Lockdown Diary: “Time for Masala Chai Instead of Teabag Tea” – Shobha Nihalani

In our new series 'Lockdown Diary', we invite bestselling novelist Shobha Nihalani to share how she's spending her time during the COVID-19 lockdown.

This article is part of our new series, ‘Lockdown Diary‘, where we invite women in the creative fields to share their experiences at home during the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown in India.

By Shobha Nihalani

‘I wish I had more time at home!’ That’s what I say when I am inundated with errands and commitments outside the home.

I must confess, I am one of those people who just loves being at home. I enjoy sitting back with a cuppa and a good book, to indulge in unscheduled activities. Many of my friends complain about not being able to go out, and are getting antsy staying at home.

By contrast, for me, home is my go-to place for solace and tranquillity. I have associated being at home with being true to myself, totally relaxed and content. I cherish this time, and handle household duties and chores with equanimity – considering them an expression of love for my living space.

I wear sweatpants, my hair is tied up and slightly messy, and I get moving with the daily tasks. I have grown-up children who are independent, but living and working from home. My family is flexible and they help with odd jobs like grocery shopping. Generally, we prefer simple meals. After some household chores and cooking lunch, we sit together and eat.

It would be nice to say that we put our phones aside and engage with each other 100 percent, but that’s not always the case. Especially on days when COVID-19 infections are rising or the stock market is in a dire state – some of us are checking our phones through meals. After lunch, we split up and return to our assigned ‘office space’.

Shobha Nihalani

We reconvene at teatime – the slow pace of life now means there’s time to make a good cup of masala chai on the stove every day instead of settling for a quick teabag tea. It’s also gives us a chance to reflect on how our days are going. Dinner is usually a more relaxed affair. Having exhausted the depressing but necessary topics at lunch, we have a light-hearted chat. The dinner table has also been the birthplace of many new inside jokes among our family.

When it comes to time management, I am quite disciplined. I plan meals early in the day; I finish chores and hunker down to write for a few hours. I am currently working on a non-fiction book, and the self-isolation has given me the ideal routine to achieve my goal of writing 500-700 words a day. I also have a list of books I have been meaning to read for some time, which I have finally started. Also, I connect with friends online, and maintain an exercise routine through YouTube or live classes on Zoom.

It’s true that staying at home is not our normal lifestyle. For the time being, outdoor activities are non-existent, travel is banned, and meeting too many people could be risky. It is especially challenging for those with young children and elderly family members. There is a lot more to do at home, and juggling work and chores can be a struggle.

My friends in this situation have shared that family members have become more considerate and they do help out. Children are learning life skills at home, and realise the effort it takes to keep a household functioning efficiently.

Shobha’s latest novel

I do feel that following the safety guidelines shows that we care for our families, neighbours, friends, and even the stranger on the street. After reading up so much on the COVID-19, social distancing is important in protecting the most vulnerable in society, such as the elderly and those with weaker immune systems. I keep in touch with my elderly parents almost every day. They miss my regular visits, but I have promised to meet them as soon as things settle. For now I keep a positive outlook and pray for their well-being.

I believe in the adage: ‘What you think about, you bring about.’ Maintaining a balance of a healthy mind and body is also an important part of my routine.

Shobha Nihalani has lived in Africa, Asia, USA, and Europe working as a freelance journalist, copywriter, bookkeeper and homemaker. She is the author of several adventure and thriller novels and two non-fiction books. Her latest novel, The Blue Jade, has just been released.

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