One step at a time :)
Life has been pretty comforting and breezy since I moved to Bangalore. Work was enjoyable, I had started to feel independent, my mornings had started to look a lot more relaxed with cups of tea, strolls in my veranda, chats with my plants & everything that manifested a life outside of Mumbai. Just like any other day, I took the slow casual walk to my office by 9.30am, I repeat, WALK because that is a privilege to many, hii hello’d my colleagues & just when I was about to get glued to the screen, one of them read an article about a deadly virus which had been taking over an entire country. I couldn’t have bothered any less at that point, I had enough & more on my plate to get done with, so I threw some pretentious “oh man, this is so scary, I hope things get back to normalcy” and got back to monotony.
Today, after months of not being able to frame sentences to express my state of mind, here I am trying to write about how the same deadly virus has taken over my life. While my life events might not drastically change much for you all, I thought it’s important to trace out the same in solidarity with my fellow loners. I believe a lot of your lives have also been affected in ways that you might not be able articulate, but the attempt has always been to stand with open wide arms & ears yea? So yes, after reading my rant (promise, not a rant), if you feel like you have had a similar/different journey that you would want to talk about, my ears are all yours
14th of March 2020 is when my office decided to go virtual, my brother’s college also decided to go virtual on the same day. (Yes, I live with my brother) We both were pretty relieved about not having to follow our routines for a few days, we had mentally divided all household chores immediately (not really, I just dumped all of it on his head) A week of no office & working as per my convenience seemed like an unattainable luxury. My brother & I took turns to cook, clean & shop, it was all super smooth.
18th of March 2020 is when my father flew to Bangalore despite our constant warnings & arguments on not risking the travel. I would be lying if I say I was absolutely unhappy on my father’s arrival. My perpetual home food cravings were to be satiated by my father’s chop chop, all I had to do was nomnom. But just like every other moment of happiness, this too had an expiry date. My father was to stay only for a couple of days & since my brother’s college had declared virtual lessons for the academic year, it made no sense for him to stay back & do nothing in Bangalore. They were to fly back on the morning of 21st March.
I have always liked my company; I have always enjoyed being by myself & I have always preferred to not have forceful social interactions. I like roaming around in the house in my shabby shorts, with music playing in the background & not having anyone to monitor me. Though moving in with my brother has been the best decision ever, I didn’t have major inhibitions of staying by myself. I thought I would like some alone time, sleeping on three different beds on different days of the week made me grin with joy. It most certainly didn’t feel like I would have points of breakdown to a level where I could kill to get some company. I thought I would sail through with no complaints. Though my family was terrified to leave me alone, I somehow convinced them about not worrying about me.
A week of solo indoors vacation & I couldn’t have been happier. I most certainly had doubts on keeping myself alive with my extraordinary culinary skills but the rest was good. I decided to not be myself in parts & let the house get messy, I had no schedule to follow in terms of sleeping, bathing, cleaning, cooking & everything else that defined monotony. Weekdays were as they were earlier, screen stares & work calls, it was as though nothing really had changed. A couple of weeks went by just like a mellow breeze. My family had started to come to terms with “Shraddha is fine” & I think I really was. But like I mentioned earlier, everything has an expiry date, pushing us back into an undesirable state of wanting newness.
One fine day, I felt the silence hit me. I woke up dying to hear someone say good morning to me, I wanted food to be cooked & kept right in front of me, I wanted my house to be filled with the aroma of my Amma’s rasam but none of it seemed attainable, yea? So, I had to drag myself out of my dream land, greet myself good morning & stare cluelessly at the fridge, not understanding what to cook for myself. Talk about struggles that women go through to just put together a weekly menu for the family’s incessant food cravings. From being joyous about being alone to hitting saturation, it just took a few weeks for me to be absolutely bored of my own self. The dragging out of the bed continued for another couple of weeks & food had started to become a mere mean to stay alive.
After days & weeks of the above schedule in loops, I woke up to a pleasant morning, thinking of exploring newer ways of engaging myself. After all, boring can also seem to be boring sooner or later. I thought I could paint (no, I couldn’t & I still cannot. I just have a stationery fetish & a designer of a brother who hoards everything my dreams are made of). So I took an A3 sheet & a few paint bottles, with no clue of what to do with them. A few strokes of blue & I paused to ridicule my art skills. I knew this wasn’t my cup of tea, so I gave up before even actually beginning.
A few more days passed by and a friend dragged me into a collective doodling activity. It took me 4 good days to scribble a simple girl with hair flying all over, but I guess after weeks of sensing every single dreadful passing second, I had finally reached a point where time beautifully slowed down for me, as though drawing me into a world of patterns & shapes.
I had found a way out of monotony all over again. From an A5 to an A3 sheet, I steadily progressed. Unpleasant mornings came down considerably, blankly staring at the walls reduced, silence faded away into my countryside background score, days slowly went back to being live-able.
Doodling/zentangle-ing kept the spirit in me alive, I started going back to doing things that brought joy to me. I took better care of my plants, I grew micro-greens (failed a couple of times but finally saw them bloom beautifully), experimented with food, became a little more active and just happily came to terms with the loneliness I had been feeling in parts.
Eventually, scribbling on paper started to seem not so challenging, it did calm me down, but I was being ambitious for a better canvas. I took on to switchboards & then an entire wall, I don’t remember achieving something as substantial for a really long time.
Of course it was never all merry & gay, I had countless issues to deal with right from no electricity for days, a broken fridge, scary thunder & heavy rains, to having centipedes crawl in through invisible holes, but when I look back at nights of no sleep & all tears, I feel okay because it is absolutely OKAY.
Today, I guess my house looks like it has a soul, it’s an extension of who I am, a story of how I fought a relentless battle against a deadly virus & a battle to make sure I don’t settle into boredom, I feel a sense of calmness- as though there’s a lot more to life than just the past 3 months. I grew closer to people, celebrated the best birthday in the past 26 years of my existence, virtually with a handful who genuinely matter & mean so much to me, truly understood what home really means to me & most importantly continued liking to be by myself. I think I did pretty fine
While I could yap about my days of talking to myself, killing centipedes & struggling to get my rasam right, I am sure all of you have gone through your fair share of struggles as well which has moulded you for good. The past 3 months and may be the coming couple as well, have been brawls of different kinds for different people. Let’s acknowledge the efforts we all have put in towards making ourselves better individuals because all of us have most certainly contributed towards a better world.
But at the same time, after walking this path of self-realisation, I fear of having grown slightly numb, numb towards people around me, numb towards monotony, numb towards things that make me privileged over a million others who find it hard to fetch a day’s meal. While I had the time, energy & resources to scribble on my walls to keep my soul up, starvation had struck on innumerable families who sustained on mere daily wages. Today, when I am typing this down, I realise that numb is exactly what I was when I had heard of the deadly virus for the first time at my workplace and now that I have realised the same, the battle is to undo & unlearn, to take measured steps towards being a lot more considerate, empathetic, feel with a renewed energy for fellow living beings & most importantly, fight towards building a world where everything could be everyone’s