Our next post in this series is a parent perspective from Oasis Bera, a Delhi based architect and mother of two school going boys.
It was late February. My elder one’s birthday was just around the corner and celebratory vacation to Ranthambore was in the works. We were sizing up tents and camping supplies at Decathlon. We were quipping jokes about the hocus-POTUS speech to a full stadium. We were working our way around the crowded aisles of merchandise rubbing shoulders with strangers. Every thing was so blissfully uneventful, ordinary and mundane. What stood out as noticeably unique was a man sweeping the anti pollution masks off all the shelves into his shopping cart. I remember thinking he was probably an out-of-uniform employee taking inventory. Then, he slowly wheeled his cart to join the billing queue.
The ‘I’ of the storm
Once we heard of the possible lockdown, I jumped right into it. With all the methodic and swift planning of an organised army general under assault, I stocked up on supplies, re-organised our home into a multi-functional workspace, had all members sign up a mind-lease to our respective work corners in our little home.
In retrospect, our organisational skills were commendable. Optimism was at an all time high. The way I saw it, in today’s age of progress and information sharing, the scientific counter measure to this pandemic was just a few brilliant researches away. We were locked and loaded, bunkered and boarded, ready and waiting for the storm to arrive, do it’s thing and pass.
Modern Times (1936) with Charlie Chaplin as the Little Tramp
These days, to be honest, I mostly feel like the ‘Little Tramp’ on the assembly line from ‘Modern Times’. Each moment of each working day feels like a déjà vu. Boot up, clean, wake kids up, jump start breakfast, wake kids up, start the tea, yoga, wake kids up, pack lunch, start the younger one on his online classes, check if my teenager is up, make lunch, wash dishes, wash clothes, wash vegetables, lunch, see to the follow up writing for the younger one, catch my breath, fold clothes, evening tea, drag myself to kitchen, dinner, Amazon prime time, snooze, drag myself out of bed at an ungodly time of the night to holler my teen to his bed, rinse, repeat…
For the most part, I manage to put up a front that keeps up the collective spirit. I am not entirely proud of my work, but I am trying. However, deep inside, my heart ain’t exactly “dancing with the daffodils”.
I therefore often punctuate my day with brief retreats to my happy place in my little home. A large landscape window in my bedroom where I can quietly spend days watching my bamboo plants sway in the breeze, fish idling in the potted aquascape below. The Neem tree, bejewelled with vibrant pink clusters of Madhumalati blossoms fills up the rest of the perspective behind. It is here that I see seasons pass by, waiting for the storm to pass. It is here, that I have a premium seat to viewing red breasted robins and oriental magpie robins fly in one by one for a drink and a bath, then perch on the bamboo to sun themselves out. A pair of purple rumped sunbirds hyperactively hover about serenading the beauty of every day with a sharp and sweet “t-t-t-k-chew-ing-chew-ing-chew….”.
Maya Angelou, an American poet, singer and civil right activist once said,
“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
Every now and then, I sit at my window and try to soak the thought in.
Knock knock! Who cares?
My teen came to terms with being locked-in, surprisingly well! Such is the beauty of the inner workings of the teenage mind. Life is eternally full of possibilities and promises. When life gives you lemons, you instantaneously set your search engines to finding the recipe for the fanciest sparkly lemon- basil mocktail!
He took to my laptop like a creature of habit. Set up shop for all his online classes, courses and most importantly, games. Minecraft has now become synonymous with our lockdown journey. A hypothetical world of exploration, creativity and daring-do’s, of adventurous quests with friends. What’s not to like about it when you can go from survival mode to adventure mode in a digital heartbeat! I’ll admit, the infinite boundlessness of the escapades drives me to a dark place beyond insanity. But at some deep hidden level (and I now have to kill you ‘cause I told you), I see the beauty of it all from his perspective.
On the bright side, he self-taught his way around working the guitar that he was gifted on his birthday in early March. When requested, he lends much more of a helping hand than I would have credited him for before the lockdown. I am as pleasantly surprised by his creativity and enterprise, as I am driven up the wall by his heaven-may-care persona.
The viral storm hit us at the same bulls eye as his tenth board year. I can rattle on about the trials and tribulations of re-learning the learning process, but I will spare you the misery. It suffices to say that the new online normal doesn’t anchor a focus to any fixed target. The mind tends to voyage off to uncharted seas. We do not exactly have a buffet of choices in how the academics and evaluation pattern unfolds. The unpredictability of it all is a bit unsettling. Add to that the emotional rollercoaster of adolescence! Take all that and bottle it all up within the confines of a small urban apartment.
We have to wing it as the situation unfolds. Beyond the moderate tug and push, “Qué Sera sera…what will be, will be”.
The third arc in the rainbow
My younger one shines a light on this predicament with all the positivity of an eight year old. He is the bright yellow in the spectrum between my teen and I. Where I find myself reminiscing a lot about the past, my teen lives in the present moment, my younger one speaks and plans relentlessly about the things he looks forward to in the future. The places he will visit, his first vacation when ‘COVID ends’, playing Holi next year. He is very systematic and methodical in nature. In the diary that he received as a gift on his locked down birthday in May, he grades the quality of every day with his very simple and personal graded emoji rating system. So far, the planner page looks fairly good for the most part.
He finds his bliss in the simple joys of life…a Puri & Aloo Sabzee platter on Tuesday nights, a laptop screening of Mr. Bean on Saturdays, learning how to click his fingers, the coveted golden ticket of a side seat with his elder brother on his mine craft escapade, uninterrupted audience of his father when back from work while he reads a book to him, a cheese topping on his breakfast omelette. The beamiest emoji was marked on a day in May when he lost a tooth. The tooth fairy has long been defeated by logic but the tradition continues. And a miraculous new book gift under the pillow during the strict lockdown, is something to be very thankful for.
When I come across a disheartening COVID-19 statistic, I am prone to brewing an extra potent turmeric ginger pepper honey kaadha [potion] for all to drink. On a scale of amazing to appalling, his worst days are graded on such occasions. That level of low is actually something to be grateful for given the circumstances. There’s much to learn from an eight year old. And time as it appears, isn’t about to rush us out of our home just yet.
Letter to Uncle – 21st July 2020
The key, I’ve come to believe, is not in holding on and hanging in there. It lies instead, in stringing life back into a series of natural spontaneous changes. Once we have found the sweet spot between turbulent and tranquil, it is time to re-calibrate, get your bearings and move on with the flow.
Other stories in this series:
Off school – I: Musings, Off school – II: Early years, Off school – III: Contemplations, Off school – V: Screen time, Off school – VI: Nature, Off school – VII: Time to choose
Featured image : Team LV
Story images : Author, Wikipedia
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