DIAGNOSIS: COVID Fatigue; CURE: Temporarily Unknown

March 11, 2021 marked the one year anniversary of COVID-19. On this day the ugly reality of a virus attack was declared a global pandemic by WHO and the world came to a sudden, grinding halt. Something unimagined hit us hard and stopped us in our tracks, and, like ice sculptures, we froze, unable to move and fathom the full force of what hit us.

Fast forward to 2021. An entire year, 12 months have vanished. March 11, 2021 came and rolled past. We live, we breathe, we are surviving. Anxiety, apprehension and fear of the unknown is giving rise to mental instability. We have witnessed tragedy, economic crisis, personal loss, all due to a health pandemic, the likes of which our generation had only read about in history books.

Many of us are still largely functioning from home, living in self created bubbles, going out only when necessary, at times totally avoiding meeting people.

The freedom of making plans on the spur of the moment has been taken away from us or is temporarily suspended. The fear of the unknown looms large. Often, the guilt of not doing the right thing and how our actions may affect our immediate household prevents us from leading a life which was conventional. A routine dinner plan now involves masks, gloves, social distancing, multiple rounds of hand sanitizing and making sure our phones are sufficiently charged (how else will we read the QR code and order a meal), even before we think of who to make this plan with. The hardest hit are the school children. Yes, they are studying and getting an education. But the social interaction and camaraderie that is part of growing up is missing. In short, we all now have Covid fatigue, with no cure in sight.

Often, I wonder if life will go back to normal or we will remain in this suspended state forever? Globally, media is still reporting a steady number of infections, but are we now ready to take tiny, calculated risks? I think somehow, somewhere we have to draw the line. We need to shake ourselves out of this stupor, slowly limp back to normal, while continuing to follow all safety guidelines.

The last few months brought along some good news also. Vaccines were researched at record speed, approved and released for mass usage. Getting a vaccination appointment is a ray of sunshine, a glimmer of hope, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. It almost seems that all will be well soon and we will lead a normal life without continuing to match our outfits to our masks, forever. (I think I now have more masks than clothes in my closet).

How are you combating Covid fatigue? How are you keeping yourselves sane? How do you plan to ease yourself back into society? We all have to find the right balance between safety and sanity. The complete cure and eradication of the virus may still be a long way ahead, full of roadblocks of mutations and variants. We have to continue to strengthen our minds and fortify our health. I’m dreaming of the day when I can throw my mask, high up in the air, like a graduation cap, and instead of waiting to collect it on its downward journey, run the best race of my life, away from it, forever.

I’m not everyone’s cup of tea or coffee…..

I’ve heard snobbish, reserved, arrogant and some other not so pretty adjectives associated with my name. Over a period of time I have even come to enjoy my “villainous” and “notorious” personality. What difference should it make to me about what people think, so long as I know who I am? Just to share a secret, I was not born with this wisdom, it came to me with age, wherein I learnt to gracefully accept the truth.

I have my own set of values I like to live by. Not everyone will embrace or accept the same. Should it really matter to me or upset me enough to change my path? The only newness my maturity dictates is I listen to all, trust a few and take the final decision based on what I feel is correct. My younger self had a different perspective and outlook but the mature me has begun seeing things through a slightly altered lens.

Like countless others, I grew up with a strict set of rules about what is right, what is wrong, what should be embraced and what ignored. These were mostly hand me down legacies from our parents who in turn inherited the bundle from the generation before them. Over time a lot which was held sacred across generations has diluted enough to give us a taste of a new found freedom of choice. This is where the disconnect originates and me, the tea or coffee, started to taste different to many.

All around us, those ready to judge and take potshots at the slightest provocation are numerous. Most do not even bother to know the real story. At times I feel this should qualify as the “national hobby”. The number of our real friends will always be far smaller than the list which shows up on the Zuckerberg marvel, Facebook. The key here is to learn to live life by our rules, so long as said rules are not causing harm to anyone. Find those who will accept us for who we are. Those who want to change us to be who they think we should be, should be given a wide berth. Or maybe one can try asking them to change. My younger self would have been tempted to try this, the new mature me is happy to do the waltz in my own orbit (this despite my two left feet). Believe me, it’s a happier place to be in, guaranteed.

