This article is part of our ‘Lockdown Diary’, where we invite women to share their experiences at home during the COVID-19 lockdown.
By Dr Monika Devgan Kathuria
These unparalleled days of lockdown mean different things to different people. For me, a physician and public-health professional, the biggest respite was that my elder daughter who is studying in Europe could reach here before travel restrictions were imposed. Her presence brought my family together and powered us to sail through this phase.
One of the most unforgettable experiences was to see the two sisters – Mahima, 22, and Stuti, 13 – bond over various creative activities. On the other hand, their tiffs were scary enough to keep the virus at bay.
It is another story that while the whole world celebrated Mother’s Day, we did not know what to do because we were already stuck for 50 days at a stretch with one another, the longest in the past four years. My girls had already showered me with countless hugs and compliments in the preceding days, and there was nothing novel left to say.
Still, they managed to get my favourite fresh mango cake, cooked pesto-sauce pasta, posted a picture with me on Insta, and wrote an essay on me!
Looking back, I’d say we managed the lockdown pretty decently, despite uncountable squabbles, mostly over what to watch on Netflix and choice of meals plus, of course, over Modi and Trump policies, and despite the fact that we were bound to bump into each other every five minutes as there was no escape.
We live in a small but comfortable apartment in Delhi and the number of members taking online classes and working from home was more than the rooms and corners we have.
I told my husband it’s perfectly okay to have some clatter in the background during office calls to make it sound more genuine, as no normal family could be having peaceful and quiet days at present. Did I just say that ours is a normal family?
I’ve had a groggily enriching experience so far, what with all the running around in community service, health awareness activities, Zoom meetings in University, telemedicine, and arranging meals for the family, cleaning, mopping, washing and ironing unending loads of laundry.
Now, I do love doing household work and everyone tried to pitch in too, but even so, my daughters began realizing the value of dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, and other home appliances that make life much easier, and began Googling about them.
Along with all the above, I continued my online dance and fitness sessions, which helped keep me sane and socialize a little bit. I even wrote poems, articles, made thought-provoking professional and innovative activities videos as demanded by various WhatsApp groups – no, it was not for some lockdown contest or social-media display but because that’s who I am.
My daughters took charge of one core meal a day and tried their hands at the most exquisite recipes with whatever ingredients we could procure. They too continued with their fitness regimes, and we took them out a couple of times to grocery stores all dressed up in masks, armed with sanitizers and gloves as if going for battle.
My husband Neeraj’s role did not change much because he is always a prodigious aide in kitchen and household work, lockdown or no lockdown. To make him feel further at home (literally), I too kept being me – by keeping my nagging skills intact throughout so that he didn’t feel that I was behaving in a deviated manner due to the stress of lockdown.
In addition, since everyone was learning new skills, he also armed himself with online Ludo techniques and contributed to Indian economy by promoting the Made in India Ludo King app.
I love traveling within India and abroad, and do not miss a chance to do so whenever possible. But did I miss travel? No. On the contrary, through the power of the internet, I was transported to different parts of the world and could feel the pain and worry that all were going through.
Anxiety, apprehension and uncertainty kept me connected me to all my loved ones across the world, and social media had a major role in that. In fact, after every couple of hours of toil, I would take a hard-earned break of 10-15 minutes to check social media.
But here is what we missed too: the long walks and early morning drives with my husband to Nehru Park in Delhi’s beautiful Chanakyapuri area on most weekdays followed by breakfast in Karnataka Bhavan on Saturdays. Nothing could replace that experience though we tried our best to cook dosas, sambhar and rasam papad at home.
With the end of lockdown drawing near, there is much reason for hope. My younger one switched schools during the lockdown and is eager to enter into a new unknown avenue of her life. My elder daughter hasn’t met her friends and grandparents (properly) due to social distancing norms, so she is looking forward to it excitedly. Last but not the least, I want to be with my friends over coffee dates and our mad theme parties.
Dr Monika Devgan Kathuria, BHMS (DU) MD, is a Delhi-based physician, teacher, medical writer, community health worker and clinical research professional