The year was 2020. And things were not looking good. There was a palpable tension in the air; the fear of something unfamiliar and relatively unknown! A virus seemed to have descended on the world and was causing panic all over. It was, as one would surmise, a scene straight out of a Hollywood movie. Only, this was no movie. This was very real and incredibly horrifying.
The coronavirus was spreading like wildfire and no cure had been found. Governments worldwide were at a loss as to how to handle a pandemic on such a massive scale. In sheer desperation, country after country began declaring complete lockdowns. Break the chain was the declared motto – minimise contact between people and reduce the spread of the virus.
But then we digress. A detailed description of the roaring pandemic was not at all my intent. God knows there is enough, and more of it, already documented in print as well as in visual media than can be sanely handled. So let us talk about lockdowns and its impact instead.
The Indian government declared a lockdown sometime in the hot sultry month of March last year. From companies, offices, colleges and schools to theatres, museums, hotels and resorts — everything except the bare essentials closed for over a month. One of the major impacts of the lockdown was the work from home culture that has taken the country by storm over the past year and half. Most employees, all young and raring to go, headed home armed with their laptops and high-speed internet connections. This was now all they needed to stay connected with their offices or clients.
To most of them, having left home possibly right after school, they grabbed the chance to get back to their roots. Happy and safe, sheltered from all the chaos caused by the virus, they were glad to be back where they belonged and all while their earnings continued. Working from home seemed to give them that much more time to catch up on a lot of other things too.
As the months sped by, many were rediscovering old hobbies or getting into new ones. From reading to cooking, and to learning to play musical instruments, they were on a voyage of self-discovery. Dozens of singers and dancers sprang up on the internet in no time. With the government enforcing restrictions to curtail and minimise people from interacting, homes became a beehive of activities. Work from home had become the new super cool mantra.
The era of family bonding
Family time began trending on social media with everyone dancing and singing together, playing games and watching movies. Cooking was in big time anyway, thanks to the ever-popular Master Chef series. Family members from far and wide connected over Zoom meetings and children were introduced to uncles and aunts they had never before seen or met. Everyone seemed to have a YouTube channel where they regularly uploaded dance videos, crooned some delightful melodies, shared recipes, gardening tips and even short films.
One cannot but respect and admire the sheer talent that has been on display over the past year. Several few fiascos evoked laughter too! Like, share and subscribe was the new jingle it seemed.
Nothing lasts forever
Although the lockdown was called off after two months or so, we are now well into 2021 facing the brunt of the second wave and yet another lockdown. Amid all this, the work from home brigade is yearning to get back to their plush offices. The initial excitement of a family reunion has since faded and home seems to have lost its sheen. As for families, they want some space now. It has become rather depressing to see the same faces day after day for over a year now.
The internet is flooded with memes and trolls of husbands and wives getting on each other’s nerves. The elders in the house are now exasperated by the bored and unruly children who keep crashing in on Zoom meetings, not to mention annoying pets. And while the humour was initially appreciated, frustrations have begun to pile up. Everyone has had enough of bonding over singing and dancing, or so it seems. The videos on social media and YouTube continue unabashedly but the requests to like, share and subscribe don’t have much takers now.
The home maker
In all this brouhaha over family bonding and work from home blessings and banes, one forgets the unsung heroes in every home. For the home maker, work from home is the rather old-fashioned, uncool trend that patriarchy has bestowed upon her kind from centuries ago. She has been running the home and family like a well-oiled machine that never stops. From morning till night, day after day, her work at home never ends. She is on call 24/7, the whole year through and the year after that and forever. And of course, there’s no retirement either.
Yes, the lockdown brought the entire country to a standstill and caused tremendous hardships to people in terms of financial losses, emotional distress, and some very personal tragedies too. But life moved on. And that is because even in these tough times, in their homes, everything functioned just as it has since antiquity. While every member of the family managed to put aside their assigned duties, office work, businesses or studies to take a break from the monotony of it all, the work at home never stopped. Could not stop if one had to survive!
We all need food, clean surroundings and fresh clothes. And so, the home maker continues her routine, without a break. Funnily enough, this is the one job that is most undervalued. Considered rather menial, inconsequential and far from cool, the home maker struggles to cope with it all.
It was a rather harsh eye opener for many, witnessing first hand, how strenuous and tiresome maintaining the home was. One hopes that the past year and a half would have taught us all to respect and appreciate the sheer hard work and care that goes into managing the homes we all take for granted.
Hope for the best
The earth, they said, needed this time to heal. That God almighty was just ensuring that the destructive human race slowed down to let nature breathe in peace. It didn’t take too long for the feel-good stories to do the rounds of the internet. Much was said of mother earth becoming greener, the sky seemingly bluer, of rare animals and migratory birds being sighted. and of rivers flowing cleaner. Some even declared the gaping hole in the ozone layer over the Arctic had closed due to reduced pollution. While it was true that the hole had closed, scientists clarified it had nothing to do with the pandemic and lockdowns. The ozone layer healing was apparently driven by an unusually strong and long-lived polar vortex.
One hopes that the worst is over and things get back to some semblance of normalcy soon. The vaccination drive, which was the sole light at the end of the tunnel, appeared to flicker for a while, but now it seems to be getting back on track.
We need our businesses flourishing, our markets bustling with activity, our phones ringing endlessly, the roads swarming with vehicles and parking lots frustratingly full. We need our trains, buses, taxis and rickshaws all running continuously. We need the cheerful vendors, the small eateries, the brightly lit malls crowded with families, watching movies, playing games, and the ability of eating out. Most of all, we need our schools and colleges functioning normally to secure the country’s future . And while we press the restart button, let us hope the earth continues to heal, nature breathes serenely, the animals play truant, and the rarest of birds continue to arrive from far off lands. Let us also hope for the rivers to reflect the dazzling blue sky.