This article is part of our ‘Lockdown Diary’, where we invite women and girls to share their experiences at home during the COVID-19 lockdown.
By Lakshyaa Arya
I felt trapped. The intimidating shuffle of the pages of a book turning, the constant worry about the stressful days to come, the sounds of my own whispers reciting my history textbook – it felt like the epitome of pressure. No amount of motivational talks or pats on my back could help me feel better.
As the board exams drew closer and closer, the pressure built up even more. And yet, even in those trying times of continual fear and stress, glimmers of hope kept me going. Recurring thoughts of the long-awaited post-exam class trip to Yamunotri and reconnecting with my school friends gave me the impetus to continue with the struggle.
The exams finally began, and before I knew it, we were on the last one. As I approached the exam centre, clutching on to my admit card one last time, it didn’t seem so intimidating anymore. With neat strokes on the paper, I filled uncountable sheets, pouring out months of anxiety. While revising my answers for the fifth time, I obsessively wondered about what the next few months had in store.
The bell rang and we sprang up from our seats, the grins on our faces feeling unfamiliar and new. All our months of hard work had finally come to an end. This feeling of liberation felt different, precious. Running home through the rustic half-painted corridors of the school, the thought of matching my answers with my peers didn’t even cross my mind.
Then coronavirus struck. March 22, 2020, marks the day of our downfall. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown. This included closing of malls, sports facilities and restaurants, and practising social distancing at all times.
This news broke us. Our glamorous plans were disassembled in moments. Everything we had looked forward to for months was shattered. It felt as if someone had taken our hard-won freedom and locked us inside a prison cell. The victory of the battle was slipping away from our hands.
Optimistically, I still held on to the belief that this was just a “21-day” lockdown. This ‘new normal’ in fact did feel normal. But normal isn’t what we had wanted in those days. I never thought I would say this, but I missed school. I missed seeing my friends.
At first, it seemed as if not too much had changed. We were still captured in our homes. Where books once felt like our only friends, sanitizers and masks now did that job. It was a battle between us children and COVID. The days that could have been the best of our lives now turned out to be a continual plateau of monotony and ennui. We had thought too far ahead – constantly planning and re-planning our Yamunotri trip had been our only source of entertainment. Now there was no trip, no plan, no hope.
Having been held captive in the same way for six months, burying our heads in gigantic piles of underlined textbooks, it was suffocating. We needed a change. We deserved a change. But what we received in return was not being able to even openly hug our friends after our last board exam, not being able to enjoy ourselves after long drawn out six months of drudgery, stuck in the confines of our homes for the summer too.
As quarantine cast its mind-numbing spell over our lives, our hopes and dreams hit a pause. We didn’t look forward to anything anymore. We had no expectations from anyone or anything. Waking up at lunch time and communicating with friends over video chats became the story of all our quarantined lives.
Watching reruns of football matches, playing online games, attending online classes, and bingeing on TV shows have been our only hope of passing through these grim days. We made peace with the fact that this is life. This is how we have to survive and this is where we lost our battle.
Lakshyaa Arya is a class 11 student of Delhi’s Vasant Valley School