Pandemic Living: The New Normal

By Benjamin Jolly
Picture Credit: Google Images

As the world came to a grinding halt with the spread of the Covid-19 virus, it hit one and all in different ways. More than the physical and economical trauma, it was mental trauma that took its toll on millions. 

The whole world had to adapt to a new lifestyle, a new ‘normal’; a digital and virtual way of living. It was easy for some but a whole new area of exploration for many. Teachers had to learn the skill of conducting virtual classes. Students have to send their assignments through WhatsApp and email. Students and employees moving to a new country have been put on hold indefinitely. The hospitality and tourism industry took a major hit with transport and hotel services being suspended. Medical staff selflessly risk their lives caring for the sick and needy. The sanitation staff played their part too in keeping their areas of jurisdiction safe and clean. 

In all this chaos, we also saw that offices can function from homes, while we keep ourselves safe. Birthday parties and board meetings can be conducted virtually too. We also learnt that ‘moms’ are not the only cooks in the house; with a little will power and YouTube, anyone can learn to cook. Small jobs which were impossible without our domestic help, can be managed if the family cooperates and lends a hand. Also, precautions and safety measures which were otherwise overlooked are now the most important part of our living in these troubled times. At this point, all of this has become the normal thing to do.

Personally, this pandemic took a toll on me mentally, financially and physically! 

On 15thMarch with the government’s decision to temporarily discontinue the running of educational institutes was announced, I was halfway through my course in Bakery & Patisserie. Though my family lives in Andheri, I moved out 2 years ago and was living alone. With the total lockdown being announced on March 24th, I was confined to my home for 3 months and it was the first time I was spending so much alone time. Usually, weekends meant socialising and being a person who loves company; it was quite difficult to deal with it. I tried absorbing myself in activities like sketching and cooking but even these distractions got monotonous over a period of time. The mind plays tricks on you when you are at your most vulnerable state. If you let it control your thoughts, the mind pushes you to think and feel immense negativity and it takes a tremendous amount of will power and strength to control these thoughts. A lot of suppressed emotions and thoughts started surfacing and I did not know how to handle them alone. I started breaking down at the drop of a hat and that is the exact opposite of how I usually am when it comes to dealing with difficult situations. I couldn’t sit and sob all the while so I started talking to my family and friends more often. I started sharing my difficulties and listening to their advice and solutions. It was euphoric to see the love and care my people showered. It helped me heal to some extent and find reasons to get up and do something rather than lie in bed all day with Netflix and junk food. 

My partner and I run a chocolaterie called The 8th Sin, since 2017. With the total lockdown being announced, we had no option but to put a hold on production. We were shut from mid-March to June, and it surely impacted us. I quit my job in June 2019 to hone my skills at everything related to bakery and pastry. With the business shutting down temporarily, and expenses piling up we did see a rough patch, but we pulled ourselves through it, thanks to our supportive families.

The good thing about the pandemic for me was that I got to concentrate on myself. I started working out and taking care of my body ( which I had neglected for quite some time ). I recently read an article on ‘Loving yourself’ and realised the importance of putting your foot down if necessary when it comes to caring for yourself. Mental and physical peace are interlinked. Only a sound body can host a sound mind. I’m grateful for this time I had to work on myself and heal. 

When my sister finally managed to get back from the US, I decided to move back to my parents’ place and it was the best decision I made. The love, care and support your family can give you, nowhere else can you find it! It felt wholesome being back home and being pampered like a little child. Things almost seemed normal now. I got to spend quality time with my sister after eons as we both left home to study years back. It felt good. My best friend and I were back in the same city after ages and we keep ourselves busy with DIY projects, working out together and making the most of this time we have during the pandemic.

Now as life is gradually getting back to normal, it still remains of utmost importance to maintain a hygienic and safe environment for ourselves and the people around us. We need to think twice before taking travel decisions, keeping our emotions aside. For instance, a friend is desperate to visit her home in Jaipur since her father’s birthday is round the corner but she has to take into account the fact that travelling from Mumbai to Jaipur puts her family, her neighbours and herself at risk. It’s a difficult choice but it has to be made. It is our responsibility to ensure the well-being of our families and living spaces. Masks and sanitisers have replaced the cologne and glares as essential items in our bags.

I wonder at times, “Will I be able to live the carefree, rampant life I used to? Will I be able to travel when I wish to and where I wish to? Will spontaneous plans with friends, midnight birthday surprises, large family reunions and picnics ever be a possibility in the near future? Will we ever go back to the ‘old normal’ or should we make peace with the ‘new normal’?

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