I am writing this profound piece while wearing a pyjama and a formal shirt, occasionally smiling into the laptop camera to ensure I am not ‘zoomed’ out of a meeting that seems to drag on and more.
In case you are wondering, this for me–as for many of you I’m sure–is the ‘new normal,’ thanks to social distancing and COVID-19. This event has turned me into an expert at muting and unmuting myself. This ensures the ramblings of my four-year-old do not come across as a jarring surprise during virtual meetings.
Unlike others, I am yet to upload pictures of the dishes ‘I do not’ cook. I am not a fussy eater, and would rather quietly ‘download’ whatever has been laid out on the dining table. I consider myself truly blessed to not have to cook – at least for the most part.
What has also changed is my favourite quote. It has since evolved from ‘You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it’ to ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ The book, in this case, being ‘The professionalism of Ayan Pal’ and as for the cover – well the outfits that now adorn me from head to toe!
A drastic change in grooming
My suits have gone into hibernation and have now been replaced by a set of shirts that no longer need to be paired with anything waist down. It goes without saying they are immediately shed after any video conferencing meet, allowing them to air out until ‘called upon’ for the next online meeting.
As for my hair, I am happy to share that it is now a cross between the styles popularised by the protagonists of Tarzan and Raja Babu – unkempt and oily. Meanwhile, my beard would make the post interval Arjun Reddy seem puritan and rock steady.
In my defence, after four months of dilly dallying, I did get an opportunity to stop being a ‘Zoom potato.’ I put into practice as much effort as one might when mowing a lawn. In case you are wondering, I am referring to my first attempt at shaving during lockdowns.
By the time I was done, I was looking at least 69 years younger, if you know what I mean. But the woman who mattered the most to me, my darling daughter, was not impressed. “Where is my old baba?” she quipped. I was, therefore, left with no other choice but to prematurely retire as a beard trimmer.
Our jobs have turned from ‘9 to 5’ into ‘5 to 9’
Talking of retirement, what I don’t see happening anytime soon, is any chance of an early retirement. Having witnessed first-hand my depleting fortunes thanks to the stock market, I am happy continuing with what I’m doing. Broadly, this includes contributing to society through my choice of employment in India’s most sought-after revenue generating essential service that no one cares about – information technology.
Being a community of mostly engineers who are also good with numbers, I have seen how quickly most of us have accepted and adapted to the new normal. This has mostly comprised working from home, extended work hours and virtual conferences, among others.
In fact, my most often used words have shifted from sexist jibes like “you look great” and gluttony infused “let’s take a break” to spiritual quests like “can you hear me?” and profound pronouncements like “you’re still on mute!”
Not everything is going downhill!
When the lockdown started, my grandmother, wife and aunts who were finding it difficult to choose between which rerun to watch–Ramayan, Mahabharat, or Byomkesh Bakshi–now have a one stop solution in the form of Republic TV.
They now watch our nation’s greatest obsession for justice. Led by a host as determined as Lord Rama, supported by panelists as adroit as the battling brothers of Mahabharat–who in turn are fuelled by journalists who possess brain cells greyer than a Byomkesh could ever have–this offers non-stop 24 x 7 entertainment for them.
Byomkesh, ironically, was the very character played by the actor, who is now the inspiration for the cry for justice. This, in my opinion, goes on to prove why and how life truly is a full circle.
Speaking of circles, I have a spinning circle on my laptop right now. This either means I have lost connectivity, or that, while I was busy penning this down, someone at home has begun streaming an IPL match in full-HD on another device.
Perhaps this signals that I must now stop. Until Salman Khan comes back and reclaims the ‘boss of television’ title and forces the hoi polloi to zoom in, here’s hoping your talent will end up meeting the opportunity it deserves, be it unlock or lockdown. Till that happens, hang in there and pray that someone, somewhere will be able to answer what the nation truly wants to know – when will this uncertainty end?