Voices

Lockdown Diary: Like Kashmir, Except Now It’s for All of Us

The COVID-19 lockdown has taken Atika Gupta through a whole gamut of emotions, from denial to acceptance.

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 Atika Gupta

“For a moment the image before us is frozen: our world, our lives, reduced to a handful broken stars half lost in uncharted space. Then it’s gone, the view swallowed by the hyperspace winds streaming past, blue-green auroras wiping the after-images away.
Until all that’s left is us.”
~ Amie Kaufman

Like most people, 2020 started with new hopes and resolutions for me. Lockdown, to my mind, was something that happened to Kashmir in 2019, stripping her people of basic freedom. It was something unsettling.

When I heard that our country is going into a lockdown, my first thought was: how bad can that be? After all, I have a home, I can stock up on food, my family and friends will always be around, and my clients would continue to value my services.

It turned out, I had underestimated the gravity of the situation. Within the first week, it hit me that I won’t be able to put my 18-year-old son on a flight home. I realised that until now we had taken basic things for granted — sending your child to UK for higher education wasn’t a big deal because, hell, it’s one world. Everything (and everyone) is just a flight away.

For the first time, I’m scared that both my sons are away. For the first time, I’m faced with the fact that if something was to happen, there’s no way I can reach my children. That is the worst nightmare for a mother. And I have been living through that for five weeks now, making the most of video calls.

By the second week, it became clear the COVID-19 pandemic has a strong grip over the world and the lockdown is here to stay. On the work front, it was time to show resilience and optimism, so workdays were about meetings on Zoom, reworking plans and revising strategies. And suddenly, life was what was happening online. I found myself filling up the digital spaces and consuming what was being offered on social-media channels.

It wasn’t so bad, after all. In fact, it was also fun to document my daily routine, from baking bread, self-care rituals to online workout sessions. It was chicken soup for the narcissist soul.

The third week was when the uncertainty of it all hit me. Since then, there have been days I feel completely lost and it’s an effort to pull myself out of bed, get dressed, fix some breakfast and have a cup of strongly brewed coffee, repeating to myself: “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up.” I posted this line along with a selfie on Instagram and a friend asked, “Show up? Where?”

Well, my friend, we are still blessed to have internet. You know where to show up, right? So, introspect, reflect within, go mad, feel bored, cry your heart out. And after all that’s done, bring out that favourite lipstick in red and rock it!

The fourth week onwards, I found comfort in leading a life in which all you need is basic groceries, some wine, a couple of simple everyday clothes and a comfortable pajamas set (no, not the sexy lacy kind). And, oh! a good WiFi connection.

There’s comfort in following a daily routine that has become my most powerful ally. I work, read, cook, exercise and I’m also learning a new language. I have criticised governments across nations, admired the frontline workers, felt sad for the poor, the homeless and migrant workers, and ended each day with a heart full of love, hope and gratitude.

Sometimes, you have to disrupt life’s frenzy and rediscover yourself, get clarity on what matters most through the often-elusive discipline of solitude. The lockdown 2020, for me, is about that.

Perceptions have changed. Contagion and The Handmaid’s Tale don’t come across as dystopian anymore.

I have distanced myself from a few I thought were close friends. Some friends I had lost touch with or those I had met just once sometime somewhere, reached out to check on me in this difficult time. That mattered. A lot.

It’s the sixth week and people have now started asking, “What’s the first thing you would do once the lockdown is lifted?” My answer: I will feel lost. The only thing that comes to mind is that I’ll desperately try to look for flights to bring loved ones home.

I now know nothing else matters. And I cannot even compare with what the people of Kashmir have been going through.

Atika Gupta is a PR consultant working in academia, publishing, hospitality, retail and CSR. Visit atikagupta.com.

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