I may still be showered with more not so pretty adjectives going forward. I’m beginning to quite like the experience of making my own personal collection of them, building my own personal library. Regardless, I’ve realized, I would like to be my own person and that person is not perfect.

I may not be everyone’s cup of tea or coffee not because of the way I am but because not everyone has good taste. Tastebuds cannot be developed in any classroom setting, they have to be indulged in, inculcated and nurtured over time.

In search of the perfect “Raj”and “Simran”

Bollywood gave us Raj and Simran, the iconic characters many of us identified with, grew up admiring, and, wishing we also had that perfect fairy tale ending and happily ever after in our life. The likes of Yash Raj and Dharma Productions sold us dreams, gave us hope that each of us will find the perfect partner, all we have to do is believe. So with stars in our eyes and hope in our heart, we went looking for perfection.

What we all forgot while riding this roller coaster of happiness with Raj and Simran was that real life begins once the curtains come down. If the movie was to give us a glimpse into the future, it wouldn’t take long for the rose tinted glasses to fall from our eyes. But then the charm of the dream would be lost forever, so it was better to live with the illusion of reel-life perfection, and walk out of the theatre smiling and teary-eyed as soon as the train left the station.

In real life, Simran may be a well-educated woman turned homemaker because it was expected of her. Some may also have abandoned studies, others given up thriving careers to accommodate the needs of their growing families. Reel-life Simran was given permission to travel all over Europe, real life did not get easy permission for a day trip. Real life Raj was not handed things on a platter either. A lot of hard work and perseverance went in building and protecting his career. After decades spent perfecting this routine, he’s able to take care of the needs of the family satisfactorily. On the other hand, reel-life Raj was applauded for not faring well in studies. Talk about setting skewed standards from get-go.

This real life daily grind took a toll on the bond which started out strong. Somewhere along the way, while accommodating each other’s needs and taking care to be as supportive as possible, the fun side of life was lost. One or both may still have a flashback moment. Some may resort to watching the movie for the nth time and sigh at all the right places, mouth the dialogues, laugh with Raj, cry with Simran, all with a large bowl of buttered popcorn for company.

The journey though not easy did teach us real people to bend a little, compromise a bit and find a balance to keep life on an even keel. We learned to give space, to be respectful of each other’s quirks, to take things in stride and mature together. Despite the hiccups, both made peace with life and built our haven.

The thing we need to believe is not to keep finding faults, but to grow together and make life meaningful. Our pace may differ, our treads may not exactly match. Despite what reel-life portrays, no Raj will ever be perfect, no Simran sublime. Adjustment and compromise to attain a happy medium are not prohibitive words, so long they don’t crush our spirit and respect for self.

ALL THE (VIRTUAL) WORLD IS A STAGE!!

Lights, camera, action!!! These words were once only part of a celebrity life. In the last two decades social media have made this come home to the common man. Everyone is busy posing, posting, broadcasting their lives. The platforms available are varied and evolving. This baby was just born and has already grown into an over-fed “know it all giant”.

When we migrated overseas, talk time was precious. The weekly calls made home were timed, and we took turns exchanging information with an eye firmly on the ticking clock. Detailed news, photographs went by snail mail, took weeks to reach across continents and then begin the long, arduous trek back. The anticipation kept us excited.

Fast forward to September 2006. Facebook opened its arms and embraced an entire cross section of individuals starved for contact. Almost overnight our universe bloomed and several concentric circles formed magically. The wonder of finding that long forgotten first friend from school, college or neighborhood, the elation of knowing how easy it was to stay connected and to be able to share news was enough to put us over the edge with delirium. I finally comprehended how Alice must have felt in Wonderland.

The plethora of social media apps have since mushroomed. Twitter, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat are now household names spanning and engaging generations. With this vast play field, our need to be visible and to share grew exponentially. Every place visited, every meal ordered began to be documented. I love the fact that I’m able to now follow the travel itinerary of family and friends or be a part of an event I’m unable to travel to; but do I need to know why the barista did not make that perfect latte on Monday morning, or why did the Uber driver not show up at the allocated hour, that too accompanied by photographic evidence?

