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Life during the COVID-19 lockdown

The past three weeks have impacted people around India in different ways. The migrant labourers and daily wage workers have unarguably been affected the worst. It has been an interesting three weeks in which the concept of privilege was spoken about vastly in the media. Even though the salaried middle class is also affected, their lives have been phenomenally better than, for example, those they employ to clean their houses or wash their dishes. It is at times such as these that I realise how lucky a majority of my friends and I are. While most of the country is suffering (suffering in the real sense of not being able to afford and procure three square meals a day and NOT because a shop ran out of imported cheese) in lockdown, my parents could work from home, without intruding into each other’s personal space and could carry out some, if not most of their work from the comfort of their house, unlike the majority of the country.

I have been reading articles about the shortfalls of introducing online classes at such short notice, thereby resulting in many disadvantaged students not being able to attend these classes either due to a lack of ownership of smart devices or availability of one device per person. Think about it; a person who does not exclusively own a laptop or tablet, like is the case in many families, would not be able to log in to attend their online classes or meetings simultaneously because they would have to share their devices.

With thoughts such as these, the feeling of sympathy has grown inside me, and I hope that similar feelings have developed in people, who are often not sympathetic and aware of how a majority of the world functions because of the bubble they live in. I say this, having been in an environment in which a majority of people I interacted with were blind to the problems of others and even though they were aware that they were ‘luckier’ and ‘better off’ than many people, did not realise the extent to which they were better off.

This article is a memoir of sorts. I hope it comes of use to those researching on the lives of people during the COVID-19 lockdown, most probably, a couple of years, if not decades from now. While there are numerous articles on the lives of the lower classes, the labourers and elderly, i.e., those who have been affected the worst, this article is about the life of an individual who faced few and negligible problems - my experience during the lockdown!

What have I been up to during the lockdown?

I must begin by admitting that I have been lazy during this lockdown. My ISC Board Examinations that began in February were to end on March 19, but just three hours before the commencement of my LAST exam, it was indefinitely postponed, and thus began my early ‘pre-summer’ break that has lasted almost a month now.

On the Netflix front, I successfully finished watching all four seasons of Kim’s Convenience, a comedy show about the life of a Korean immigrant family in Canada. The show is a must-watch and has bouts of humour and powerful messages about the somewhat strict traditions and quasi-liberal mindsets that conservative immigrant parents have, and on the other hand, the assimilated liberal ideologies of their children.
Besides Kim’s Convenience, I finished Season 4 of Money Heist, the behind the scenes extra of the same and countless other Hollywood and Bollywood movies. Parasite was an excellent Korean movie that I finally watched after its timely release on Prime Video, in the first week of the lockdown.

Netflixing got boring quickly, and I began reading books after a long break. Between the Assassinations, by Aravind Adiga was first on my list and also available at home, so I quickly finished it in two days. I am currently reading Curfewed Night by Bashrat Peer, non-fiction about a teenager during the blowing up of the separatist movement in Kashmir, 1989. Parallelly, I am also reading Nobel Laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s book – Good Economics for Hard Times, an apt read in today’s socio-political conditions.


Brownie-cake for my Dad's birthday-in-lockdown
The chef-in-me has been extremely busy in the kitchen whipping up a whole lot of things – chicken curries, paneer in different forms, naans and other Indian bread and a range of desserts. The lockdown resulted in supply-chain problems, and one day when I finally woke up at around 11:00, there was not even a single slice of bread at home or in any of the local grocery/ kirana stores. Rather than cribbing about the problem, I began baking my bread, and that propelled my bread baking abilities. Over the last few weeks, I made Italian paninis and focaccia, French baguettes, Middle-Eastern pita bread and more!

If there is one thing that I absolutely miss, it is cycling. Before the lockdown, I used to cycle almost every day for an hour or so, and the results were very much visible in terms of mind and body. With all gyms and sports arenas shutting down, I have been limited to exercises at home, which is not as effective. Exercising with light 3kg dumbbells, and at the same time, making a lot of good food is not a great combination, but I am not thinking about it too much and trying to just live in the moment. Currently, the only time I end up cycling is when I have to go out 1-2 times a week for vegetables or groceries, something I have begun volunteering to do for the first time in my life.

