When I started the idea of my monthly digest, I never imagined, in my wildest dreams, writing a blog post during a full-blown pandemic. When the top trending hashtags were #washyourhands, #socialdistancing and #flattenthecurve and staying home meant saving lives.
While last month we were slowly waking up to the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, this month we quickly began to grasp the pandemic’s true human and economic costs. The story of the coronavirus is still being written and although much is still unknown, we know we are just settling in for the long haul. Or, as they say these days, for the ‘foreseeable future’.
Planet Earth has shut down. 1/3rd of the world is in lockdown. Times Square and Leicester Square are empty. The skies are devoid of ariplanes, cars remain parked in the streets, trains have dwindled, schools have closed, and restaurants have shut down. Nothing is the same anymore. We are collectively battling a once-in-a-lifetime crisis that is beyond any of our coping mechanisms. We are so out of our depth that a lot of times it doesn’t even feel real.
As more and more nations locked down and put people in quarantine, the economy spun into free fall. Parents found themselves having to homeschool their kids while also somehow managing to work from home. Professional and social life went virtual, kitchen tables became work stations and video conferencing gave us way too much insight into the personal lives of our colleagues. But allowing our work mates to take up virtual space in our living room gave us a strange comfort of togetherness.
For many, lockdown life was ideal – the slowing down, the extra time spent with loved ones, the couch binging, the bread and cake making. Social isolation gave people an opportunity to pursue personal development. Many took up forgotten hobbies, read books, decluttered their homes. Others lost jobs, got furloughed, stewed in anxiety and depression and struggled with isolation. Everyone, in their own pace and time, paused or spaced out from time to time to wonder whether all this was real or a figment of their imagination. We wanted our world back but we simply didn’t have the power to do so. The lack of control was unsettling. Deep down, we feared things might never really go back to how it used to be. And maybe that was what we needed – a radical post pandemic reform that improves the rich-poor divide and reimagines global health for good.
Life in Quarantine
We spent all of March in bated breath as the covid-19 cases rose steadily in rapid hundreds within UK, with Italy going into lockdown earlier in the month. Stories of hoarding and stockpiling poured in from all corners of the world. I couldn’t find loo rolls in my local Tesco but I wasn’t going to panic, I vowed. And I stayed true to my word till we paid a trip to Morrisons on 13th of March and witnessed the empty/picked-over aisles. By 23rd March my local Tesco was stripped bare. Then we started having entry restrictions and strict rationing of goods overseen by PPE-d assistants. Some days standing outside the supermarket and watching masked people walking by felt like being part of a half-hearted apocalyptic movie. We were in the middle of a crisis but there was no real visible threat. No dead humans chasing us or tanks rolling down the street. It was an odd feeling.
By mid March, nearly 2000 people were dead in Italy, with many more in Iran, France and Spain. As the month went on, the virus epicentre moved from China to Europe to USA. By the end of the month, more than 10,000 people were dead in Italy, 781,897 cases had been officially confirmed and 40,000 people had died worldwide. We were trapped in a nightmare with no end in sight.
Life despite Corona
We still had a semblance of a normal life in the beginning of the month. Spent lots of celebrations including Women’s Day, World Book Day, Absolutely Incredible Kid Day and Mother’s day.
Summer doesn’t come easily to London but the weather is finally getting milder while the days keep getting longer.
Nizar and I started quarantine from 10th of March, a week before most of UK, without really realising it. I had gone to Heathrow on the 9th and had no way of knowing that would be my last normal office day in a long, long time. Nizar had a persistent cough so his office asked him to start working from home earlier than planned. The next day, all of Google were told to do the same.
I cant believe only last month, I was taking joy in normalcy. I had finally resurfaced from a well of anxiety, only to get dragged back down to that dark space. And this time, the whole world was going down with me.
Contagion and Pandemic are the most popular shows on Netflix right now. And we caved into watching both. Nizar jumped in to get Disney+ and I finally watched Frozen. Smitten!
Like the rest of the world, I was glued to the phone and read way too much news this month. But as far as books go, I read half of Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. Its sad to think that I started it in a train journey to Southampton – the last time I travelled all the way to my head office. Don’t know when I will be able to make that journey again and I miss it even though the commute was tiring.
I also read a short book called ”We Should All Be Feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s a short but powerful account of what feminism means and why the world needs it.
Working from home with TMB, extra time with my son and social media apps (Zoom, Housparty) that keep us connected despite social distancing.
Aryan is definitely my number 1 reason for keeping sane through this pandemic. He is so wonderfully oblivious to everything, it gives us a much needed break from the nonstop flood of bad news and covid discussions. He gives fist bumps and greets us with chirpy ‘Mornings’ and ‘Hellos’ all day long. He is speaking a mix of Banglish: ‘Turn Around’, ‘Sit Down,’ as well as Charo (let me go) and Hoy Nay (it didn’t work). His love for Bollywood is growing stronger as we turn to TV and music to cope. Currently, he is obsessed with Bum Bum Bole and All is Well.
He joined us in quarantine from 20th March after his daycare closed down. He really misses being out in the open but he is loving being around us all day. Having him around 24/7 is such a huge blessing, despite the hard work that parenting entails. We heard him say things we have never heard before like ‘Happy Birthday Cake’ and ‘I like it’. We finally got to the bottom of his hysterical cry around 6 pm which is usually when we bring him home from daycare. We thought it was his desire to play outside but seems like it was him hitting a really tired peak.
I am glad he is too young for studies and that we dont have to worry about school curriculum. Its hard enough working from home under such conditions.
His attachment to things has become even more evident now – he always chooses an object to take to bed with him be it a small car, a ball or his bath time ducks. As soon as he wakes up, he says ‘Ball koi?’ (where is my ball?).
Recipe on Repeat
Food this month has been weighing on everyone’s mind. Apparently Britons stockpiled food worth one billion pounds! Luckily seafood isn’t the hottest item so we have been making a lot of seafood pasta. Also, I FINALLY made home made pizza and now I am hooked.
What’s Coming Up?
No idea what the world will look like in the next few days or months with indefinite social distancing stretching out before us. But April is Birthday and Ramadan month and its hard not to feel a twinge of excitement. Even if its going to be spent in solitude. Which is actually pretty ideal for Ramadan as we can focus more on prayers and rest more throughout the long summer fasts.
Everything has been cancelled for the foreseeable future so we can only wait for things to get back to ‘normal’. But while we wait, we are thinking of the bigger picture, absorbing the beauty in little things that we miss so easily, and appreciating all that we used to take for granted. One day, when all this is over, we will look back at this time and take pride in the strength of human spirit in the face of the worst crisis in living memory.
I will come back to your pandemic memories once all this is over- just to remind myself of all the chaos worded so perfectly!