Corona... dheere se

Updated: Mar 22, 2020, 07:56 IST | Meenakshi Shedde | Mumbai

I'm avoiding going out during two weeks of self-quarantine, as a precaution, even though I have no symptoms at all.

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Meenakshi SheddeWorking out of home in the time of the Coronavirus, is not radically different from my lifestyle as a freelance, as I work out of a laptop at home anyway. Except that I'm avoiding going out during two weeks of self-quarantine, as a precaution, even though I have no symptoms at all.

When I first became a freelance journalist, there was some schadenfreude; I enjoyed working from home, especially because mostly everyone else had to commute to work daily. But corona is a great leveller. And, because many others are sick, dying, newly working from home or grounded, I sometimes feel guilty that my free time at home can't feel like a staycation (vacation staying at home), but must be used productively.

First, I had to cancel the Basic Course in How to Curate Films for Film Festivals that I was scheduled to conduct for the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII Pune) in early April. The rest of my work mostly continues via laptop as before, and of course, I am privileged that it is so. One of the first things I'm doing when free, is to learn a song, long on my wish list: Cucurrucucú Paloma (Cooing Dove) by Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso in Spanish. It's a deeply melancholic song I've known since childhood; also seen in Wong Kar-wai's Happy Together, Pedro Almodóvar's Hable con Ella (Talk to Her), Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, and most recently in Gitanjali Rao's Bombay Rose.

Once I sent Angel No 1 (who cooks) and Angel No 2 (who cleans) on corona chutti, there was more work at home. I resumed cooking daily after ages, and started with a quick, 10-minute healthy meal of veggie juices and mushroom stir-fry, with steamed sweet potato for dessert. I ate on a beautiful Korean ceramic plate, hand painted with cherry blossoms, with marigolds on the tray. Because, as a Frenchman once taught me, presentation is especially important if the food is modest or middling. And it's the best time to fast, when you're doing the daily cooking.

I've saved up many forwarded links, such as free Ivy League courses one can do online, including art and design and computer science. As well as gorgeous online museum and art tours, including of the Louvre in Paris and the Prado in Madrid, and operas; the NCPA too, has music and dance performances online. More people are working online from home, using video calling apps like Zoom and Cisco WebEx. British Council India is even having a festival management 'webinar'. Offline, a Mumbai kirana shop is offering free rations (rice, dal, oil, masalas) to the poor, who rely on daily wages, and are hit hardest by corona. I'm trying to persuade and financially support a local kirana shop that daily wagers frequent, to do likewise. Beyond, slowing down has brought many joys, including watching golden orioles in the raintree outside, and purple-rumped sunbirds and butterflies gambolling amidst the flowers on my balcony. I'm counting my blessings.

Meenakshi Shedde is India and South Asia Delegate to the Berlin International Film Festival, National Award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at meenakshi.shedde@mid-day.com

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