November was a harbinger of something that’s been desperately short in 2020 – H O P E. Covid-fighting vaccines arrived in multiple numbers, Trump was finally on his way out of the White Office, and Kamala Harris became the first woman and person of colour to become madam VP-elect. The long November nights were rented with a near constant supply of fireworks celebrating Guy Fawkes and Diwali and, in my highly imaginative mind, hope itself. It kept us going through the cold wintry days of a second lockdown.
Lockdown Season 2
‘I say OMG we are going back inside
I cant believe a second lockdown has arrived
At this point I don’t remember normal life
And I guess its goodbye to my social life.’
– Tiktok quarantine anthem by @henrymoodie
A month of Lockdown 2.0 was never going to be easy. But it was certainly easier – unlike Lockdown 1.0, we had the gift of hindsight and experience on our side. Along with takeaway coffees and company for walks on relatively sunny and dry weekends, albeit with just one friend (hi @allthatsmillennial!). We had 3 days of childcare, full supermarket shelves, and no emotional breakdowns in the middle of the bakery section (last time it was over a lucky sack of flour). Life wasn’t quite as reduced or boxed-in as last time.
Many of us rolled out our festive decors at the beginning of the month, signalled by the earlier-than-usual switching on of Christmas lights in Central London. When the first Christmas tree of the season appeared at my local Starbucks, I gravitated towards it like a moth to a flame. I downed toffee nut lattes with fixated purpose, intent on hitting back at lockdown’s cruel ways of delaying our festive fix. I cannot remember a year when my sanity was so desperately in need of the hypnotic magic of festive lights.
On 4th November, Americans went to the polls. Elections across the pond are always a fanfare but this time, with the pandemic thrown in, it took on a life of its own. By 5th, there were no clear winners. The limbo put me in an agitated mood, along with the rest of the world. Witnessing millions of people voting for Trump even after his glaring failures and shocking incompetence, the worst of which cost hundreds of thousands of lives at the hands of Covid, was bitterly disappointing. Its beyond me how anyone could want Trump to be their leader. Its beyond me how 55% of White American Women voted for someone who is an openly anti-Black white supremacist intent on harming marginalized people. After 4 days of agonizing wait that could easily have been 4 weeks, Joe Biden’s victory felt like ‘a dodged bullet’, as Margaret Atwood aptly put it.
Its raining vaccines
And then came the vaccines. First one on the 9th promising a whopping 90% effectiveness, followed by a second one on the 16th boasting an even better rate of 95%, and then on the 23rd, the cheaper and controversial Oxford vaccine dropped. The world suddenly had not one but three highly effective tools to fight SARS-CoV-2. It felt too good to be true.
Of Hope and Happiness
This month, I wrote a piece titled ‘Of Hope and Happiness During A Global Pandemic‘ for Millie.ca, a Canadian based company (and community) that connects women through travels and storytelling. It proved to be a cathartic process for me. It was also my highest paid content to date + a big win for me as a freelance writer. While this was a one off, short term gig, I have a wider writing project brewing in the horizon (eeeeek)! I will be authoring children’s books funded by Arts Council England for @bok_bok_books. I am beyond excited and inspired – and we have only just begun.
Self-Care and Burnout
I took 4 sessions of private physiotherapy this month to target my back pain – perhaps the biggest form of self care I have allowed myself since getting pregnant in 2017. I felt the difference from the very first session – years of accumulated pain escaped through the physiotherapist’s expert fingers as he worked on my fatigued thoracic muscles. Weekly physiotherapy coupled with home exercises not just improved the pain, but the quality of my daily life.
As my physical health improved, my mental health nosedived. I think what really triggered it was the bizarre normalcy with which a whatsapp message pinged on my phone on the 2nd of November in which my best friend was telling me that her uni friend had passed away. As thought it could even be real. How could it be real? My whole body protested against that alien thought. She was more an acquaintance to me than a friend, but the physical shock of hearing about her death was nothing like I have ever experienced in my 31 years. My capacity to cope, already at an all-time low, collapsed. It put death on my mind, on the dinner table, on the ceiling at night. Every turn I took, I found death staring back at me.
Toffee nut lattes helped, but they could only do so much to replicate the festive spirit that propels November into December. I craved the brilliance of Christmas lights at Oxford Street and to see A/L splashed across my office calendar. Because wasn’t Dhaka supposed to be waiting on the other side of Christmas? Bangladesh is going through a wild second wave, rendering our annual end-of-year trip almost impossible. On 30th November, one of our close friends lost his father to Covid. In UK, daily Covid fatalities had crept up to 500 even before lockdown had begun. Death was everywhere.
I finally watched new movies/shows this month – shocking, eh?! In retrospect, everything I watched had one thing in common. The Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius on BBC iPlayer and The Crown Season 4 on Netflix were both based on real life stories I already knew. The only unpredictable thing I allowed myself to watch was Ludo, a complete chaos of a movie that fit right into today’s mood for dark comedy. It made me wonder whether my constant reruns of Friends and refusal to start new shows had more to do with my personal needs than Netflix or Amazon Prime’s lack of quality entertainment.
My book of the month is a clear outlier in my 2020 reading list. My Dark Vanessa is a dark, disturbing story of a 15 year old girl sexually abused and manipulated by her 42 year old English teacher. Kate Elizabeth Russell takes us right into the heart of the complexities of abusive relationships and trauma narratives, making this debut novel a minefield of triggers. Click on my IG post to know why I think its still worth a read.
View this post on Instagram
Aryan’s favourite question of the month was: ‘What’s this noise?’ He is trying hard to say full sentences now, the words tumbling out of him like ocean waves, their force often catching us off guard.
Me: ‘Ary, I am not feeling well.’
Ary: ‘Have some water mummy.’
We are encouraging him to speak in Bengali. He struggles with the translations but tries to be responsive.
Me: ‘Ary, lets go out.’
Ary: ‘Is Daddy coming?’
Me: ‘No, its just you and me.’
Ary: Oh. Daddy Kaaj?’ (Daddy’s got work?).
With more grip over his speech, his negotiation skills are on fire. ‘Wait!’ he says, each time we try to stop him from doing something. He thinks its a magic word that grants him permission to continue his shenanigans.
We are reading Little People, Big Ideas, and touching upon vast subjects – from space to human rights. He hardly understands such complex concepts but its exciting expanding his little world of tow trucks and dinosaurs.
Recipe on Repeat
Egg and Turkey Breakfast Buns! If you follow me on Instagram and watch my stories, you know that we are O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D. Nizar ordered these buns from @eggsnstuffco one morning and the rest is history! Here is the recipe to recreate this glorious brekkie:
Grill turkey rashers (4 each)
Fry eggs (1 each)
Make the sauce: equal parts mayo and sriracha with a dash of ketchup
Toast the bread. Spread the sauce. Assemble!
View this post on Instagram
For this month, I would like to introduce you to two young Black content creators I have been loving lately: @mikaelaloach, a sustainable living and ethical fashion blogger and @mariebeech, a social justice activist and anti-racism educator. Give them a follow RIGHT NOW and lets fangirl over these brilliant young minds doing incredible work to make our planet a better, kinder place.
Thanks to the promise of vaccines, a life beyond covid restrictions is finally taking shape in our minds. I daydream of a not-so-far future when I can see my Ammu and hug my sisters.
Tis the season to be jolly, but its also the season to be jolly careful. So while I am counting days to end of Lockdown 2.0, we must remain vigilant. Reminder for myself, first and foremost.