As with all other things, overuse, misuse and abuse often leads to harm. Soon, cases of online predators, distracted drivers, depression began to be associated with this new world. Teenagers are most vulnerable to predators and long unsupervised hours online are adding to this trouble. Depression,they say can slam all ages. All those happy pictures streaming into our news feed give us pause- “am I the last boring person left on this planet? So, we seek opportunities to pose, click and share our lives in reciprocation, and the circle of sharing continues.

This new age show has a mixed bunch of performers. Those who were on stage in the opening act but have since decided to quit. Then there are others who are adding more and more to their roles each time the curtains rise. I prefer to stay on stage because I’m still enjoying myself. I get to write my own screenplay and choose to take my own breaks. Most important, I’m the director of my show, and I still feel the thrill in calling lights, camera, action OR cut!!!!

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH??

Some of life’s difficult yet most fulfilling tasks come without a manual. Can we find one on Parenting? Not only does one size not fit all, several combinations of half and quarter sizes are needed to make a good, if not exact, fit. How do we decide when to be parent, teacher, counselor, friend or even cook, driver and nursemaid to our children? When and how quickly should we switch roles? How do we know how much to shield and protect and when to let go? How much is too much or too little? These and many such innumerable questions do a dance in my head, often late at night with no real answers, because there are none. What looks good In one introspection session may be completely wrong for another time.

So am I missing the “parenting gene”? How often have I heard around me- “she was born to be a mother” or “this is how a father should be”. I’m back to thinking, where did I take a wrong turn. Should I be engaging a “parent counselor” to guide me?? What happened to the age old wisdom and advice handed down from generation to generation? Nothing seems to follow a pattern anymore.

The new age has dawned with its own set of troubles. Kids today are exposed to an entire gamut of emotions and grapple with a multitude of feelings which were unheard of a few decades ago. Harassment, intimidation and bullying are becoming commonplace. Add to this social and peer pressure. Every one wants to be the best and reach the top. They want to fit in and belong. Disappointment and failure weigh very heavy on the young mind. According to most teens, their parents are putting too much pressure on them and no one understands them (this one gospel truth hasn’t changed from the time I was a teen, although back then we were never as vociferous)

The questions and dilemma pile up on both sides. Somehow we stumble along, keeping our fingers crossed that all will work out in the end. What looks unsurmountable now may well be something we can one day sit across from each other and laugh over. In the meantime, the only thing I know for sure is not to let go…use a hot iron to smoothen the creases or air out your differences on the clothesline on a crisp morning, just don’t let go. Be there for them.

P.S. I’m sure at this very moment there is a child somewhere trying to find a manual on “How to handle parents!”

The Wind is turning ….swim with the tide!!

(On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the world applauds women. I want to table a different perspective, a dimension of real-life that’s often swept under the rug. My views may not be appreciated by all, and may also not be true in all situations. Nonetheless, they need expressing)

Every day we hear stories about women being abused, not being allowed to dress the way they want, follow the career path they charted, and in some bizarre cases, not allowed to eat, drink or even socialize without the “divine” intervention of the men in their lives; be it father, brother, husband. Some days I wonder, is this 2022 or are we still in the Stone Age?

While one progressive arm of mankind dreams of equality for all, without discrimination, a vast majority is still living under a rock and making their own rules. I often wonder who gave one gender the right to subjugate the other. Where and what is the root of this trouble? Is it something more commonly witnessed among certain communities or is it rampant across the board, this happy stomping down of the “weaker” gender, and getting an ego boost under the guise of being protectors?

Let us try to trace the genesis of this malady and crawl back in time to the cradle. The girl child was conditioned to be malleable, to do what she wanted, but under a “defined” canopy. They were provided with an education, taught to be well versed with household chores, and be presentable (but not opinionated). You are strong, you give birth, you nurture. This was drilled into little impressionable minds from a very young age. Over time, this became part of their DNA, as essential as breathing. Most girls stopped questioning these rules and took it in their stride.

This may well have continued, but for the winds of change which started as a gentle breeze a couple of decades ago and have now turned into a storm. Ease of communication, digitalization, and more importantly the easing of societal pressures on parents is largely responsible for this shift. A giant step towards female emancipation is financial Independence. Decision-making, confidence, and the power to say no, now stems directly from financial freedom.

