Where do I start this post. I did not want to write on Corona. I wanted to write about it but in the past tense. Once it is over. Once we know we survived it. I was too overwhelmed. I have not written anything in a while. But before I write about corona let me tell you what kind of a person I am since most of you do not know me personally.
My usual routine
The following are things I did in my every day life (even before corona):
- Washing the hands 100 times a day for more than 20 seconds easily. I remember one time a girl in my office washroom told me “Tanvi, that’s enough! Your hands will fall off!”
- Not touching elevator buttons directly. Ever. I use keys. Or even better. Wait for someone to press it whenever possible. Use office ID card if there is no key.
- Speaking of office, incidents where people come to my desk with prasad or sweets are absolute nightmares. I cannot put something inside my mouth without washing my hands. I cannot tell them, ‘Hey wait. Let me go to the bathroom and wash my hands while you can still wait here.’ Not taking something from colleagues is considered rude so I have no option but to take it. Actually any kind of food sharing is very difficult.Some people take sweets and put it on their laptop. How could they!
- People coming for handshakes. Again. Nightmare. I go wash my hands immediately.
- People using my laptop, my phone. Traumatic. I clean it with a tissue. Too bad I cannot wash them with soap.
- You should watch me go for lunch. I wash my hands. Then go to heat my food. Then I wash my hands again because I cannot possibly eat after having touched the microwave. So then I wash my hands again. I open the washroom door with my left hand. Then I balance my lunchbox, phone (which is lying on a table outside the washroom) in my left hand , follow the elevator protocol as mentioned in (2) all to make sure that I do not touch anything with my clean, right hands until I touch my food. If I have to lift the chair before eating, again I use my left hand.
- I go to theatres fully covered. Full sleeves. I do not want germs on my body. Gold seats are difficult because then you have to remove your shoes. So I wear socks.
- I have to take a shower every time I come back home from anywhere ‘outside’. So, if on a week day I go for a movie, I have showered thrice. Once in the morning, once after coming back from office, then after the movie. It does not matter if it is a night show and 1 am.
- No ‘outside clothes’ can be mixed with home clothes. ‘Outside clothes’ go in the machine. Nothing is allowed on the bed. Nothing. No purse. No mobile. No outside clothes.
- If I take a cab, those clothes also go in the machine immediately. I do not sit on the home sofa with those clothes. Basically anything that has gone out of the house needs to be disinfected first.
- If I come back from a vacation , I have to shampoo my hair and wash all clothes immediately before I do anything else. Even the clothes I have not used. Yes, there are extra clothes because I always overpack. I put things that I do not necessarily need but pack them anyway thinking what if my stay gets extended for some reason. So, if I have travelled back from ‘foreign’ after a 36 hour journey I will still follow this routine, shampoo, wash clothes and disinfect the suitcase before doing anything else.
- People putting suitcases on the bed is a sight that haunts me.
- Grocery jhola gets washed each time and hung out in the balcony. So do purses.
- Eggs, milk packets also get washed.
- I wash my glasses with soap twice a day.
- If I drop anything on the floor like a hair clip it’s pretty much discarded.
- I cannot do things like having chips in the car during a long drive, or in the plane.
- I have a sanitizer in all my purses.
- I never eat sauf in restaurants because I believe people would have put their hand in it.
- My domestic helpers are not allowed to bring their phone inside the kitchen. They have to leave it on the shoe rack. If they get a call that they have to pick up, they must wash their hands again. I monitor this.
- Most of my maids quit.
This was me. Pre-corona. You have OCD! Are you crazy! What’s wrong with you. These were the terms people used for me. It was a good life. People were normal. I was different. I was okay with this. It is not that I wanted to be like this. But I could not help it either. It was like a disease.
Post Corona, other people became like me. They were advised by credible people – doctors, leaders, nurses to be like me. If my normal was like this, what should my corona version be like? When the world is coming to my level, what should be my next level?
Yes. This is the only word for it. The term ‘paranoid’ reached new levels. Two weeks ago, I had cough and cold and shortness of breath. The last one has been a sign of the dreaded virus. In my case, it was because of my anxiety. My partner also had a cold. I kept watching news from Italy. Videos of people dying. People begging other people to stay home. To be scared. I cried. I told my partner I was scared to be in quarantine. I was scared of the hospital washrooms! I was scared to be alone for days and then die alone. I told him to not take me to the hospital if I get sick and let me die at home. He told me these things are not a matter of choice. If you get too sick, you have to go to the hospital! I told him I will get corona by going to the hospital. A cold is infectious. So is insanity. Soon, my partner and I were having conversations about what to do in case one of us dies – how much time to wait for before remarrying, taking care of each other’s parents, investments etc!
Two people stuck at home sharing the house work with no maid, no cook and no distraction. I was running out of essentials. The thought of my partner going out to get something made me more anxious. The thought of not having food at home was not comforting either. Anything and everything made me sad.
