I Admit, I Panicked! – Life in the pandemic

Life in the pandemic
Coping with life in the pandemic

Don’t listen to Fido Dido. Normal is NOT boring. We have all learnt this since March 23rd when the country went into total lockdown literally in a matter of hours in a bid to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Right now, I would give my left arm AND my eye AND my teeth to be as boringly “normal” as I possibly can.  

I admit I panicked – which I’m sure 99% of the population did – when the PM announced the decision to shut down the country effective midnight of March 22/23. This he declared at 8 pm on March 22… giving a population of 1.3 and some odd billion LITERALLY FOUR hours to stock up essentials!! First thought: “OMG! How am I going to feed my kids? Will I be able to get them the nourishment they need? This is nuts! Absolute madness! Just crazy! WHAT is this government thinking?” That was me, and I suspect a billion or so more, screaming at the TV.  

I had questions, and no one to ask because all of us had the same questions and no answers. Yes we were told “essential services” like groceries and medical supplies and hospitals (obviously) would carry on uninterrupted, but c’mon! This was an unprecedented situation for at least three generations (I’m not sure there are many around to recount the Spanish ’Flu days…). The intrinsic reporter in me kicked in: who, what, where, how? Where does one go shopping to stock up at this time of night? Why weren’t we given more time to plan for the lockdown? Will the local shops be allowed to remain open so that we can pick up what we need without a problem? Is there going to be a shortage of supplies? How is this going to affect the market prices? The horror of soaring prices induced by hoarders and black marketers danced in front of my eyes. O.M.G. 

My mind at that moment was a reflection of the hasty decision taken at the national level – an at-best-tacked-together plan that seemed doomed from the get-go. We had people flouting lockdown protocol at will, the utterly mismanaged return of thousands of daily wage earners and labourers, most of whom trekked cross-country to get home, adding to the spread. And we have a stubborn virus that has absolutely and resolutely ignored all pleas by thumped thalis and lit lamps to leave us, shrugged its shoulders disdainfully at all bovine cures and sundry belladonnas being promoted by shady shamen and pranced merrily and insidiously on its way to its next victim, and its next, and its next…

WFH, and zooming into distance learning

I’m not a social butterfly, nor particularly anti-social. I have no problem being with myself, at the same time I do love spending time with my family and friends. But that’s something we do of our free will, normally, when we want and when it suits us. Now, for the first time, a Machiavellian menace was dictating our way of life. And that did not sit well with me or my kids. I wanted to rebel, let alone them.  The stress of not meeting family and friends was overwhelming sometimes. For me it was just about having a conversation, face-to-face, with an adult. The kids missed their dad, their granny and gumpa, and nana, and friends. I missed by family and friends. Hell, I even began to miss those stupid arguments at family gatherings!

I was one of those people who always dreamt about working from home. What a lark that would be, I always thought. No commute, no putting up with a schizophrenic boss and annoying colleagues. Being able to work in peace… Hah! Not really. Not under these circumstances. This was a baptism by fire. In the beginning it was great; no rushing around like flies trying to get five hours of chores done in half an hour, bathing and dressing in a hurry to rush off to work. I didn’t miss the commute at all, envisioned a leisurely lie in, doing my office work and household chores in balletic tandem – an arabesque  here and a pirouette there and I would get through the day blissfully. 

And then the novelty wore off….quickly. Far from arabesques or pirouettes, there was the unbelievable stress of coping with the mess the virus had visited upon our kids’ education. For the then 16, now 17, year old daughter there was the madness of dealing with anxiety of the on-again-off-again-finally-off ICSE Board exams. In between all that drama, there was the pressure of getting admission into the ISC school of choice, distance learning on zoom, keeping up with weekly assignments sent by the 12-year-old son’s school. The tension was palpable. and traumatising for me! The kids? They were cool as cucumbers about it all. (Rolls eyes). 

Entertainment, the lack thereof, or something in between

Besides trying to shrug off the fact that I was almost totally useless – I had not picked up even one useful (useless, really??) pandemic skill, had I??  And all around me I kept bumping virtual shoulders on FB with newly minted butchers, bakers and candle-stick makers and here I was feeling patently useless and talentless with not an iota of inclination to better my prospects. Where was the time? Seriously? Between cooking cleaning scrubbing working teaching and keeping body soul and mind together, where DID they find the time to be so uselessly enterprising! Keeping the kids entertained, and myself sane enough to keep a grasp on life as we know it now took up all mine.  

The daughter, being closer to 18 than 13, and possessed of more discipline and level headedness simply went about adapting. The son… sighhhhh!! Not so much and I was suddenly dealing with mood swings. The daughter was not a problem (girls rarely are when it comes to studies) and she went about her school work stoically, whether it was keeping in touch with what was happening on the ICSE front and the papers that were pending, or juggling Class XI via zoom in between the shilly-shalllying that went on over whether the rest of the Board exam papers would be held at all.  She is also a bit of a loner, or maybe it would be better to say that she doesn’t have a problem being stuck in her room 24×7, doing her school-work, chatting with her friends, and listening to music… only emerging to say “Hi Mum” (sometimes), and for sustenance! 

A month into lockdown and sonny was champing at the bit to get back to school and the military precision routine that he had got used to over two years. Now with time on his hands, the devil’s workshop reopened. It wasn’t so bad while I was at home during the two months of lockdown, before Phase 1 of unlock forced me back to the office and out of the home for around 11 hours a day, including commute. I was able to monitor his studies and keep him up to date with the weekly assignments sent by the school. So he spent his time doing his assignments, playing cricket or football in the corridor, and watching TV. The trouble began when I went back to work. He dodged his school-work, would not listen to his big sister (it’ll be a cold day in hell when a younger sibling will listen to an older one), I struggled to cope with the cooking, cleaning and seeing to his studies after getting home from work at around 7.30 every evening.

 It’s been five months since I’ve been back to work, and we’re already into December 2020. On hindsight, this period has been a blur. We’ve sort of settled down into a routine. We have stayed home as much as possible, the kids have coped and don’t seem to be too psychologically damaged. For the moment, it is what it is. We are just going to have to live with it. To all those people waiting to say “goodbye” to 2020 as if we will see the back of the virus along with it, please understand that you are being ridiculously obtuse. The stroke of midnight of December 31, 2020 will not be a magic moment in time, when the virus will just “poof” disappear! This virus is not going anywhere anytime soon, so mask up, sanitise your hands, and keep your distance. Be responsible, for your sake, and others’ around you. Don’t be a covidiot!

Stephanie Samuel
Stephanie Samuel
Journalist | [email protected]

Journalist, sports-writer, media relations consultant, brand and communications manager, copywriter/editor, Stephanie has worked for 14 years on the sports desk of  a well known newspaper based in Kolkata, before crossing over to sports management for 10 years.

During that time she combined her skills as a journalist with media relations to work with top sports personalities and celebrated her skills as a journalist with media relations to work with top sports personalities and celebrated writers and artists. In 2019, she decided to switch gears and move into the branding and communications sphere.

Stephanie enjoys being the head cook and bottle-washer, butcher, baker and candle-stick maker (only the baker part is really true).

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