The glass ceiling is seeing large visible cracks, is sometimes even broken. Despite this, for every Sudha Murty and Indra Nooyi, thousands are unable (not incapable) to make choices for themselves. It is just not allowed!!!

We cannot always blame the men. For generations, no one prepared them to acknowledge, no one spelled out the rules of gender equality and no one conditioned them to accept it gracefully. Often, the men do not think about how their actions affect the stronger yet gentler gender. Under the guise of protecting, they abuse. Under the guise of nurturing, they strip women of all dignity. Women take a lot in their stride. But there comes a day when they stop sweeping things under the carpet and decide to take a stand – this day defines the turning point. It leaves the man baffled, sometimes angry. It leaves the woman feeling guilty, despite knowing fully well that she is correct. Why should it come this far? Why do women have to play tug of war and fight for every inch of space that is rightfully theirs?

I hope the winds of change will soon turn the tide. It is oft-repeated “behind every successful man is a woman”. Some day soon, I want to proudly say “they are beside each other, hence they are successful”. The genders should co-exist, prop each other up and believe in each other, unconditionally. I want to see the day when fathers will be proud of their daughter’s career choices and mothers prouder of their sons for taking time off to take care of the newborn. “Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao”, a national initiative was launched by the Prime Minister of India, in 2015. Today, seven years later can we also say “Beti ki choices ki respect Karo” and learn to swim in the direction of the tide.

Naughty, Not Nice!!!

And here we go again!!! Just when the world was beginning to feel a tad bit less anxious, people were starting to make plans to travel a little further than the local grocery stores, just when the one or two jabs were beginning to fade from our memory and humanity was getting ready to put the horror of the last 18 months behind, comes the new variant.

Meet the newest child of the Covid-19 family, the Omicron. It is here to cause another round of anxiety, hasty booster appointments, many canceled travel plans. After all, who gave us the go-ahead to think of normalcy? There is a sudden spike of masked faces all around, scared eyes peeping from above, darting from person to person, desperately trying to peg the unmasked. There is no answer to the basic – “why did this variant choose to rain on our parade at the beginning of the holiday season?”

A lot has been written about the pandemic. Daily diaries, factual accounts, analysis of every variety has been recorded. Personally, I had promised myself not to indulge in self pity anymore, to not think of the pandemic and had decided to move on. But it was not to be. (Wo)man proposes, Covid opposes holds true here. The virus is again rearing it’s ugly head, multiplying exponentially, this time disguised as a common cold.

When I made my Christmas list, the very first name on the top of the heap this year was Omicron, with a special request to Santa to put a large bag of coal in its stockings for a long long time into the future. The virus is permanently on the naughty list. Doing this made me feel like I’m five years old, sticking my tongue out at someone I don’t like and acting petulant. But if it is the last thing I can do to make myself feel a little more in control, I don’t mind acting five again.

As we head into the last week of 2021, we are torn. Should we bury our heads in the sand and pretend all is well this year and the virus is but a fading memory? Should we acknowledge the presence of the virus but still choose to go about our social and family commitments? Or, should we go back to sitting in front of the idiot box, in our jammies, watching coverage of the growing number of cases around us, with a sinking feeling of deja’vu? No right or wrong answers whichever way you turn, all we can do for now is to take responsible decisions and keep ourselves sane.

The calendar will flip to a sparkling new year in less than 10 days. Positive Polly inside my head feels that the worst is over. Negative Nancy sitting in one corner of my brain insists nothing is on track and we are yet to win this war. I don’t know what to believe anymore. I will not pretend that all is well, but I am not going to cower down and give up. I will act responsibly, but I will not give up. I will take precautions, but I will not shut myself away from humanity. And ofcourse, I will stay grateful to medical research and comply with the vaccination mandates. I agree it’s a personal choice, and no one can be forced to get vaxed or mask-up. It’s a free world, we are all allowed to do what we want (or so we think). Just remember, it’s a free, seamless world for the virus also.

Tonight, when Santa travels from the North Pole, I hope he’s not asked to show his vaccine card, or get a booster. We have to keep the Faith, Believe and let him eat the cookies, drink the milk and we have to be Thankful. This is all I ask, all I want this Christmas .

