This article is part of our ‘Lockdown Diary’, where we invite women to share their experiences at home during the COVID-19 lockdown.
By Shweta Bhandral
As COVID-19 gathered ground in Mumbai, one of the most densely populated cities of the world, it was natural that anxiety levels would peak. To my surprise, however, I was too calm even to believe it myself. Was this silence inside a sign of depression, or was it just acceptance and peace?
Nobody knows how 2020 will change our lives, but if I rewind a bit, 2019 was a roller coaster ride for me. I was out of home for 14 hours a day shuffling between a humdrum workplace, energetic mass-media institutes, busy production houses and was also at the same time working on a personal project. It took about six months of hard work, trial-error and networking before I could bid goodbye to a brand that I had given 15 years of my life to. I quit and moved on! But, indeed, you are never entirely ready however ready you think you are.
Anxiousness and stress led to irritation and sometimes disgruntled behaviour, and this harmed my relationship with my 10-year-old daughter. I had promised her five years ago that when she turned 10, I would stop going to work. I kept my promise but the impact was not as expected. I kept looking for freelance work, met people to pitch my project to, and started conducting more and more communication and news-verification workshops. Either I was out of the house, or I was busy on my computer at home. This made things a bit edgy between her and me.
Around March 12, I got two offers for my project; work was to begin in April. Then came coronavirus and from March 15, 2020 onwards, Mumbai started to shut down. By March 21, we were completely locked in with Article 144 in place. On the night of 24th, things froze where they were, with a nationwide lockdown.
I was now at home 24/7 doing housework, cooking and spending time with my family. This freeze melted the ice between my daughter and me. She was excited about me being at home but was also worried about what would happen now?
I had discussions with her on how we would manage our finances. The two of us cooked together, cleaned the house together, did painting, craft, and had storytelling sessions, She made me play with her dollhouse, and we watched movies. We celebrated her 11th birthday in lockdown, and my gift was her favourite food throughout the day.
Children grow up fast, and in situations like these, they evolve as much smarter human beings. There is a kind of routine we follow now. We are doing all those things that we had not done together for over a year. I have no train to catch, so I listen to her dreams in the morning, and we lie down to chat about all sorts of things before going to sleep at night.
She has become protective of me, and our communication is at its best.
I realised that these are the years that she needs me; this is the time to build a base of our relationship for her teens. Lockdown 2.0 started with online classes from school. She said, “Mom, I always wanted you to come to school with me. I missed you in school. Now see, the school has come home.” These classes keep her busy through the day, giving me some time for myself.
I had been running, and COVID-19 forcefully stopped me. Now I was staring at myself in the mirror, at 42, with so many mixed feelings inside. My circumstances demand that I must be financially ambitious, but my heart wants me to pursue only want I love doing. I am now refusing work that I don’t want to do, and picking up and doing what I want.
Lockdown didn’t just slow me down, it calmed me down. The thought of a minimalistic, decluttered life is settling inside me. I am getting closer to that supreme power which is only about love, hope and humanity.
Today when I sit down to write or record a story for my YouTube channel, my daughter is not irritable; she sits beside me to read her book or finish her school assignment or just observes what I do. We now have all the time in the world to be with each other. I shared my retirement dream with her, and she has promised to help me out with it. My stress and anxiety dissolved like sugar in water, leaving a sweet taste in my mouth, the feeling of satisfaction and relief.
Shweta Bhandral is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist, educator, content creator and founder of The Future Skills Company