There is a scene in the movie Forrest Gump where Tom Hanks says:
Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get!
Fortunately, the lockdown period has come to me as a happy surprise in life; being in my hometown with my joint family for over three months has been the best treat from life in last many years! Though it has its own pros and cons.
For instance, whenever I used to feel low in my life, I would think of an upcoming trip to my hometown, and I would instantly feel okay. But now when I am in my hometown for long, and I feel low here, I don't know where else to go beyond here where I could feel better. I actually had a nervous breakdown mid way into the lockdown which was mainly caused by the incessant zoom calls and webinars and the disconnection with the larger cause of the work I do, and partly by the impetuous and imposed change in the lifestyle.
I do miss the warmth and hugs and smiles and tea breaks and momos and gol gappas and stand-up comedy shows and evenings with friends and dressing up to flaunt and so on and on and on...
But if I look at this whole arrangement objectively, I am far better off today than I was before. I feel loved every minute. I almost forgot what it is to be liked cared and pampered selflessly. For last three months, my mom has prioritized my food choices over my dad's for every meal she has cooked. My dad has himself been getting everything that I like from my favorite vegetables to fruits to drinks to maggi packets (even though he really disapproves of the latter!). I don't have to worry about anything at all - who does the laundry, who does the dishes, who cleans the rooms etc. I cannot be more grateful for this life. I would not trade this with anything in the world today.
Though I do dearly wish that my grandfather was alive. The home is just incomplete without him. I did finally get the chance to go through his stuff which has been kept safe in his locked room for last 5 years. I went through many old family pictures that were hidden in different folders. I still don't believe that I was half my brother's height and two third my sister's till I was 15.
Some evenings are still lonely - even when I am close to my big joint family. Sometimes I miss having a partner in life. Sometimes I do feel like leaving the job and catching up on sleep for days. The disconnect with people is a very big reason behind the dissatisfaction in job especially. The call of duty takes over everything, thankfully. However, I have realized that I need to have one day a week just to myself - the way I used to have earlier - to maintain my sanity. I also have to keep my mom's expectations (with my marriage) at bay which get triggered sometimes as she now sees me around all the time. It's hard for my parents to understand my life choices. But, it's just great that they still support them (most of the times). I also like the fact that my mom doesn't make any compromise in her regular schedule because of me - she prioritizes her reading time over everything else. I love that she has found her own purpose in life and enjoys the life to its fullest every moment. It's so good to see my parents growing old together.
I am also enjoying spending a lot of time with my nieces. I have been taking classes of few neighborhood kids alongside - back to teaching days. The twinkle in their eyes when they learned that 'happiness' is the noun form of the adjective 'happy' or when some of them learned to do multiplication or when some of them explored the magic in trigonometry. I also am trying to help them become tech-savvy - they are now all set to make powerpoint presentations and basic excel files. I am receiving similar level of outcomes in computer classes even though their ages vary from 8 to 16 years. Treating kids like adults with no judgments and pressures helped me. Sometimes we limit the outcomes of our supported audience because of our own biases in their potential. My mom asked me initially why do I take these classes when I get so burned out during the day at work. And I told her that the satisfaction and joy I get from this one hour is worth the pain.
I am enjoying the days as they pass - but looking ahead to get back to my life in Hyderabad too - just for the sake of seeing everyone there in person and sharing hugs. Then I am happy to come back here.
If you are having a hard time in the lockdown, do reach out to your friends. If you are stuck in a far off city, find an online opportunity that can keep you sane. If you are feeling bored at home, go out to extend your help to people who may need you. If you are reading this article on a smart phone, trust me you are privileged enough! Don't wine about anything. Make the most of this time. Share your ideas here with me. Would love to find more ways to engage and make every second count in the lockdown.
Wishing you a very happy lockdown!
Swati is the General Manager of Social Venture Partners (SVP) Hyderaad, where she builds powerful partnerships with non-profit organisations to tackle India's most pressing social challenges. SVP is the world's largest network of engaged philanthropists, with over 3,200+ investor-donors across more than 40 cities worldwide. Swati is a Teach For India Fellow - she has taught 100 girls for two years in a slum community in New Delhi. She has previously worked with Hedge Funds for four years as a consultant in New Delhi and New York. Swati holds a bachelor degree in Computer Science from the Institute of Engineering and Rural Technology.