Self-growth: The lockdown's new buzzword and why it's okay if you don't pursue it

Updated: 19 April, 2020 09:09 IST | Gitanjali Chandrasekharan | Mumbai

If you haven't chiselled your body, purified your soul, and improved your skill set during the Coronavirus battle, relax. Meet the people who say it's okay to step out of the lockdown, just as you were in March

Photographer Chirodeep Chaudhuri was hoping to use this time to work on the design of a book that chronicles Mumbai's public clocks, but he hasn't managed to make much headway. Pic/ Suresh Karkera
Photographer Chirodeep Chaudhuri was hoping to use this time to work on the design of a book that chronicles Mumbai's public clocks, but he hasn't managed to make much headway. Pic/ Suresh Karkera

HAD this actually been a holiday, I would have produced some work," says photographer Chirodeep Chaudhuri, on the phone from his Thane residence. Like everyone else in the country, whose profession is not an essential service, 48-year-old Chaudhuri has been locked down at home. And while, it isn't much different for him, in that he works from home otherwise too, not being able to step out has brought with it a sense of anxiety. "I had meant to get down to say, designing the book I planned to publish this year, on the clocks of Bombay. I wanted to line up the broader ideas and also polish up an essay I have been writing. But I haven't managed to do that to the extent I would have wanted to."

Chaudhuri says that a week or 10 days into the lockdown, he realised that social media was flooded with posts of people who were cooking and putting up photos of their creations. Or doodling. "I actually started feeling left out. I felt that my inspiration had dried up," he says, adding that he feels this despite having experienced periods when he has not produced much work.

What Chaudhuri, and possibly most of us, experienced is the sense of stagnation even as the rest of the world appeared to be using the lockdown as a time for self-growth—to learn a new skill, a language, or get that body you have been meaning to. In fact, a post on Instagram that everyone seems to have seen, says "if you don't come out of the lockdown a better you, then time was never the issue".

Ekta Seth Balyan
Ekta Seth Balyan

For most of us, if you step out for a grocery run, it takes one-and-a-half hours. And the rest of the day is spent cooking, cleaning and doing the dishes.
Chaudhuri also points to the dissonance on social media. On the one hand, you have people posting their daily challenges and in the next post, you see thousands of migrants marching back home. "It screws with your head in an odd way. For the first 12 days, it played havoc on my mind and it took me a while to get a grip on this mess that we collectively find ourselves in."

For Goregaon resident Padmini Pagadala, who works with Mahindra Logistics—a firm that is helping other companies ensure that the supply chain for essential services continues to run smoothly—the first few weeks were spent getting accustomed to the lockdown. With offices shifting to work from home gear, work hours extended into late nights and weekend boundaries got blurred.

"I'd look for time to do something as simple as oil my hair and take care of my skin. But I am not going mental about it. At some point in the last few weeks, I had grown slightly irritable as I missed face to face interaction. It's only now that I have started adjusting. I do wish that I could work out more, but if it's not happening, I am not going to be harsh on myself. I want to practice kindness to self more than anything."

Varkha Chulani
Varkha Chulani

What Pagadala is talking about, and what Chirodeep is experiencing, might be at the core of the common human experience right now, even if we seem to miss it in social media challenges and hashtags.

A post on Artidote, the Instagram handle curated by Jovanny Varela-Ferreyra, which uses art and text to offer an empathetic perspective to the world, was apt when it used a quote from a post by Neil Webb: "You're not working from home, you are at your home during a crisis trying to work".

Psychologist Varkha Chulani says, modern times associate the concept of leisure with laziness, and stagnation has a connotation of de-growth or wasting time. We live in a world that's proud to be busy.

"We are in a fast wave of life; even this pause has come peppered with the idea that we need to make it count, which is absurd. This could instead be the time for everyone to focus on the 3 Rs: rest, recuperate, relax."

Do you want to read a thriller or watch television or just stare out of the window and watch the stars? It's perfectly okay to do that right now, says Chulani. Much of our daily lives are running towards a burnout, and this could be the time to decompress. "We are all facing a situation that we are not used to. And we are all coping with it in different ways. Some might be anxious and want to over do things. They are possibly not allowing themselves to sit with themselves," she adds.

Juhu resident Ekta Seth-Balyan meditates regularly. She has done it even before the lockdown. However, post March 22, she says, "It's not like I started meditating longer. In fact, initially, my mind was busy with other things, like house chores, which I don't usually have to occupy myself with. Then, when the lockdown was extended, the next thought that came to me was do I have enough stock at home?"

Padmini Pagadala
Padmini Pagadala

She adds, "Self-improvement is not my top priority. I am trying to cope and see how I can get back to my regular life and assess what's going to change in me emotionally, mentally and physically." What has changed in the last few weeks is that, because of fewer distractions, her meditation practice has become deeper. But it's not something she has sought on purpose.

And, why do you need a lockdown for growth, asks publicity professional Joyson Castelino. Castelino, who turns 24 today, says the tiny changes that he has made in his life include eating and sleeping better. "But with the time I have, I am using the opportunity to go for a short stroll to buy stuff, engage more with family, catch up on reading, and interact with friends."

There's a term for it

Dolce far niente
Italian for "sweet idleness"

Ne faise rien
French for "to do nothing"

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First Published: 19 April, 2020 07:43 IST

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