The only person who was happy when my Italy trip got cancelled was the French banker whose memoir I was ghostwriting. He was in a hurry to see his book published. And I was looking forward to a two-week break in Italy.
The flight tickets were done and I was already in Calcutta to apply for the visa when the news came that International Journalism Festival, where I was headed, is cancelled. Italy had until then registered less than 50 deaths and even as I understood their concerns, I also wondered if they were being over cautious. I did not have to wait for too long to be proven wrong.
We know what happened after that, in Italy, and the rest of the world. Just how quickly everything changed, and life became an endless limbo called “new normal”. It was an insane, heartless year. Yet, at a personal level, it was fulfilling in many ways. A journey that I shall not forget in a hurry.
In the past ten months, I left the house thrice, exactly thrice. “Don’t you feel suffocated,” a friend asked me. “Suffocated? Where is the time for that?” The pandemic hit mothers in a way only mothers of little kids and people with primary care-giving responsibilities will understand. Yet, and I know I reek of privilege as I say this, I enjoyed being home-bound with the family. In “normal” times, the husband is away in a different town. Thanks to the pandemic, the family could be together, eat together, do things together. The cooking and cleaning and homeschooling (with online-schooling conducted by school) and trying to not yell at kids notwithstanding, it was something to be cherished. To not be forced to leave home for work, or for essentials, is a privilege in a pandemic and I am deeply grateful to my luck for that.
Like many mothers all over the world, I worked two shifts–days for parenting and nights, usually 11pm-4am, for work. I mostly stuck to writing for the German digital magazine, Perspective Daily, apart from my regular reporting with Reporters Without Borders. Needless to say, I wrote less than I would have loved to, but in terms of quality, I am quite happy.
No, I did not miss meeting people, and, frankly, I am not dying to “go out and see the (pestilence-stricken) world”. I wonder what is the need and I wonder where do people find the time, when there’s so much to do at home and so little time for anything. “You don’t get bored?” another friend asked once. I never get bored, except in bad company. Frankly, I never understood boredom.
Even as I write this, I am acutely aware of the hardships that people have been thrown into by the pandemic. So many people lost their jobs and so many got displaced. Social distancing is a luxury for people who can afford. For others, it is a choice between hunger and virus. Its a deeply unequal world, and I feel so ashamed at not being able to do anything about it.
As the annus horribilis draws to a close, even as the once-in-a-century pandemic rages on, I look back at my year that was. Here is a list of things I did/learnt–
- Wrote a book. Ghost-wrote, actually, a short memoir of a French banker. In three months flat (alright, make it five, to include the time taken for interviews and research).
- Learnt to read Urdu. Finally! Thanks to the lovely journalist Akshita Nagpal’s eight-week online course.
- Home-brewing ginger ale/beer and pineapple wine.
- Baking bread, cake and pizza. Liberating to know these are far easier than they are made out to be.
- Hair-cutting. Have become the family’s official barber. Areas of expertise: Boy cut for the husband, bob cut for A and mushroom cut for M.
- Endless jhaadu-pochha-bartan.
- Parenting two kids (5 and 3, picture above).
- Making the five-year old complete the enormous homework assigned by her school everyday.
- Do zoom-meetings and webinars even count?
- Discovered Prateek Kuhad. Fell in love with him. Listened to him every waking hour of the day. Was ready to puke after a month. Love over. Now playing, Sajjan Raj Vaidya.
- Won an award for journalism.
Not that bad, yet I am happy to see 2020 go. Looking forward to the new beginnings next year.
(PS: updated to include that Prateek Kuhad bit)
Addition, afterthought (on Dec 26): I think I made it sound really easy, but it was not. It’s not easy being constantly sleep-deprived, with limbs aching most of the time, battling mood swings (of self and others), getting kids to ingest their meals, agonising over A’s massive daily homework. Domesticity as it is is not my strong point. But a woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do, I guess.
Since, I’m here again, here’s one of my ginger ale photos: