Rowing through rough times

Posted by Indrani Basu, Kolkata

The abrupt starting of the lockdown was unsettling for us and especially my sons, Amitava and Koustav, both adults with autism.

Amitava works at ASPIRES, the early intervention unit run by Autism Society West Bengal (ASWB). He does parent orientation and manages the teaching and learning materials. What Amitava missed most were his colleagues from work.  He called them on his mobile, or they called him. Being connected was important for him.

Amitava taking a parent orientation class at ASWB

Koustav worried about the events that were planned and, how they were to take place. Events like World Autism Awareness Day , Bengali New Year, a cultural program on Rabindranath Tagore’s birth anniversary.  Then there was the monthly meeting of YAAR (Young Adults with Autism Reach-out, a social club for people with autism and those without). The answer was, of course online. Aarahon the vocational unit of ASWB, where Koustav is a trainee, was running online classes. This enabled him to stay connected. Koustav had his visual schedule and his other visual supports which helped him cope with anxiety. Evening recreation was music from my mobile.

Amitava organised his day with chores. And for relaxation, he did net surfing and called up people. All of us used the terrace for bit of fresh air. So lockdown was manageable.

Week starting 17th May, we began getting reports of the super cyclone Amphan. My husband and I told the boys about the cyclone and how we needed to prepare. We stored up on water, charged everything that could be charged and tied up widows which may fly open.

Looming destruction

When the cyclone started, the sound of the wind was a deafening screech. We could hear glass breaking from the apartments around us. My husband and I were more bothered by the noise than the boys were. Doors and windows rattled and as expected the power went out.  I lit some candles and kept them on the dining table. Koustav sat at the table where the light was. For him sitting with people near the light was reassuring. Amitava talked on his mobile till the connectivity collapsed. Then he announced that as there was nothing to do, he will have a nap and went to his room.   Around late evening, the wind stopped and all went quiet. Amitava emerged from his room and both the boys went to the balcony. It was pitch black outside and gusty, but we could hear the voices of our neighbours.

Fury in the darkness

Next morning, we saw the damage. The trees around us looked battered and some had been uprooted. While opposite our house a tree leaned ominously towards us. There was no internet, no TV and the power was unpredictable. The terrace was out of bounds, as it was littered with various stuff thrown there by the storm.


Our lives changed again abruptly. Once more, there was uncertainty. Koustav worried about the online events. Amitava worried about not having the net and mobile connection. I had to talk to them and use words like “uncertain”, “ if”, “maybe”. Although I have used such terminology before, they have never seen it play out as it did.  Daytime was not a problem as there were the predictable and reassuring chores, which had increased due to the cyclone. But evenings were difficult, because it was dependent on the internet.   Koustav solved his own problem and asked to see old pictures of family holidays. In addition, he listened to music on my laptop or just relaxed in his room. I was happy because he decided to adjust and make do with the situation.

Amitava – back to chores

With very poor mobile network, Amitava could not connect with anyone and was irritable. As we got more information, the boys realised there were people who didn’t have power, water or food. Slowly we got pictures of the devastation outside Kolkata. Amitava realised that his colleagues could not call or even receive his calls. Now, he was very concerned about them.

Very slowly the situation improved and at present, we are at lockdown normal. As parents, we never can say we completely know our children. I am sure they can say the same about us.  I realised how practical and at times innovative the boys could be, if given the chance. What they needed from us was clarity.

Amitava – online music class
The wind is high, clouds dark,
O the boatman, Row your boat.
You give it the direction, 
While I prepare the sail high-
Row, Row your boat.
Resonance of the chains, time and again, 
Isn't the yell for despair
Unbearable are the bounds, 
Its oscillations are hence.
Row, Row your boat.
Do not ask, whether or not to venture,
The day, time just or not, anxiously.
If your luck runs against, 
Roughness beyond control,
Smashing storm, sea waves even higher,
Be confident, adjust to the rhythm,
Chanting His name merrily. 
Row, Row your boat.

Translation of the Tagore song that Amitava sings. Courtesy

Cover Image:
Story images : Author

Standard Disclaimer : The story contributors are responsible for all views and facts provided in their posts. Lockdown Voices and its editorial team is not accountable for the accuracy of the information posted.

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