Lockdown chronicles
THE WEEK|April 12, 2020
As India steps into the second week of lockdown, Indians adapt to live behind door
REKHA DIXIT

Malvika Trivedi wakes up early and, after her morning tea, heads for her home-based workout. She has set herself a 30-day challenge to build some muscle. Post breakfast, she gets ready for work as she would ordinarily do, even slipping into her sandals and never forgetting the lipstick. She then takes her two children, Adhrija and Darsh, downstairs to her office, where she sits down to work.

Work is not much these days, so the lawyer also surfs the internet or reads with her younger son, while her daughter attends her online classes. After lunch, they spend some time lounging together, and then she heads back to “work”. The evenings are spent watching Netflix with her husband, Saket, also a lawyer. “I am loving the lockdown phase, despite the heavy financial loss,” she says. “It has given me the time to be with my children, and remain stress-free, too.”

Trivedi realised that her motivation to work had come down to zero when the court closed, so she forced a schedule upon the family. “I tried my hand at cooking, but the maids were petrified with the results, so I stopped,” she says with a chuckle. “I haven’t got bored till now, let’s see what the future holds.’’

In the surreal existence that the country, and much of the world, is now living, life has turned on its head. Three am is the new midnight, as one youngster put it. India, locked into the confines of its home, is valiantly trying to adjust to the new reality, and the host of challenges it has thrown up. While India went into lockdown from March 25, many parts of the country had already slipped into a semi-lockdown by mid-March. Even in Kashmir, which is used to curfews, and has just emerged from the lockdown following the abrogation of Article 370, the present time is like nothing before. Muezzins appeal to the devout to worship from home, and the security personnel compare it with the situation just a few months ago, when they had to work hard at maintaining peace and order.

The going is in no way easy. The initial days of panic buying and stashing up on provisions may have eased a bit with supply chains slowly falling into a system. But stuff one took for granted earlier is precious commodity today, even as so many objects of desire of the past life—cars, jewellery and clothes—have little meaning. The breaking of a television remote is an event high on the calamity scale, as one family discovered. And God forbid if the mobile phone decides to die out right now. Where once mothers stressed over ensuring their children did not miss the school bus, the equivalent of that stress shows up when the FTTH (fibre-to-the-home) connection snaps in the middle of an online class.

Working from home (WFH) is part of the new normal, but while it is a novel experience for those who commuted to work daily, even among communities where the WFH culture was already established, the experience is different. “With the domestic staff in its own quarantine, it is not WFH, but also all the work at home,” says an exasperated software professional Shwetha Rao, who finds herself facing laundry, cooking, cleaning and an endless string of domestic chores, along with her professional commitments.

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