Physically, I recovered quite quickly. So did my partner. Gargling and steam helped. I started feeling better. But palpitations, and shortness of breath continued. I had to make a very conscious effort to tell myself to take it easy. Whatever will happen will happen. I spoke to a few friends, and I am glad they made me feel better. But here are some things that I noticed during this time:
- Maids and cooks
I saw a lot of posts about women putting each other down . Saying things like ‘So and so woman is still making her maid come. How lazy could she be.’ ‘Such and such woman doesn’t know how to cook, her poor partner! This serves her right!’ ‘Apne ghar ka kaam karne mein kya problem hai!’
There is a reason our society is patriarchal. Women!
First of all, cooking and cleaning is not a woman’s sole responsibility. Why blame only the woman! Why shame only the woman! Maybe she gets no help from anyone else in the family. Maybe she is lazy. Big deal! Mind your own business! This was not the right time to speak ill of other women’s cooking and cleaning skills. Actually no time is good to do that.
Also, some went on and on about giving ‘paid leave’ to the maids. Some said that maids should be ‘educated’ to not travel to their hometown as it would spread the infection further. Such discussions soon turned into unpleasant arguments in society WhatsApp groups.
- Senior citizens
This is the most vulnerable group. A lot of us live away from our parents. With online players not delivering in time, how do we get essentials to our parents so that they don’t have to step out?
The people in my parents’ society delivered groceries to their doorstep, so that they didn’t have to go to the society store. Someone or the other would call them to ask them if they needed anything. I am grateful to them.
I never knew I will count the laung and elaichi and decide that the evening tea was not worthy of it, only the morning tea. I never knew I will put less tea leaves so that it saved one extra trip to the store. I never knew I would say things like ‘I will not put lauki in the pulao, as I have already put aloo. Let’s save lauki for tomorrow’. I had never thought I would be delighted to find something as undesirable as lauki available in milkbasket, add it to my cart before it gets out of stock as if it is the biggest delicacy. I never knew that the chilli garlic sauce I bought by mistake, and was too lazy to return will become the savior of the fried rice for days to come. I did not know that my habit of being lured by the ‘one plus one’ offers on phenyl will turn out to be a wise decision.
I once watched an interview of Vidya Balan in which she said that she disagrees that cooking is a ‘life skill’. She said when people say what will you do if you have to cook, she responds, ‘duniya bhar ke restaurants kyun khol rakhe hain!’ I applauded her for saying my man ki baat. In normal circumstances, I cooked only when the cook went on leave. Even when I did, it was fancy stuff. Chicken. Chilli paneer. Lots of spices. Lots of sauce. Lots of good things. Cooking is bad enough. Cooking with limited ingredients is like a sure shot failure. I am calling my mother every day, and asking her what would be the best use of what I have.
I was upset that India allowed international flights. That’s how it came here. I wanted the Government to ban flights coming into India for a very, very long time.
“Why do these people have to come here and bring the virus! Everybody stay where you are! ” I said to my partner.
And then I thought of my family in the U.S. My sister, niece and her partner whose visit I am looking forward to. My mother-in-law who is stuck and wants to come home badly. When those ‘travelers’ are our family our thoughts are different.
You and I in this beautiful world
So yes, I am surviving like most of you. My hands have cuts. I think I need to reduce the hand washing. I want boroline. I want Vicco turmeric. I want green chilli. I want more green tea. I want maggi. Those things are not available. Maybe they are. But it means my partner has to walk to a supermarket. I am trying to save him that visit. But he may need to step out tomorrow to get lemons. And eggs. I drive him crazy once he comes back. Wash your hands. Wash your legs. Shower. Shampoo. Put your clothes in the washing machine. Don’t touch anything. I used to irritate him pre Corona too. Until now, my partner used to complain about how I drive him crazy with my weird habits and he just cannot cope with it. But now, I have the license to impose all of this on him! My sister was telling my mother how I have prepared for corona all my life. Well yes, being me is finally paying off!
I was telling my partner they should create some more wards in mental hospitals also because I will surely need one soon. Staying at home, not being able to do anything nice, zero interaction, zero sunlight, fear and panic is making people sad. If any of you have anxiety like me, please hang in there. Stop watching the news. I did that. And it made me much more peaceful. You don’t know what will happen next anyway. Irrespective of corona. There was a lot happening in the world. Even before corona. Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you cannot handle it, it is okay to accept that. Do the sari challenge if it helps! I did that too. Distract yourself. It does not make you insensitive or stupid. Do whatever it takes to maintain your mental health (also).
My gratitude to doctors, nurses, police, delivery people, sanitation workers, drivers, grocery store owners, and everybody else who does not have the privilege of sitting at home right now. You guys are heroes! I have no words for the grief of people who have lost their loved ones because of this. It is too painful, too unreal, too unimaginable. We had read about the Spanish flu. The plague. Those were things that happened in olden times. In a different world. To people who lived long, long time ago. It could not possibly happen to us.
I was praying to God the other day, ‘Please, we are sorry. We are all sorry for everything. Now please end it.” Wish that you and your families are safe. No matter which part of the world you are in, I pray that this ends soon.