ALL THAT GLITTERS IS (not) GOLD

A happy family, beautiful children, a well behaved dog, a well manicured yard, a glistening pool and helpful neighbors across a white picket fence. Stuff that every dream is made up of, the result of years of hard work and dedicated planning.

A ideal day begins with the family converging at the breakfast table, and then going their respective ways for the day. Back home in the evening, gather around the table, share highlights with each other, help in doing the chores and disperse to complete homework and to fulfill other commitments. Each person has an assigned task, a set of things to do around the house, through the week and no one slips up, no one needs to be reminded, and there are no raised voices. This is shiny 24-carat gold.

A typical day, on the other hand, may begin with a frantic rush in the morning. The teen forgot to complete an important paper, overslept and has to be driven to school, the younger sibling is throwing a tantrum and wants pancakes instead of oatmeal, the dog has decided to run an extra mile around the yard, citing health as an excuse, (implied, since he can’t really speak ) refusing to come in when asked. Dad left extra early for an all important presentation and no prizes for guessing who is stuck with putting this train wreck back together and still get to work only a few minutes late. Shiny 24-carat gold this is not.

Both of these scenarios are a figment of imagination, a narrative often found between the covers of a book. The reality is, neither extreme is an everyday occurrence. Most of the time, we walk the middle path, find a balance, make things work in harmony. This requires every member of the household to give in a little (yes, even the pet needs to chip in and not chew the slippers or the homework), walk a short distance in the other person’s shoes, think as a unit rather than an individual.

Whoever said life is a peach must have spent all his/her life in an orchard. I wouldn’t classify life as any kind of fruit. Our daily life is checkered and throws a curveball at every step. This is further compounded by islolation, loneliness, depression, fatigue of the last eighteen months due to the pandemic. Now, more than ever, is the time to support and prop each other, concentrate on what is good and ignore the bad, within and outside of the family. Each of us should pause, take a deep breathe and think calmly about what should be done by him/her to contribute to the harmony around us.

Once we embrace the fact that none of us are perfect and there is no glittery gold existence, life moves into a new orbit. There exists a lot of beautiful space between 24 carats and tarnished metal to co-exist, support and uphold each other. All that glitters may not always be gold, but with time, patience and love, we all can learn to polish metal to shine and sparkle!!!

Throw the masks up in the air!!!

I hugged someone at work today after a long long time. A relatively common occurrence in the past, but today it left an impact. A masked hug, started tentatively, but felt good after.

Yes!!!! The wait is almost over 15 months after the pandemic started and staked a claim in our lives, bullying us into submission, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are allowed to be seen mask-free in public. We are allowed to socialize. We are allowed to live life normally again. All this if one is vaccinated and subject to the honor system. Many nations around the world are still reeling under this impact and have a much longer road to recovery, but I see hope, I see a normal world.

A lot has happened in this past year. Life is changed for most of us. Fear and caution are now second nature to us. A common cold, fatigue or a low grade fever makes us think the worst. By now everyone knows someone who has been severely affected by this pandemic. It has changed the way we think, it has taught us not to take anything for granted. Life and health are the most precious gifts given to us. No amount of money or a flamboyant lifestyle can be a substitute for good health.

Now we have the the vaccine, which brings with it a certain protection, some level of security against COVID. Most people are following the guidance laid out, but then there are the detractors. As we slowly unveil ourselves and peel that mask off our face, be mindful that the road to recovery is long, and we should not compromise anyone around us. Honor the rules, follow the guidelines laid out, stay healthy and march onwards ahead. This summer will mark the turning of yet another corner in our war against the virus.

A very unusual school year draws to a close. Educators are now added to the list of frontline workers, for their contribution in keeping things as normal as possible for our students, learning new methods of engagement each day and walking the tightrope between in-seat and virtual students. It has not been an easy job, but in the end, they achieved the impossible by sheer perseverance.

As we say goodbye for the summer, let us take a few moments to reflect on the year gone by, let us be thankful for all our achievements and continue to take care of ourselves and our families. It is time to celebrate achievements and graduations. This time the masks can also be thrown up in the air, (albeit with caution), this is the time to smile and to be seen smiling.

