Day 7- The disquiet returns

12.58 AM. The night is still. It is neither hot, nor cold. That odd, middling temperature, that is comfortless due to it’s neutrality. The friendly, calming air currents of the last few days are conspicuous by their absence. The ceiling fan does try it’s best, with it’s familiar, cantankerous whirr. The mind tries to mirror it, with it’s own constant buzz. The buzz of discomposure.

I knew this would be an undulating path. The ups and downs were expected. But expectation does not equate to preparedness. The ups are fun, and the down is well, unpleasant. To say the least.

Time has taught me a few tricks though; to overcome this disquiet that often rears it ugly head. I plan to use one of those today- watch all- out action flicks. One man demolition shows, epic war sagas, neo- noir gore movies, end- of- the world stories- I shall take them all, thank you very much. *Not sure what that says about my mental composition*

The worksheets for tomorrow aren’t printed. The water bottles are not filled. The work- out clothes are not laid  out. The alarm is not set. Also, I refuse to do any work related stuff today. I might even break my one cardinal rule of the night (no snacking!) tonight.

So off I go folks. John Wick awaits; all three of him. And maybe some frozen yogurt.

Till next time.

J.

 

 

Day 6- A tranquil apocalypse

Does’t this feel like the proverbial calm before the storm? Do you sense the worse is yet to come. Like we are seated to watch a blockbuster movie, and the pre- movie trailers and adverts keep running on. If this is truly an apocalypse, it’s seems quite tranquil at the moment no?

I had a neighbour knock at our door today, she stood a metre away from our doorstep and asked if I knew where one can get tested for The Virus. She then went on to talk about how she couldn’t wait for these 21 days to be over. Ah! Naive optimism or blissful ignorance?

I do not have a clue as to what might happen in the coming weeks. Nobody truly does. We can make scientific conjectures, historical predictions; but they are all guesses. Italy and India had their first reported cases at about the same time. Granted, they have tested about half a million people, while we have less than 30,000. Yet, the picture seems curiously suspect. I feel like we are heading to the edge of a precipice- the path to which is flat and non- threatening but at the endpoint of which we are met with a yawning bottomless depth. I hope I’m wrong, I’m but a pessimist after all.

Anyhoo, for now I shall describe something so mundane that it may momentarily confound your cognition into forgetting The Blockbuster Mr COVID-19.


How am I coping with my fitness fervour you ask? Not as bad as expected to be honest. Yes, I have not had a barbell on my back for precisely 17 days now. *Has it been only that long since?* I have not run for 10 days. I have not even taken my bicycle out for my *now rare* grocery runs *and risk having a lathi thrown at my back, no questions asked!*.

Ugh, the early days were hard. But the withdrawal symptoms are abating. Also, about ten days ago, I was at wit’s end in terms of keeping the progeny engaged. I ended up searching for a box of games from my childhood days *Domino, UNO, BUSINESS?* and lo and behold, I found a couple of rusty, squeaky dumbells. The heaviest being 15 kilos, I think. That, coupled with some resistance bands, the kids play mat, my night stand and an Ikea stool- boy am I sore!

The beauty of strife, is that it strips life down to the basics. I have a roof over my head, food in my belly and my family is safe. The rest, we shall deal with as they come. If people can get jacked in prison, who am I to whine for not having access to a squat rack. So my friend, we shall get ripped in quarantine. No more obsessing over lift numbers, nay. My goals now are:-

  1. Increase push up strength. Do more and do it better
  2. Master the pistol squat (almost there, just working on the ROM)
  3. And try and keep as much of the gains as possible. Strength can be regained back quite quickly.
  4. And try to do this-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GMr8xV4IY4&t=51s

I have hacked a lot of exercises, and am really having fun with fitness again. I wish I had one of those pull- up bars though. Also, maybe a pair of heavier (20 kgs+ anyone?) dumbbells/ kettlebells. Why can’t a human ever be satisfied?

Oh yes, and also; the progeny have PE time everyday as well. I do the half an hour with them. It’s a perfect warm up for me, as its a good one to get the heart rate up and get a light sweat on.  It’s insane, chaotic, very noisy but loads of fun and giggles. We all like to follow the Joe Wicks kids workouts on YouTube. Trust me, when done with the right heart, these are not as east as they might look to the physically uninitiated!

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay fit folks!

Till next time.

J.

 

Day 5- Only?

Has it only been 5 days? Weekday morning rush and night- time scraps; memories of a couple of weeks ago, are paling already. Amazing, truly!

