Being a student of Jamia Millia Islamia, this lockdown has been very taxing. After a series of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act on campus, the college was shut for a month. It was traumatic. As things were falling in place, the lockdown was announced, leaving me devastated. All the enthusiasm with which I got into college was in shambles.
I am an introvert and I didn’t really know how to manage my routine initially – nothing gripped my interest. My parents were apprehensive of my sleeping schedule as I would spend most of my time in bed, hoping that this would help me pass time faster.
Reading about the escalating death toll on Twitter and never-ending discussion over coronavirus with family and friends kept adding to my anxiety.
I feel it is important to realise what is affecting your mental health and obviate it at the right time. I called my friends to share my sluggish routine and to vent. As most of them suggested, I watched half of the content available on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Although I am not much of a reader, I managed to finish a couple of books. I even learnt how to cook and made some good food.
Yes, all of it did uplift my mood but everything was temporary and I still didn’t feel content.
One afternoon, I was going through my phone’s image gallery to drive away the boredom – and I came across a few images of my old paintings. I had always wanted to be an artist – painting feeds my soul – but life happened and I ended up pursuing a media course.
As my course is very time consuming, I would never get a chance to paint. I had not painted in the last three years!
I called my friend that evening and told her how much I miss art and the how satisfying it is. She insisted that I get back to painting and make use of the lockdown. That night, I took out my art file, brushes and sketching board that were buried under the layers of dust in one corner of my home.
I was finally happy. It felt as if everything seemed to have aligned and lockdown was not getting hard on me any longer.
There’s something beautiful about art; it takes away all your anxiety, aches, dread and lets you come face to face with your hidden creative instincts. No matter how amateur you are, you should try pouring colours and paint on a blank sheet. It feels productive to see and share your work.
As soon I drew my first painting after three years, I shared it with my family and friends. As messages like ‘you are an artist’, ‘we are proud of you’ poured in from different corners of the country, my love for art grew even more. I wouldn’t say you should only do it for appreciation and praise. But you are motivated to do more if you people admire your work.
The next day, my father and I went to all the nearby markets in search of a new drawing file and other sketching material. Due to the lockdown, we could only find one stationery shop open in our locality.
My parents are very happy with me reconnecting with something that they had scolded me for leaving. My friends have started suggesting subjects for my next sketch. I have stopped feeling that I had nothing to do during the lockdown.
Music and art is one of the most astounding combination. So I made a playlist with all the songs that boost my energy, in short Punjabi songs. I plug in my earphones, tune into music, amplify the volume and start painting. I feel the breeze of freshness underneath.
My gallery is again filled with the pictures of my sketches, and my mother has found something new to share on her WhatsApp stories. My father still says, “Tumne drawing choddi hi kyu thi, dil khush ho jaata hai tumhari drawing se (Why did you stop painting? We feel really happy watching you paint)”.
Lockdown is indeed exhausting, but dealing with it with a positive mind is important. This is probably a once in a lifetime chance to grow, explore, value and learn. My hectic schedule wouldn’t have ever allowed me to get time for myself and pursue the things I had left behind.
Letting go of sketching and then reconnecting with it again made me realise what I was missing in life. It took me three years and one lockdown to sketch again, and this time it’s going to stay.
Unnati Khubyani is a studying Convergent Journalism at AJK- MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi
All images provided by the author