Have a great summer!!! Let us count every blessing that comes our way. We all deserve a pat on our backs. WE DID IT!!!!!!

The essential 3 a.m. friend…be one and find one!!

Everyone needs a 3 a.m. friend. Please don’t go the literal route and start looking through your contact list at 2:55 am to find one. What I meant was, a go-to at all times, non-judgmental, by your side, for better or for worse, human being.

The fast-paced world we live in today has isolated us. When everything has to be completed “yesterday”, our lives are on a constant roller coaster, at times spinning out of control. Emotions take a backseat and voila` before we know it, we are like a tightly coiled spring, jumpy and nervous, high-strung and at times even distrustful of our surroundings.

Add to this a very unusual and uniquely stressful year which has solidified my belief that each one needs a 3 a.m. friend. While staying home and spending time with family has become top priority, there are times we need a break. That is when one essential friend comes to mind. He or she may not always be someone we interact with daily, but this person will always be the first to come to our mind when in need. It is like a speed-dial in our head. A safe haven in times of need.

The biggest advantage of having a 3 a.m. friend (besides the ability to call at the weirdest hour), is the no-judgement zone they exist in. You had an argument at home or work, you whine, they listen. Your dog chewed the most expensive pair of shoes you own, you complain, they listen. Having a bad hair day, feel free to complain. NASA was unable to launch its next mission successfully in space, go ahead complain, you will be heard. You get the drift … you talk, they give you a patient ear. Silly things, serious issues, angst with the world, this friend has the patience to listen.

As time goes by we may not remember all the rough patches, but we will always remember those who helped us over the rough patches and stood by us. Life may not be the party we hoped for, but dancing with the right set of people often makes it bearable, sometimes even fun.

Do you have a 3 a.m. friend? Even more important, are you a 3 a.m. friend? If your answer is in the affirmative for both, you are part of a unique community who realize the true meaning of happy coexistence. I’m truly blessed to be in this club. You give and you get – the attention, the concern, the solicitude…all of it comes back tenfold. Try it, it works wonders for the soul.

Make a pledge …pay it forward – become a 3 a.m. friend for someone….because somewhere out there is one person who needs you right now. Be one, find one. Together we can make a difference. Together we will make a difference.

(P.S. Those who know me, know I’m a night owl and probably writing this at 3am. Well, guess what, you’re not wrong. Yes, it is late, yes, it is pitch dark outside, but I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light)

I’m 50… and doing a factory reset !!

And just like that, I’m 50. Ok, please don’t read this wrong, it didn’t happen “just like that”. Five full decades of growing and evolving was involved, tears of joy and sorrow as well as a rainbow of emotions encountered at each turn.But at the end of it all, I’m content and happy where I am.

A lot was planned but did not go as planned. COVID-19 forced us to rethink our plans, our priorities, our daily lives. What was once taken for granted has now become very precious. Each healthy day is a blessing, a new way to live life. Well, sometimes it is frustrating also.

Like everyone else, I was showered with loads of advice, lots of do this, try that, it’s only one life, time to check off items on your bucket list. And like everyone else, I also made plans to do something radical, something outside of my comfort zone, something I always wanted to, but never got around to doing.

Man proposes, God (in this case, a virus) disposes. The reality was a far cry from what I thought a middle age milestone celebration would be like. In keeping with the times, yours truly zoomed in and out of video calls all day and was showered with loads of love, albeit virtual. Towards the end of the day, I started feeling this was the best way to celebrate, more because I ended up eating every slice of cake I cut. No sharing worked for me just fine.

Amidst all this fanfare and some panic on seeing the number 50, is also the fact that somewhere I decided to take a good look at life so far and try to charter a modified flight plan for life going forward. After all, the oft repeated YOLO has to be honored.

So, here I am, doing a factory reset of life. Taking a small step back, detaching myself from the daily grind and thinking of what, going forward, is most important. Not surprising, what stands out head and shoulders above all else are health and happiness. No amount of money can buy either, we have to find them for ourselves and hold onto it.

