I was to travel to Boston middle of February 2020, just around when COVID-19 outbreak had happened, few hundred cases were around, there was word of caution in the air. I took a risk and did travel and managed to come back safely to India towards end of February, only to find that the spread was rampant. In a week’s time, I got into self-imposed lockdown, and followed a nation wide lockdown.
Like many of you out there, I was glued to TV, with me biting my nails, sitting on the edge, flipping between various news channels. But after a while, I said myself enough is enough, and put a stop to that madness, as it had started affecting me, seeing the situation getting worse and uncontrollable. The media is doing great job in general, I am sure, keeping us informed, warned, provide insights. No question on that. Especially, I love to watch CNN. Cuomo Prime is my favorite. It is aired morning time in India. Chris Cuomo’s hand-off with Don Lemon is one which I found quite unusual hand-off between anchors. I thoroughly enjoy those. Both of them take quite a dig at President Trump each time. That is the only one I still watch, more or less these days, to get my updates on COVID-19. It is also quite inspiring seeing Chris Cuomo do the show from his home basement, despite he got infected by the virus.
It is amazing to see what this virus has done to all of us, globally. Well, I am not talking of stock market. That is different story. I am talking about how we humans now interact. Some new behavioral etiquette have sprung up, such social distancing, sneezing in one’s elbows, getting away from shaking hands to namaste, and many others. But for many, this enforced isolation is a nightmare, not able to cope up, hence raising demand on mental health care, more than any other times. For some others, I am sure it is time to pursue happiness in solace, get back to our todo list, get those unread books out, or get your hand on that old music instrument lying in one corner, and for some to think on solving new problems the world is bringing to us.
What am I doing during lockdown, besides WFH? Yes, I still need to work, that has not stopped, but has certainly added flexibility, and more hours to my day, which otherwise were taken out by harsh commute to and fro. After few days of consuming some of those new hours towards streaming media content, I decided to visit my bucket list.
Fortunately, just after my return from US, I had spent a day or two redoing my gardens. I had also ordered a bird feeder, sparrow nest and green grow bags from Amazon. So quickly began with that. It has started giving me back-many flowers, fresh greenary, banana and papaya trees growing, a produce of fenugreek leaves for dining table. It is so nice to see this day in day out.
It also brought some scare to me one Saturday. In my backyard, I spotted a snake! I quickly summoned sarpa-mitra(Friends of Snakes) to take that away, but it escaped unfortunately. Reptiles don’t know about virus and lockdown! As we hear in the news, that nature has started responding positively, with more activity by flora and fauna, as there has been less of human intervention. I used to have good garden on terrace of my house, few years back; including compost pit. I had not been to the terrace my house in years. One of the Sundays, I went there, got it cleaned. And it became my new walking track, and a cycling track, for the lockdown days!
I also restarted my translation project, one involving one of the greatest of filmmakers in India, Guru Dutt. I have been making good progress on that book. I also got my hands around some of my books around art of painting, biographies of painters, artists. Art appreciation is one area which I lend myself to. In the recent past, I have taken efforts to get under the hood of music and films. Art painting appreciation was something left out. Reading about these bygone era artists is so enriching. I read a book on Raja Ravi Varma, watched a movie based on his life. I am doing same for Vincent van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, watching movies on them and reading books(Lust for Life, Moulin Rouge) on them. Besides that, I am also blogging on few topics. I also plan to read book called Walden, which is again on life during isolation; and get a cue or two from that. I also happened to re-read story by renowned scientist and science fiction writer Dr Jayant Naralikar, on the theme of great plague of Athens. It outlined the situation, similar to what we are facing today. If you have not read John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, it might be worth reading, and draw parallels to the situation we are into.
Other thing on my bucket list was to get into bit of land of spirituality. I thought this is best time to do that, self-retrospection during lockdown. Fortunately, due to technology, we have pleasure of masters such as Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar of Art of Living, coming live to our homes, everyday twice, for guided meditation. I have been latching on that opportunity, whenever I can. This also made me take aside books on yoga, pranayam, meditation, from personal library, read through them. I also attended complimentary session on Thinking Positive by life coach Harrish Sairaman and got hold of free audio on total relaxation, which is also quite nice.
I also got involved in another favorite of my projects, with Prof V N Jha-Sanskrit scholar living in my apartment complex. I have not been able to attend many of his workshops since last few years. I was happy to help him with technology(Zoom), to allow him to conduct a workshop on Adi Shankaracharya’s text Tattvabodh. I also could participate in that, though occasionally, and relished on my in-person learning from him in the past at Veliyanad.
I am sure those with entrepreneurial mind set among us, are working on making most of the opportunity, this crisis is bringing. I am keenly following mental health space, where there is a jump in venture capital funding in that area. This has been my area of interest since last 20 years. I am sure innovation in this area, and many other areas will happen very rapidly.
Anyways, summer is in its peak now in India. I hope this virus gets roasted off by the scorching Sun, and, we get back to our old ways, may be wiser, may be more conscious of mother nature, and more deep inside! And most importantly, hope we don’t go berserk after lockdown is relaxed, about which I had shared a blog recently.