Solitary musings in locked-down Bombay
What's it like for a working professional living alone in an apartment during the present lockdown?
The history nut that I am, this 21-day lockdown is causing an alert and very fertile mind to use analogies from my fave subject at every bend. Trust me, it's not all sweet victories and visionary leaders, especially if you happen to be one of the countless working professionals who lives alone in Bombay. I hope some of you who read this, will be able to identify how this inexplicable situation has forced us to hit the reflect button on a gazillion things.
When the Big Guy put the country under lockdown last Sunday, as a test drive, I was forced to peek outside of my window at 4.50 pm (yes, we are still to figure how most Indians read time); entire families had assembled by their windows to play their part in the Great Indian Utensil Philharmonic Orchestra. Members of my typically middle-class housing colony were trying to outdo one another with thalis, conch shells and even horns. While tutaris would be played in the old days to greet armies in Maharashtra before or after they went into battle, here the inconceivable 'tunes' continued for 15-20 minutes, egged on by chants of "Go Corona, Go."
Creating a daily newspaper remotely is probably how the Maratha armies would have felt when they went to war – comparatively smaller in number yet, tactically smart to face adversities. Coordination is key, and soon enough, I had to pull deep into my reserves to negotiate all hurdles, from technological glitches to meeting deadlines with people having different Internet speeds; it was treading into new, uncharted terrain. And before your realise, like quicksand, you are already knee-deep in the action, as you slip into autopilot mode. This is how Chhatrapati Shivaji's enemies must have felt during a long, tense siege to capture one of his forts. Everyone stays put, and patient.
Even before the Big Guy returned on Tuesday night with news of the 21-day lockdown, my house help, Laxmibai foresaw the future. Unlike Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, she decided to not step out; alas, with no warning. "Kal se mummy nahi aayegi," read the stark message from her daughter's phone. Remember that chapter where Shivaji attacked Shaista Khan, Aurangzeb's general in the middle of the night, and chopped off his fingers? This also meant zero human contact for a while.
I whirred into action, and decided to head out early next morning to stock on supplies from my trusted cold storage and provision store. I managed to locate a local Tanaji Malusare; a face-masked autowallah who played saviour and even ferried me home without a fuss.
By Day 3 of the lockdown, yoga and meditation became my new best friend. I've practised it for seven years; somehow, these sessions seemed priceless. Try it, if you haven't. It can easily be your ticket to some sanity and self-discipline. Kitchen confidential took a different meaning as all the tried-and-tested and 'Instant Recipes for 1' trials began. Tears (only for onion-peeling) and loads of experimentation resulted in lot of chuckles. You master the art of laughing at your own jokes.
Every morning a new doomsday prophecy would creep to mind, and slowly add newfound twists and turns. This is how the Jews in Nazi Germany would have possibly felt. Trapped. And here, we are not even at war, but a locked-in state. I returned to my copy of The Diary of Anne Frank and read it in one sitting.
By Day 5, I could predict which song the RJ was going to play next on his/her playlist; and yes, there were moments when I'd smile or laugh at some friendly banter between them and a caller. The plants on my mini window garden received some serious TLC, too, and I could swear they began to look a lot greener. The bird calls from the trees in the complex offered a natural calming effect, too; I could now actually hear their symphonies. My new friends' circle looks promising.
Mind you, all the while, being surrounded by mostly grim news, it's important to toss it off before you tuck in, with mindless, light entertainment. Make it a thumb rule.
I tread gingerly and with trepidation into Week 2; it's anyone's guess how the mind and brain will battle new challenges. I've got my new gang, my yoga, my books and some greasepaint from the (non-historic) battles of last week.
Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive" is playing on the radio.
mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana
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