Quarantine isn’t exactly a walk in the park for students like me.

Afifa Khan, 23, Sahawar (Uttar Pradesh)

With the onset of COVID-19, those working in MNCs and big corporate houses got the ease of work from home amid the lockdown. On the other hand, the heroes of our time – health workers, the police and other administrative staff and workers – are working tirelessly, risking their lives to keep people safe and provide them with essentials. For their work, they have been getting much warranted appreciation from governments around the world and the public.

Amidst this chaos, we must also acknowledge the work of housewives, for whom the workload has increased many times over. Many among those living away from home have returned, children are not going to school, office goers are at homes and domestic workers are not coming in. Some families have people who work in alternate shifts – one during the day and the other at night.

But the mighty house women of the world have to work both shifts.

We work all seven days of the week, day shifts and night shifts – for almost 16 hours a day. Our role has also been absolutely pivotal in making huge contributions in keeping the country running as unpaid workers. We housewives also deserve at least a little applause and appreciation for what we do.

Gaurvi Narang, 19, Ahmedabad 

Waking up every day to my father conducting conference calls as he stares into his computer screen wearing a freshly ironed white shirt and casual blue shorts – an outfit there is much disagreement over – I see persistence and a will to thrive.

Ma endlessly scrolls through the BigBasket app so she can avail that one slot she has been waiting for to open all week. She knows better than to expect her choice of milk, dahi, bread and biscuits to all be available so she settles for all the wrong brands without a grumble. The least she can do at a time like this is not complain.

I’ve been asked to do the dusting and occasionally sweep the floor. I have started believing that my house is bigger than I thought it was. And as I’m washing my plates after having eaten, I realise how my “single-princess-child” upbringing is being reversed dramatically. It reminds me of my privilege.

I’m beyond grateful, if these are our struggles. My heart goes out to everyone who is unable to say the same.

Nuveira Hasan, Dubai

Technology and gadgets have become an extension of our being. However, despite being armed with the latest technology, we humans are nothing but fragile beings against this malevolent force of nature as it locks us in our houses.

Each one of us is trying to adjust to the ‘new normal’ – online classes, remote offices, masks, gloves, sanitisers – while we attempt to make sense of the march of the contagion. It almost seems like we have stepped into a Robin Cook medical thriller. With each page that we turn, we hope that a real-life Jack Stapleton and Laurie Montgomery will find a solution.

The virus has rushed across closed borders, passengers stuck in transit, students desperate to get home, children worried about their aged parents living alone. For many, the consequences are infinitely more tragic. Each death represents someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, spouse, son or daughter.

While I, like millions across the globe, wait, hoping and praying that the virus’s march will be arrested soon, the realisation dawns on me that superheroes do not always wear capes – they sometime don white coats.

Furqaan Jafri, 20, Ahmedabad

As part of the graduating batch of Ahmedabad University’s BBA programme, this is officially my last week as a third-year student. We shifted to the online mode of learning two weeks before the first lockdown was announced. Things have been virtual ever since.

This has been frustrating for me and a lot of my peers simply because it feels like the last few days of our college life have been snatched away. It feels like a beautiful piece of art being created on canvas for the past three years will now remain incomplete for eternity – we will never know how it was going to look upon completion. A lot of things remain unsaid – pranks undone, plans unfulfilled and memories uncreated.

The only sense of positivity is that all of us are in this together. Though not in person, we are all keeping in touch, we’re all trying to make the most of whatever time we have – from wherever we are. But all of us still wish we could have had that last batch photo, had a proper farewell and been able to say our final goodbyes – the way we longed for them to be.

Sampada, 29, Kolhapur City

It was decided that after the last day in office on March 11, I would go and meet all my relatives (the ones who matter to me) – my kind of solo travel. Then the plan was to stay with my husband – we are in a long-distance marriage– for a few days and return.

But the situation continued to become more and more grim as the number of COVID-19 cases kept rising. I had to rush back to my hometown in a jiffy as news of a possible curfew spread like wildfire from March 17 onwards. Things turned topsy-turvy with the Janata curfew, and after the announcement of the 21-day national lockdown.