Although the house help has stopped coming after the lockdown, we are managing pretty well because of the robotic vacuum cleaner that has graced our house since January. Our case is better than most people who have to sweep/ vacuum their homes a couple of times a week.

However, those families who have live-in servants continue to enjoy the same levels of luxury. I'm not complaining here, but it's just an observation that is to be noted in this memoir :)

My days were often excruciatingly long, mainly due to boredom, so I decided to begin learning French, as I am relocating to Le Havre, France, in mid-August for my undergraduate studies at SciencesPo. Besides that, I have been reading a lot online to understand how I can better my social media game to grow a good brand and reach a wider audience. I tried to monetise my blog through AdSense but have been facing a lot of problems in getting my site approved. If anyone could help me, it would be great!
After trash-talking TikTok for the longest time ever, I finally downloaded the app because it is going to be, if not already, a huge player in social media. And to answer your next question, no I have NOT (yet) made a single video or even signed up on it, although I plan to soon.
On the social media front, Twitter is regaining prominence, and I have been relatively active on it. Please do follow me if you think I am interesting enough :)
I am also shortly releasing my first podcast series (voice only) on my experiences of filing two RTIs (Right to Information). Podcasts have become almost ubiquitous, and in some aspects, it makes sense why; people do not have the patience and ability to read long articles (such as this one). Hearing someone’s experience is better than reading through a 1500-2000 word article and more convenient since it can be done while cooking, cleaning, commuting or at any other point in time.

I’m writing this post sitting on my terrace, which has become my adda in the evenings. It is the closest to freedom that I can enjoy and comes with pretty decent views of trees, birds and buildings. Just today, I spotted a parrot and for the first time in years, a sparrow in Bangalore. The weather after 4:30-5:00 is pretty cool by summer standards, with the right amount of wind.
In the distance (westwards), I can see the Chinnaswamy stadium, Prestige Trade Towers and Conrad. Closer to home, the infamous Carlton Towers, Manipal Hospital and the Royal Orchid next to KGA are visible and identifiable to the south. Further south, certain high rises in what I presume is HSR Layout are clearly visible due to the lower levels of pollution in the air. However, today the number of high rises I could see were lesser than a few days back, and the horizon looked a bit hazy.

In a nutshell, although I have been able to do a fair amount of work in the last three weeks, my productivity has not been at 100%, partially because I felt the necessity of a break after a long and tiring academic year. The break was much needed, but not in this manner and under these circumstances. I just received news of an extension of the lockdown by two weeks, which means that my boredom is going to continue, and so is my 3 am to noon sleep schedule. I hope that we can come out of this as quickly and safely as possible so that I can enjoy the rest of my summer outdoors and do the things that I have planned to do – internships, meet friends, holiday and have fun!
Until then, I shall continue enjoying my immediate surroundings and remember to stay safe, and stay at home!

A few more pictures of what's been cooking!



Samosas with Masala Chai

Baguettes


Italian panini




Comments

  1. Excuse me, I'm not complaining here or anything, we know you're so privileged that you've got your head stuck up your ass, but kindly refer to sections of society in words that don't always imply your superiority. It makes them feel bad, you see, to be called 'lower' than you. Although we all undoubtedly are. It's the Truth, after all.
    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ahh! Good old Ad-hominem.

      In my opinion, the first step in identifying privilege is recognising your (often ascribed) position in society and then sympathising with those less fortunate than you.
      I've given the second part of your comment some thought but have failed to understand how I can refer those sections of society in any other way. Please let me know, I will be extremely grateful.

      Delete
    2. Firstly, sorry I don't speak Latin as I belong to a 'lower class'. Secondly, nobody wants your pity or sympathy. It defeats the purpose. It changes absolutely nothing on the ground. You're probably the first person in the world who would write a post bragging about making baguettes but at the same time feeling bad for those who don't have any food. What are you trying to prove? It's why elitist scum like you can only 'sympathise' but when it comes to making a difference , you do absolutely nothing. I don't want a list of charities you support or the social work that you've done. Please don't tell me you're just a kid and you can't do much. It's a bunch of 'Bovis Stercus'. ( Look it up)

      Have you heard of the word underprivileged? What about the phrase 'less fortunate'? Better up your vocabulary son, you don't want to be schooled by a low class next time around.