Normal workdays for me, are days in which my time is not mine. I’m either sorting the kids out, or engaged completely and wholly with a patient- conscious ones in the OPD and unconscious ones in the OR. I live on flecks of me- time. Venting to friends or catching up on audiobooks in the car. Reading the newspaper in OR while the patient is being intubated. You get the drift.

I have been craving a holiday. A true vacation, one where I don’t have to pack for four or worry about baby food and diarrhoea. Where I don’t have to come back and catch up on laundry or make up on- calls at the hospital.

I am not downplaying these difficult times. The human loss, the economic ramifications- the consequences of this pandemic are going to be far- reaching and unprecedented. Time will tell if the world will ever be the same again. I understand that.

But there is this small part of my brain, who doesn’t. That part sees how happy Lil Z and Boss Man are to have their Mum to themselves. All day. It senses their relief when they wake up and find Mum passed out beside them. It relishes the late- mornings, and the cuddles and leisurely coffee and newspaper stints at the balcony. That brainling, also loves the fact that we are longer dictated by the clock. We sleep when tired, wake up when we are bored of sleeping. We eat when hungry.

Z and I are not morning people, and now we are not forced to be. Boss Man likes to zip around the house in his pyjamas post 10PM- this is his ‘me time’, sans his bossy sister. And now he can do so.

The trees and creatures outside must be savouring this brief respite. Wondering where all the ruinous, wasteful humans have disappeared to.

Tomorrow I shall mourn my lost time and money. Cry about being stuck here when I should be settling in to my new home. Grieving for the family that is broken at a time when we should be together. Blaming destiny and governments and fellow people.

Today, I shall be grateful for small mercies. For this time off from the hamster wheel. For a breather that I so desperately needed, even if it involves being occasionally smothered by anxiety.

Tomorrow, I will watch with trepidation as the death toll rises across Europe. And as the disease ravages the so called leader- of- the- free- world. I shall cringe when BBC tells me that cow urine is not a remedy. I will wonder how many thousands are truly infected in my country, considering our meagre testing capabilities. I will worry about the lack of true initiative and preparedness in India, lockdown not withstanding.

Today, I will go to bed thinking of the scientists world over; staying up in fluorescent labs; pouring over microscopes. Of an emergency room nurse; taking on an extra shift as another one of her co- workers is taken by the darned COVID19. Of leaders and visionaries who are not politicians. Of doctors and nurses, and nursing assistants, and lab workers; of sanitation workers , and housekeeping staff. A prayer might escape, from this mind that often battles with agnosticism.

I will go to bed hopeful.

Till next time,

J

Day 4- Routines and rituals.

Purveyors of chaos often sustain life day-to-day by forcing themselves into routines and rituals. Routines by nature of their predictability are safe, controlled, becalming. Chaos and uncertainty can be exciting, thrilling, glamorous even. But it generally breeds anxiety.

I truly learnt the practicality of setting routines only after I had my first child. Until then, life was ever dynamic. No two days ever the same. Bedlam, some called it. I thought I revelled in it; but it came with a price. My sanity.

So now, on busy, short- handed, stressful days; I take refuge in my routines and rituals. Current times are odd and indefinite. Children may not voice their anxieties, but they sense our fear and have an innate ability to absorb doubts and uncertainties. Vacation plans cancelled, Dad away, unable to go out and meet friends, art classes suspended, schools called to a close abruptly. Everything’s different. I try to tell them that things are different, but they are temporary (I hope!).

We have a time- table for the day. We pretend to go to school – the guest bedroom. We pack snacks and water. We have PE class everyday. We have art and craft time. TV time. iPad time. And the past week has been a successful exercise in containing what could have been a disaster.

I am bored. This was the catch phrase of the weeks past. Ever since schools shut. Brother and sister fight all day, everyday. The fight ends only when one gets significantly hurt. Scratches, welts, bruises- even drew blood a few times. The television was a sore spot. How much to watch, what to watch, who keeps the remote in hand. I was fight referee, TV police, food enforcer, bath- time peacekeeper and “boredom relief committee”- all put together.

I am still all of those. But at least the routines have helped me ‘flatten the curve’. And therefore I can deal with the situation a little better. Put my mental faculties to better use.

Hope we make it out of this in one piece folks!

Till next time,

J.

Day 3- The new normal.

01:31 am. The kids were down by 10:30. I have been dilly- dallying, putting off coming to my desk. Faffing about on Netflix, Youtube, Prime, Hotstar; what have you. My pre- COVID life had minimal to no spare space for such luxuries. But the home quarantine/ lockdown life has it’s unexpected perks.

