Listen to this article
In March, as the entire nation came out to their balconies with bells, conches, steel plates and spoons filling the air with a sound of unity—paying their respects to the front-line workers dealing with the pandemic—I saw my last chance of going home diminishing in that air.
A nationwide lockdown was declared. I was now stuck in Mumbai, a city completely foreign to me, but fortunately with my sister and her friend.
Those first few days of lockdown…
Everyone was on the streets back then, stocking up essentials for the next fourteen days, exhausting all the available supplies in the area. We needed a plan of action and we needed to act fast. So, we put on our masks and gloves, forgot all about social distancing, and stepped out. We bought supplies till there was no space or strength left to carry anything anymore, withdrew some cash, and rushed back home.
It was hard to fathom everything that was going around. We were not sure if we had enough, but we were sure that we could not have possibly carried more and that’s when the anxiety kicked in. The fear of the unknown is one of the worst to experience, but now that there was nothing more that we could have done about it, we entered a phase of denial.
Initially, it was tough to cope
We started treating it like a much-needed vacation. We would wake up in the afternoon, barely do a thing or two, binge watch movies and shows throughout the night, and go to sleep in the mornings. To not have a routine was the only routine and that went on for quite a few days.
By the end of these fourteen days, there was yet another announcement, the lockdown was extended, and its vacation charm was also starting to wear off. Denial as a coping mechanism was clearly failing and we needed a new phase and that was the phase of endless optimism.
This phase called for pursuing our hobbies, enhancing our non-existent cooking skills, working out more diligently, getting in touch with friends and family, and most importantly documenting all of this in on our social media profiles.
Looking at the lockdown as an opportunity for self-development has, in fact, played a vital role in keeping ourselves sane and gain a positive outlook about things. If nothing else, we are at least getting out of this lockdown as fitter selves and better cooks and that’s a win. I am sure my Instagram followers could have lived without constant updates about how my gajar ka halwa was coming along—but like I said, it was a phase, and we are all allowed to do things that it takes to cope and make ourselves feel better.
Getting used to the quarantine life
By the time the next extension was declared, we were already expecting it. I would retort to reading excerpts from Anne Frank’s diary entries, because now at some level, I had started to relate with her experiences.
It had been over a month since I had even seen another soul, our groceries and essentials were dropped off at the gate by a kind man once in a week, cooking was now a chore that had to be done without a second option, and that was our new normal. It took a while for us to accept it. but we were now used to it.
The empty roads didn’t feel weird anymore, delivery services had started functioning, so the process of procuring goods had become hassle-free, the chores were divided amongst ourselves and were effortlessly taken care of as if we have been doing this forever.
Just as we had made peace with our realities and were getting comfortable with it, we learnt that the state borders were opening, and in less than a week, we would be able to fly home. And that meant having to go through a lot of official procedures, tests, answering questionnaires, and the horror of stepping out of the house for the first time in three months and being around a considerable amount of people.
We spent days just discussing and debating if we should take the risk and go through all of this and we finally came down to the solution that we just had to see our families again.
We got our documents cleared; got clearance from our home state, Odisha; convinced the members of our housing society to let us quarantine at home; bought our PPE kits; and mentally prepared ourselves for our ghar wapsi (homecoming).
As we sat in the cab with those suffocating suits on, there was a pin-drop silence throughout and it almost looked like we were out on a space mission. The generally long ques at the airport were longer because of social distancing, and so were the procedures because of the check-ups and precautionary measures.
A two-hour-long flight, a two-hour-long check-in procedure, and a two-hour long procedure of getting out of the flight, getting quarantine stamps, claiming the checked-in bags and getting rid of the suits. Travelling home was a 6-hour long process in a suffocating and sweaty hazmat suit, and without a single drop of water. But for all that its worth, we were home.
Sure, less informed neighbours still treat our house like a contaminated zone. We haven’t seen our families yet, we can only see them post the home quarantine, but as of now, we are in a safe space and hopefully healthy. We are undergoing regular tests and even though everything seems fine now, we cannot be completely sure of the results.
It takes utmost care and attention to deal with foreign objects, to travel and to get the most basic of things done, and I feel this heightened level of attention towards the tiniest of details is what the new normal is about. In hope of normalcy restoration, negative results and positive news.