The current routine has become a ‘new normal’. Three meals in the comfort of my house, loving in-laws by my side, the start of my dream project (blogging), and an internet connection that allows me to stay connected with my parents, siblings, and friends are some of the positive aspects I am holding on to in this uncertain time. The best thing is that I get to spend time with my husband after almost two years.

Karan Malik, 33, Sydney

Do I feel anxious, skeptical or paranoid? Yes. This is the current normal for many across the world.

Australia adapted early to COVID-19. Self-isolation and work from home was encouraged all through February. As shockwaves propagated across Europe, stricter restrictions were applied and the unease became permanent.

Having lived across multiple countries, I am lucky to not be in the US, a country failing its citizens, or in Singapore, who has been overly cautious. Australia has proven to be somewhat in between the two extremes. In India, where I still have family, the infected count is surging, but there still needs to be more testing for a true image to emerge. The Indian state, in my opinion, is more invested in image management than crisis management. I hope that changes rather soon.

I work in the airline sector, which has been thoroughly impacted, yet I consider closing borders and commercial airspace as paramount in managing the spread of the virus. My only hope, while I sit in the comfort of my home with an ample supply of necessities, is that global cooperation and a belief in science is only strengthened when normalcy returns.

Nivedita, 32, Mumbai

The days go by slowly like a dream of lost memories.
The smell of freshly-brewed coffee longs to dance to the tune of office chatter.
Walk by familiar roads seems to be a probable eulogy.
Video calls unknowingly elucidate more distance and don’t reek of proximity.
Self-awareness often gets mistaken for self-obsession.

Amidst the chaos, a magical cocoon exists for those who wish to be engulfed in it.
Whether it is reading that book that lay unattended;
Whether it is the long overdue call with a friend;
Whether it is the charm of looking at your earring collection (each of which has a story to relate);
Whether it is the pictures on your phone gallery that resonate freedom;
It all trickles down to you.

For most of us, we do not make ourselves our priority.
The lockdown has been a welcome bridge to address this gap.
Each day of this lockdown, I choose myself.

The question is: Do you?

Anshu Banga, 18, Alwar

To those who are reading this – are you eating three fixed meals? Working or studying from home? Have enough stock of essentials at home? Binge watching shows online?

Well, everything is alright then.

While people are busy abusing migrant workers for gathering at Bandra or in Surat, imagine how many of them would actually know in detail about the novel coronavirus? For them, it’s a new disease which has put their incomes on a hold for an indefinite period.

Now, pause for a second. These people are fruit and vegetable vendors, plumbers, masons, construction workers – many of whom have offered their services to us sooner or later. You’ve probably, at one time or the other, had conversations with your maid, your dhobi, your security guard etc and spoken about how hard life is?

Well, ask them again now. How are they getting food and other essentials?

We are privileged. Let’s not forget that. The ‘new normal’ has made me realise that getting proper food, education at home or working from home are all luxuries. It has made me realise that your freedom of speech can be snatched away from you if you are not fortunate enough.

Aishwarya Rohatgi , 25 , Patna, Bihar

To be honest, I am not jostled by this ‘new normal’, I wished for this for a long, long time because I wanted the world to stop, to pause and reflect for a moment. I just didn’t know this wish of mine would be fulfilled by a pandemic of this magnitude.

But this slowdown of sorts has made me realise that doctors, support staff, sanitation workers, vendors, the police and so many other professions are indispensable to our society. And that health is indeed wealth.

As a public health student, I have never felt more proud of all the scientists, researchers, epidemiologists and frontline health workers who have been giving their heart and soul to fight the virus. The story of the two women doctors who had stones pelted at them rejoining duty the very next day makes me believe that health as a profession needs to be revered more. Those two doctors are my heroes – along with everyone who is battling this crisis.

I can affirmatively say that you, me and all of us are handling this situation to the best of our capacities as long as we are choosing be more sensitive and generous in our words and actions towards ourselves, our family, stray animals and anyone that we can help. Let us usher in collective accountability and empathy in our perspectives towards one and all this lockdown season. And may the fourth be with you!

Featured image credit: Kathlene Macgregor/Unsplash