As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s almost a certainty that these past few months will be looked back on with a similar grief we reserve for world wars and famines. Deaths will become statistics and comparisons to other pandemics like the Spanish Flu and the Black Plague have already become commonplace.
But the real stories of pandemics, wars and world events aren’t just told through history books and news reports. They are told through diary entries, paintings and love letters sent home; offering glimpses of people’s lives. Perhaps the story of this pandemic will feature scribbled grocery lists, anxiety-ridden house cleaning sessions, god awful sleep schedules and a whole lot of blurry video conferencing.
11:09 am: Wake up in a groggy panic to the sound of your phone going off. It’s the daily morning conference call with your coworkers. You are already nine minutes late to work (from home). Your boss’ droning voice sounds strangely calming. Thirty minutes pass and you have managed to sneak in a nap. You worry that your coworkers might have noticed your absence but soon realise they are about as aware of your siesta as Rahul was of Anjali’s feelings before the interval. And that’s all the work you are doing in the first half.
01:00 pm: You decide to shower (your first in two days, which is progress). Proceed to change out of yesterday’s sweatpants. To today’s sweatpants. You peruse your wardrobe choices for a while. Today’s look: that frayed college hoodie with the prominent coffee stain on the front and holes in the sleeves. You pair this look with that weird but specific hair bun which keeps your bangs out of your face. For accessories, you’ve got your favourite fuzzy socks on your unshaven legs. What this look lacks in glam, it makes up for in cosiness and comfort. You might be in lockdown but at least your boobs are finally free.
4:00 pm: Spend some time vacantly staring; stare at your phone; stare at the kitchen sink, perennially full of unwashed dishes; stare out of the window at your cute neighbour who insists on working out on his balcony. Stare into your fridge. You’re not even looking for food. At this point, you’re just looking for answers.
5:25 pm: Reprimand your father for acting like an unruly teenager who insists on going out to buy unnecessary food supplies. Firmly tell him that a “no means no” and that “he needs to follow the house rules because he is a big boy now”. Hide the car keys as a precautionary measure.
8:23 pm: At some point during this pandemic we all collectively decided that audio calls just won’t cut it anymore. So your post-dinner plans involve video calling your best friend and ritualistically catastrophising the day’s COVID-19 stats together. She predictably debates whether she should cut her bangs at home for the fourth time this week. You talk her out of it again as a good friend does.
11:15 pm: Stare at your childhood bedroom wall. Try to make peace with the fact that this is where you’re going to be, possibly for months. Worry about your job, worry about your ageing parents, worry for the general world order. Cue: a mild anxiety attack which you promptly mask by nominating your friends to join you in banal, yet effective coping mechanisms like Instagram challenges or Ludo King.
12:02 am: Slink into the kitchen for what feels like your third dinner (which you charitably call a snack to feel better). You still have leftover banana bread. Your house seems to have suspiciously large amounts of banana bread these days thanks to your sister’s compulsive quarantine baking. Spare a thought for all your friends on social media who are vigorously working out every day, in fear of the dreaded ‘quarantine kilos’. Isn’t it a bit messed up that even during a global pandemic the worst thing people can fathom is not being able to fit into that summer dress?
2:12 am: Feel a mild itch in your throat. Come to think of it, you have been clearing your throat quite a bit. Did your chest always feel this tight? Grappling with existential dread, you try and stop yourself from going on WebMD. Haphazardly scroll through the symptoms and match even the mildest ones with your plight. Nothing brings out the hypochondriac in you like a new, mysterious, yet to be fully understood virus that’s going viral faster than a BTS music video. Eventually, pass out in an anxiety-ridden stupor.
4:00 am: Wake up, twist and turn in bed and realise that all your ‘symptoms’ from a couple of hours ago were just that banana bread not sitting well with you. You just needed to burp.
Fuelled by bhel and her imposter syndrome, Swarnim Jain likes to spend her time escaping from any form of meaningful conversation. Follow @swarnimjain on IG for infrequent updates about her life.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty