Chronicling Life in Lockdown

Sketching to-do lists and creating routines each day: that's how I've lived all my life. It has always helped my generally anxious self to process and plan every step of every day. But that usually meant, too many things crammed into one day.


When time stands still. Image credits: Upamanyu Dhar

Udbhavi Balakrishna

It has been over four months since I had last seen my hostel room, my sister or a bowl of my favourite flavoured rice. Four months of waking up to prayers and the shrill ‘fwweee’ of the pressure cooker, eating home-cooked meals thrice a day, indulging in dinnertime political discussions and navigating lockdown life with my parents. Needless to say, none of this was easy. The first month of being home was the hardest; the realisation that I would have to share my space with my parents for an infinite period of time mortified me. Life, as I had known it, had changed for the most part.

Sketching to-do lists and creating routines each day: that's how I've lived all my life. It has always helped my generally anxious self to process and plan every step of every day. But that usually meant, too many things crammed into one day. That meant that I had always had trouble to take a step back to appreciate the few and far-in-between periods of peace I had had. This is what I believed I would do the two initial weeks of lockdown - take a breather. Now, having a fixed set of daily tasks I must do and then free time to do whatever is on these lists, each day is predictable but surprising at the same time. Whenever I feel like I can look past the unasked for moments of melancholy and put my mind to something, I am reminded of the struggle to be productive. And so, I'm reading, cooking something up in the kitchen, singing out loud and humming every tune I hear, writing poetry and stories, attending webinars, or learning what I can from wherever on the internet. Falling into this pattern of staying up late, only to oversleep the next day has been accepted even by my parents, who let me be, knowing I need that extra hour of sleep. Some productive days, I add more things to my list just to strike them off. Other days, every box on the list remains unchecked.

I tell myself, living with my parents has been the only thing that's making me function normally each day, since they have never, in over 30 years of living together, broken their routines. Monotony? I think simplicity. My mother reminds me that life goes on each day so it's best to make good use of the time, and my father, in his little efforts, tries to cheer me up and make me feel productive. This, I'm truly grateful for. Who knew living with parents would be this comforting? I've felt closer to them in 4 months than I had felt all through my childhood. Sure, we have had our differences some days, with tensions flaring and the occasional disappointment showing, but it’s only natural. Every waking hour of every day, I only wish my sister was home with us, so we didn't have to worry about her not eating enough and overworking herself. Thank heavens the Internet exists! Thank heavens I say, all while avoiding social media and news updates, constantly worrying for those suffering.

It feels strangely disconnected to wake up every day and not know what is happening - if anything has become better. So much so, I am convinced that in such tumultuous times nothing is going right for anybody anywhere. Positivity is a farce, I think. The news presenting our gloomy reality is depressing but a sobering realisation that my worries, however valid, are inconsequential compared to what was going on around me.

In this period, I watched my father undergo a painful surgery and my mother remain in the hospital, refusing to return without him. I saw and learnt important lessons of love, faith and familial relationships. As scary and debilitating as that experience was, it opened my eyes to how I had taken theirs, and so many people’s presence in my life, for granted. In my father’s words, every incident in life is an experience, we must take what we can from them, learn, not brood, and move on. It is with these words in mind that I wake up with renewed hope each day, with the hope that things will become better.

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