Voices

Lockdown Diary: Shah Rukh Khan, Homeschooling and a Case for Spousal Distancing

Graphic novelist, lyricist and playwright Vibha Batra is counting her dishes, blessings and minutes during the Covid-19 lockdown.

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

By Vibha Batra

I find it difficult to pick up a newspaper these days. Especially, newspaper supplements. Seeing as they are filled with quotes from life coaches and celebrities and social-media influences, who, apparently, are filling their time during the pan-India coronavirus lockdown learning a new skill / language / instrument, revisiting old hobbies, reading thousand-word tomes, knocking out Booker Prize-winning masterpieces, whipping up Michelin star-worthy dishes, and what not. Basically, using the time that has been given to us, productively.

A typical day in my life, on the other hand, looks something like this:

Heartfelt gratitude towards domestic help

Life coaches exhort us to begin the day by counting our blessings. I begin by counting the dishes spilling out of the sink, wondering how they got there in the first place. The questions come hard and fast. Do we really eat that much? That often? Why can’t we rinse and repeat? And, if our pets can have ONE single bowl to eat out of all day, is it too much to ask of family members? Of all the things, I have taken for granted in the pre-lockdown days, domestic help certainly tops the list. 

Newfound admiration for teachers

Household chores out of the way, it’s time to direct the attention to the way more scary H’s – Homework and Homeschooling. Try making your toddler identify numbers (for that matter, try getting your toddler to do anything). Take it from me, grappling with an octopus is far easier. At least, the octopus would get bored, give up and go its own way eventually. The toddler? You wish! Nothing works – not eyeballing, not empty threats, no real-time time outs. How do teachers do it, day in-day out, for hours on end? Without tearing their hair out or screaming their lungs out?

Desperate case for spousal distancing

I guess teachers don’t have to deal with spouses standing over the shoulder, whose parental duties include, but are not limited to, gloating (“But the baby counted one to hundred when I was teaching”), bemoaning your lack of patience, and when all else fails, blaming the genes from your side of the family (“Everyone, from my chacha to my taya to my maama, is a math whiz”). To say nothing of the other half’s addiction to news channels and WhatsApp groups and general incompetence in the kitchen. Social distancing may be the need of the hour, but spousal distancing sure comes a close second.  

Sincere attempts for SRK scoring over social media

When chores, calls and meals are out of the way and the toddler benevolently decides to take a nap, it’s time to put in the mandatory five hundred words for the new book. Here’s what I do for motivation: I give myself the “sattar minute (70-minute)” speech from the 2007 blockbuster Chak De! India in Shah Rukh Khan’s voice (“Seventy minutes. You have seventy minutes to change your life. You can spend them on your book or fritter them away on FB/Insta”).

Sometimes SRK wins. At others, social media. And yet another day draws to a close.    

Vibha Batra is a Chennai-based author, graphic novelist, advertising consultant, poet, lyricist, translator, playwright, travel writer and columnist. She has published 16 books. Her 17th book, a graphic novel, The Secret Life of Debbie G, will be published by Harper Collins next month. 

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