A Homemaker’s Encounter With COVID-19

Covid or no Covid, school or no school, my days are always packed with activity. I am a person who hates sitting idle. Mornings are packed with watering the plants, cleaning the house, clothes to wash, fold and put away. Then, it’s moving on to getting breakfast ready as each member of the family slowly awakens.

One day in early May, I felt the need to sit and catch my breath. But I didn’t get the time to analyse that I felt more tired than usual. By lunch, I was exhausted enough to want to just curl up and sleep. I usually don’t sleep at midday. Sensing that something was wrong, I checked my temperature. It was 100.5. As I sat there with the thermometer in my mouth, I realised I had been coughing a bit.

The next two weeks were a rollercoaster ride, filled with visits to the doctor, waiting in labs for tests, severe pain, sickness, further checkups and a lot of medicines. Three members of my family had gotten COVID-19, with cough and high fever.

It took me a long two minutes for this information to sink in. How would I ensure all three of us had our medicines on time? How to keep a pulse on the temperature swings and oxygen levels wavering up or down periodically? If the woman/mother of the house is not sick, she does all this automatically. But if the caretaker cum homemaker is herself sick, who is to help?

I made charts for each one of us. Three different charts. A chart to note down the temperature and oxygen levels at periodic intervals, permanently fixed to a pad and pen. This was kept near the thermometer and some disinfectant.

The second chart had all the medicines each of us was supposed to have, tabulated according to the time of the day and whether it was before food or after. This chart went on the fridge, for easy and quick access. Three separate brown paper covers labelled with our initials contained medicines for each one of us. A third chart was a note of all peculiar events happening to each of us. It was more to keep tabs on when we lost smell, taste etc.

Flasks came out and were brimming with hot water at all times. Three glasses for drinking water/beverages were labelled, so were three different water bottles. This ensured we didn’t drink up the other person’s quota of water.

Then there were the blood tests, CT scans and visits to the doctor. Each work an effort.

Unlike a seasonal flu virus, COVID-19 took weeks to exit and left a trail of destruction in our bodies.

Also read: Three Women and Notes From a Lockdown

Even with diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue and bare minimum energy levels, the doctor’s advice was to pump in more proteins. So, I sat down on a hot summer afternoon and made a list of foods that could be cooked to up our protein intake while keeping in mind that the food should be visually appealing to my teenager kid. Breakfast was bread and its variations, lunch and dinner were home delivered food. It left snack time to cook up different dishes.

I tried millet rotis, channa/paneer stuffed parathas, paneer pieces in salad. Alternately, I made sundal (sprouted beans sautéd with mustard, urad dal, ginger, green chilies, curry leaves and coconut scrapings), mixed vegetable cutlets, mixed dal dosas, etc. There were many more such innovative ideas and traditional recipes that I used to increase our stamina and energy.

In a way, a home quarantine was a blessing and a bane.

A home needs to be kept clean especially when dust is your enemy, and making it more difficult to breathe. So, sweeping and mopping the house became an alternate day affair. But considering the hot summer days and the various dust storms that accompanied them, even alternate days were not enough.

If we wear clothes, they need to be washed, dried, folded and kept in the cupboard. We drink water, so there was the task of filling water from the water purifier. The house has some plants and they needed watering every day, and the rain gods seemed to be busy elsewhere.

In the kitchen, with family members heating milk, making tea and other snacks, the used utensils needed scrubbing. It took three rounds of scrubbing (spread over the entire day) to get rid of burnt sambar from one vessel. Between no smell, brain block and fatigue, I lost a few sambars, dals, milk to the kitchen top. One also needed to keep the pantry stocked with biscuits and instant eatables that would not harm the tender tummy’s recovery.

The city of Chennai was in lockdown. Shops were shut and online shopping places had long queues or could not deliver. So, every morning, I used to check if any delivery service was available to buy fresh fruit, some vegetables for salad, snacks for a quick bite and other essentials.

Whether the household chores were done or not, the body demanded its rest and took it. And so, an afternoon nap became customary.

As the days passed, with each setting sun, the fever ebbed. The fatigue was slow to go. I knew, as a homemaker, I had to get back on my feet quick. As the rest of the family recovered, and their sense of smell and taste improved, leading to better appetites, their requirements also increased. I started breathing exercises, and took to stretching to match the recovery rate of the other two family members.

But it was one step forward, and two steps back. Two days of the new routine seemed to increase my aches and pains. I soldiered on, started to walk around the block in the evening. With encouragement from the family and a member as my walking buddy, getting my pace back didn’t seem difficult. To cement my resolve, there was always a bribe at the end of a task. Mine was a coconut water at the end of a round every day.

It was tough regime to follow every day. Eat healthy, rest well, exercise the body. And as I write about it, it’s to dispel all negative thoughts that any/all homemakers have – ‘No one helps me!’, ‘I do all the work!’. We are a resilient lot and once we understand how to balance rest with food and family with self-space and positivity, the road to recovery becomes easier.

All through the commotion and confusion with the sickness, I allotted some time to do what I needed to do to keep myself sane and happy. I continued to write and draw as part of my recovery. Initially holding a pen or pencil was difficult, hands were unsteady. I could not recognise my own handwriting. My hand shook after drawing a small design.

I started to create a design on paper and kept going at it every day, adding onto it, to fill the sheet. After erasing and redrawing for numerous days I finally completed the design. A design I now call ‘Recovering from Covid’.

Sreeyantha is a person who sees the world in all the colours of the rainbow. A creative homemaker who wishes to capture the universe’s beauty in poems, paintings and short essays. You can read a collection of her poems here.

Featured image credit: Pexels