The dismantling of routine

Published: Mar 27, 2020, 03:59 IST | Rosalyn D'mello | Mumbai

The lockdown is changing our lives in more ways than we can count, the most profound one being that we can no more make plans

We're no longer counting on the curfew being lifted by April 15, and I’ve made peace with the fact that I may have to simply sell my belongings. Pic/ Rosalyn Dmello
We're no longer counting on the curfew being lifted by April 15, and I’ve made peace with the fact that I may have to simply sell my belongings. Pic/ Rosalyn Dmello

picMid-way through my cold shower — the first pleasurable one this spring — I heard T. S. Eliot reciting in his clipped English accent excerpts from his cult poem, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

Except, because my memory couldn't serve me well, my mind could only conjure the sounds of some lines; this one in particular, "And indeed there will be time," because a section of it repeats through the rest of that verse. I had to look it up later, and when I did, I re-read the verse, revisiting the poem after almost two years.

"There will be time, there will be time/To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;/There will be time to murder and create/And time for all the works and days of hands/That lift and drop a question on your plate; Time for you and time for me,/And time yet for a hundred indecisions,/And for a hundred visions and revisions,/Before the taking of a toast and tea."

It was around 11 am. I couldn't remember how many days had passed since we had chosen to self-quarantine, to limit our exposure to people, before official curfews and lockdowns were imposed. From around the beginning of March, our only outdoor activity had consisted of playing badminton in the colony park. This morning we realised that, too, would have to be suspended. I felt heartbroken.

We returned from the park around 7.45 am, deciding to heed the sign that forbade us from entering. My body had acquired a taste for daily cardio movement, so I asked my partner to share with me some of his workout routine.

Mid-way through, I was weeping, not so much because I sucked, but because I was mourning the loss of yet another aspect of my quotidian, and one that connected me to a routine from my girlhood days, when, during the summer holidays, we would wake up at 6 am, go to church, then return and play badminton until the sun made its presence felt so strongly, we were blinded by its light and had to call it a day. It's a game I'm good at, and one that feels like a safe space for my competitiveness to manifest.

I did some exercises with my partner to strengthen my core. He was patient with me during my outburst, and we continued until he thought I had done enough.

Then we slipped into our individual breakfast routines. He likes to have his cornflakes while watching the news broadcast from Südtirol, while I like to sit at my writing desk and either watch or read something as I chomp through a bowl of cornflakes with sliced bananas, goji berries, milk and a small helping of honey from Tramin.

This morning felt different though, because the evening before, I had decided to re-organise my work area and prepare it for 'study' during the lockdown. Under different circumstances, my experience of this fragile moment in the history of humanity could possibly have been more measured. What marks this emergency is how profoundly it has and will continue to impact our ability to make any kind of plans.

My partner had been emotionally preparing me for this eventuality since the end of February. He warned me that I wouldn't be able to travel for my fieldwork, not only within South Asia but also within India.

But we did decide that come what may, we would give up the apartment by mid-May and send most of the belongings to which I am irrevocably attached to Goa. He then foresaw that the state borders would close, too, and we would, in all likelihood, have to wait until curfew was lifted. At this point, even though we have a flight booked for the 17th of May, we're unsure if the airline will even be in business until then.

We're no longer counting on the curfew being lifted by April 15, and I've made peace with the fact that I may have to simply sell my belongings so I can exit this apartment. Even though my wonderful house-owner would easily let me stay on longer, I'd already made a commitment to myself to simplify my life, which means, for a while, finding ways to not pay rent.

I settled myself into my workspace. I've finally come to accept that for the moment, this is our reality and it is futile to continue to want to exert agency over it. The only plans we make daily involve what to cook for lunch and dinner, and what time to schedule German lessons. When I'm most anxious, I 'cleanse' by learning crotchet. And I tell myself that this time can be a gift. It can be a form of grace.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D’Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx
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