      Delete
    3. Hi!

      Thank you for your recommendation on alternate words that can be used, I will keep it in mind!
      Further, I ran a quick search and found that the word 'lower'/ 'lower classes' has been used just once, in a context unrelated to my position vs someone else's. So it is evident that it was never used with the intention of asserting superiority or making someone else feel bad.
      The only time I used the world was when I said that the media has covered a lot on the lives of the lower classes and I wanted to write about my life, and the negligible problems I have faced, to document a piece of history :)


      Delete
    4. It's disheartening to see that someone who claims to recognise their privilege still finds the need to vehemently defend their usage of unquestionably privileged terms by pointing to things like "context". My friend, the entire context of this article is your privilege in comparison to the majority. Just admit when you're wrong, apologise, do better next time.

      It's not woke when you need keep screaming about how woke you are. It's not enough to say I know I'm privileged, and then sleep easily at your night in your almost-spaceship-in-indiranagar.
      Your self importance in documenting history might do with some serious reflection. Which daily wage laborer's accounts are being memorialized? Which migrant's death will be remembered as anything more than a statistic or a picture? What additional burdens do intersectional minorities face in this lock down? Where are the voices of the majority?

      And if you have this voice, this space that reaches so many, as well as documenting your interesting life, maybe consider amplifying voices that aren't being hard? And for once, try not to make yourself the Savior at the center of everything.

      Delete
    5. If the use of the term ‘lower classes’ has offended you or anyone, I wholeheartedly apologise and reiterate the clarification I provided to your (or someone else’s, I do not who, as all these comments are anonymous) assertion that I used it to prove superiority, which was not my intention, as explained in one of my previous comments.

      You are absolutely right in saying that the article is about my privilege, and I am not one bit apologetic for writing about it, because it is my personal choice. I am of the belief that although my life is mostly not threatened/ disturbed by the lockdown, I have a right to document it and speak about what I have been up to.
      Mainstream media (especially MoJo/ Barkha Dutt) has been covering a lot of content on the lives of labourers, and their accounts have undisputedly been ‘memorialized’.
      Your questions regarding deaths being a mere statistic, double-burden faced by intersectional minorities are extremely valid points of concern, which have not been addressed in this article because the point of the article was not to speak about those problems today.

      Could I have used this platform for the purpose of ‘amplifying voices that aren’t being heard’? Yes! However, I have chosen not to, for the simple reason that I have decided that that is not the intent of writing this article. You can argue that my priorities are not straight or in order but as the author of this blog, I decide what I want to publish.
      Now, this does not mean that I do not recognise the plight of the lesser fortunate, and my family and I are doing our small bits, to the best of our abilities to try and reduce the problems faced by the disadvantaged. If you go through my blog, there are also numerous other instances of me using this platform to address the concerns of the lesser fortunate, but I have decided not to do so in this case because of the existence of a huge amount of resources that have already been published, and my addition would be negligible.

      Delete
  2. Dear Sir,
    May I kindly know the dimensions of your building. I am most impressed that you can see cricket stadium and HSR layout from your house. It must be a flying space ship. One day I would also like to come and see all this for myself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The building is itself not very tall - the terrace is on the fourth floor. However, the area in which I live in is very high which has resulted in really good views, and the buildings that I can see in the distance are all high rises/ tall structures (Chinnaswamy's floodlights, Prestige Trade Towers/ tall residential buildings in the general direction of HSR layout). The buildings closer to home that I have referred to are just 10-12 storeys high but the proximity makes them visible.

      Please feel free come home and check it out, although I apologise in advance that I regrettably, do not live in a flying space ship. Nevertheless, the invite still stands, and I would have personally reached out to you and extended the invite, if only you had not posted the comment anonymously :)

      Delete
  3. Ad hominem, ad freaking hominem.

    ReplyDelete

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