Going forward, I plan on practicing self love and pledge allegiance to self to take care of my happiness, not at the cost of others, but with others. Nurture the friendships, old and new, which have stood the test of time. Take time to smell the roses enroute, pause to savor life’s experiences thus far, make new memories at each step. Be a little selfish, be a little more healthy, be a lot more wise.

Very soon, I will find myself sitting on a sun-drenched porch, thinking back to this time in life and reflecting on all the years gone by. Slowly I will check off all the friendships I hold dear, all the relationships I have nurtured in life and have been blessed with. And then I plan on walking back indoors, get dressed to party the night out with the crazies on my list. After all, YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE.

Scared, scarred but living in HOPE

And just like that the summer of 2020 is ready to bid farewell. And just like that we have individually lost over six months of our lives (I’m no authority on this, so will not even venture a guess about what we have lost collectively) scared, scarred and fretting. The pandemic still looms large, an “elephant in the room” having long outlived its unwelcome stay. We have no love lost for it, never did, yet, it is refusing to take the hint.

For most of us, this summer has been marked by staying close to home, making necessary restricted trips for essentials and finding ways to pass time around the house, creatively. Time and tide wait for no one, nature dances to its own tune. All god’s creations around us are following their own course. Only we humans have been forced to pause, and reevaluate our choices. Some say it’s not a bad proposition, life was hurtling downhill at a very fast pace. Maybe someday we will look back at this seemingly never -ending nightmare in the rear view mirror of life, and recount it as a bad memory. For now, we have to live it the best we can.

My one and only trip outside my Covid-19 enforced boundary prompted me to think of this forced pause again. A recent drive to New York City left me depressed and disheartened. The cultural, financial, and media capital of the world now stands defenseless. The boarded up store fronts, the dark hotels and eateries, and the innumerable for-lease signs have managed to turn it into a ghost town.

The famous “red-steps” of Times Square, stand almost bare. Earlier, standing in one place, for even a few minutes, without being jostled around, was unheard. Now you can hang out all day, at leisure. No cars are honking at the tourists hurtling across the streets. The tourist magnet of the world has no tourists, period. The blaring cop car sirens are eerily silent. Law enforcement is keeping a watchful eye, but for now, they are not tearing up the streets every few minutes. Instead, they are hanging out quietly, attentive but silent.

The new McD’s now feels like a bank, with “ATM” machines standing like silent soldiers. Most other dining places have barred entry to the public (for obvious reasons). Order online, get your package handed over and “enjoy” your meal.

The simple act of greeting people, opening the door for the person behind you, creates alarm and anxiety. On sidewalks, where social distancing is not really possible, the few seconds spent skirting past people had me in a full-blown panic. (I consider myself a relatively calm person). This despite being fortified with the mandatory masks and dousing my hands with sanitizers. All of this leads me to the same questions that have tormented me all these months. We are living, but when will we feel alive again? When will we be normal again?

I saw a glimpse of normalcy in Central Park, a glimmer of hope. The native New Yorker is happy to steal back their city from the tourists, even for one season. In another spot, the sculpture of HOPE, stands tall, if a little dusty, silently conveying its message.

Some day soon I will go back for a happier visit. Someday soon I’ll love to sit on the “red-steps” with a bunch of strangers, shoulder to shoulder, without the hindrance of masks and sanitizers. Some day soon I will hear the honking, the wailing sirens and savor the noise standing in the middle of a busy street. Yes, for now I am scared, and yes, I may be scarred for a very long time, but I live in HOPE.

Tomorrow is another day!!!!

It has been ever and forever since the world was shockingly introduced to Covid-19. We started counting days and weeks. Slowly months have passed and here we are, still discussing sanitizers, masks, gloves and social distancing. At this rate we may get to the end of 2020 no smarter about how to deal with the pandemic, than we were on day zero. Every day the questions add up, every day we push them aside and think like Scarlett O’ Hara’s famous dialogue from Gone with the Wind, “after all, tomorrow is another day.”

Slowly we are taking baby steps towards normal, but this is not what our normal was before the worldwide clamp down. In the first few weeks staying home was a welcome change from the earlier “running around like headless chicken” lifestyle, but now we are beginning to grow roots at home. Grocery runs and walks around the block are the highlights of our week. Some days that too is getting boring. I wonder if I will ever want to go back to life as I knew it, before Covid-19 blindsided us, or am I happy with this “I like being a turtle” life.

If coping with the fear of the virus is not enough, there is a sudden surge in cases of mental instability, civil unrest, uncalled for tragedies all around. Around the globe, natural disasters like earthquakes and tornadoes are doing their bit to keep us on the edge of our seats at all times. I’m beginning to feel like a piece of fabric flung over the clothes line, flapping helplessly in the wind and fraying at the edges with the forces working on me from all sides.

Where is the end? How much farther do we have to go before we see a change in the winds of doom howling around us? How much of this uncertainty can we take? The positive side of me says we will weather this storm and come out stronger, the skeptical side of me says we still have a long way to go but we will be fine. The negative side of me thinks, this will never ever end and I’ll be stuck like this forever. The upside is we have more time for family and self, but the downside is the uncertainty, unpredictability and precariousness of the situation.

Sanity and patience is in short supply. Parents are fed up of staying home and minding kids, kids are fed up of staying home and minding their parents (yes it works both ways). Some day in the future I know we will swap stories and be able to laugh at these times but for now that option doesn’t even sound very appealing.

The fabric of my being is ripping. But I’m not giving up. I have to keep it all together. I’ve decided to reach out to the next piece of fabric (fellow human being) drying on this clothesline (of life) and holding on tight. Each one reach one and form a strong (socially distanced) bond, don’t let go, keep our collective courage bolstered and we will weather the storm. After all, “tomorrow is another day”!!!!

I’ve learnt to cope… but I want normal back

I continue with the third part of the Covid-19 series, coz the virus continues to rage in its relentless fury. The world around us is paralyzed but we are still trying to keep things normal. We eat, we pray, we laugh, we cry. What started as a short term novelty has transformed into a full blown long term suspension of normal lives. It’s been a tough few weeks with no sighting of the end yet. Yet we are resilient, we have learned to cope.

The news media is still dutifully reporting the rising number of affected patients, the ongoing and impending economic distaster and long term projections of gloom. Somewhere along the way we have learnt to tune out and not pay attention as closely as we did in the beginning. This is the defense mechanism developed in the last few weeks.

To balance the tales of gloom they also share the countless happy incidents of recovery and the awe inspiring stories of so many everyday heroes who have stepped up and plunged headlong into this war. We grapple with all of this, largely from the comfort of our couches, where we have been instructed to stay to fight this invisible microorganism.

By now each member of the family has learnt to cope. Spouses busy with their jobs help with household chores regularly, working parents are doubling up as teachers, teachers are becoming technology experts, children have accepted the fact they cannot plan play dates or sleepovers on the bus ride back home and have to contend themselves with “hanging out” virtually. There is one set of extremely enthusiastic homemakers who are cooking up a storm, catering to every whim and trudging along like troopers. Stories of the unique resilience of humans are varied and innumerable, each noteworthy, every single one commendable.

Somewhere behind this happy mask lurks the ugly reality of the constant fear, the overwhelming loss of loved ones many families are facing every day, the uncertainty about how long we will continue to live life in limbo and pretend to enjoy it? Is there a finish line to this marathon or is it turning into a relay race? Will we ever be able to walk into a place of worship, a restaurant, a mall, an airplane, or a social gathering without looking suspiciously at the others present around us? Will we ever be normal or is this the “new normal?” (I’m now beginning to crave being stuck in a traffic jam). There are no good answers so am choosing to bury my head in the sand and trudge along, marking days on my calendar with bold, black X’s.

There are upsides to this new world. Pollution levels have reduced, Mother Earth is breathing a little easy, we are getting to focus more on family. But like all else, too much of a good thing is never a good thing.

Every dog (read virus) has his day. This one has fallen in love with planet earth and is being extremely stubborn in its demand to co-habit, but I’m not magnanimous enough to share. I want my normal back. I want to plan a trip out of the house without agonizing over masks, gloves, sanitizers, disinfectants and wipes. I want my phone to recognize and ID my face and not think I’m an alien behind the mask. I understand things will not be the same for a long time, but I want my normal life back, even a slightly altered and reshaped version of it. I’m resilient, I will hope, I will modify, I will cope.