We have unsettlingly settled into the new normal. I went ahead and attempted a grocery run today. Stood in poorly drawn white little circles and waited for my turn. We handed in slips of hastily written item lists to the store employees who then picked out our stuff for us, while we stood in the sun, two- arm (P.T classes from school anyone?) distance from each other. Comic relief was provided by an old lady in a fancy mask haggling for a certain brand of “agarbathi” (incense sticks), and a gentleman being shown a different brand of “jhaadu” (Hindi for broom) every two minutes by a disgruntled employee. The gentleman clearly had strict instructions from the Missus.

Not everything I “needed” was available at the first store. So had to make a trip to another one. Same badly drawn circles, different modus operandi. Enter in small batches, and be timed. Here I saw another elderly woman who was pissed because the store refused to sell her 25 kgs of Tilda basmati rice. *Facepalm*

I came home with bit and bobs. Not what I needed or wanted. But, I cannot complain. We have food. I have decided to stretch whatever perishable food I have, till I can. I refuse to do this until I absolutely have to- a week from now maybe.

On a brighter note. Boss Baby turned 3 today! Almost a lil Boss Boy now. We baked a cake at home and Skyped Papa. Z who is 6 running 16 had unresolved issues from the afternoon, and in protest refused to partake in her brother’s stint in the spotlight. No presents, no fanfare, no fuss; Boss Boy cut up the entire cake with a knife in his left hand. Ate some, offered some to his Grandma and moved on with his life. That human is one cool dude!

Till next time,

J.

Day 2- The Needle and other inanities.

I’m often accused of verbosity. Of using thirty words when seven would suffice. Mea Culpa. But pray tell me, if a resource were infinite;  is there need to practice restraint. What has austerity of words ever accomplished. Silence can be a powerful weapon. And like any warrior of words, I know when to wield it. Verbiage ain’t no sin, but prolixity is. I hope I’m never charged of the latter.

Ugh! I digress.

Day 2, of being homebound or “locked- down” as described by current, trendy parlance . Fed and bathed the progeny and myself. Cleaned and played referee for most of the day. Got a badass upper body workout in, while the progeny tried to the tear the door down. Had an afternoon nap with the soon to be three year old (oh, oh- he turned three twenty minutes ago). Tea and biscuits on the balcony. I could get used to this.

I did not venture out today, though I contemplated it quite a few times. Every time I read a whatsapp message, or watched the news; I felt I was being told to stock up. Maybe tomorrow. Let’s see if my will lasts another day.

The Needle stayed put in the ‘happy to okay’ section. The Needle is a determinant/ measure of my mood and mien. The state of my mental workings at any point of time. It is tremendously variable, and the spectrum is truly spectacular. If my husband’s scale ranges from a mere 1 to 5. Mine is a an easy 1 to 100. External stimuli, internal triggers, hormonal fluctuation, diurnal variance, nutritional insufficiency; any and all may lead to  wild swings of the needle.

I consider it my biggest failing. Yet, it forces me to live life with a sort of intensity and vigour that is hard to describe to one that has never experienced it. Joy is like a thunderstorm with crackling thunder and blinding lightening. Misery is like a shroud of all encompassing darkness with cacophony of relentless thoughts that cannot be powered off. Anxiety is multiplied, so is productivity. It is a fabulous life, yet taxing in ways that cannot be easily understood. The Needle at a certain point can get one to run a marathon on a whim, read Lord of the Rings in a night. At another, it will refuse to let you get up for work.

Therefore, I need to keep my vision short. Not think too far. Not take The Needle for a ride. These are difficult times for everyone. Misery and pain, are unique. They cannot be quantified. It exists, it can be more or less in a theoretical sense. But for the person experiencing it, it is beyond comparison. A person may have broken every bone in his body. Or lost many loved ones. Yet the man next door with a broken finger or a dead cat is miserable as well.

Still, I keep telling myself that no matter how bad things get; it could alway be worse. Pleasant thoughts, eh?

My world is currently compressed. We have closed ranks. Shuttered ourselves in. Ironically, it’s currently only my kids, parents and I. As for Mr H, I worry. That is all I can do for now. Good thing is, I’m an expert at worrying.

Anyhoo, it has truly been a long- winded, inane post. Apologies for inflicting my verbosity on you poor souls!

Till next time,

J.

 

 

 

Bengaluru 27.03.2020- Day 1

I cannot for the life of me remember the last time I sat at home for two straight days. “Sat at home” meaning not stepping out of the door. Not even after the birth of my children , did I do such a blasphemous thing (cue for all Indian aunties to raise their brows in consternation)!

Work

A cumulation of a strange set of circumstances has led to this day.

One being, COVID 19 of course. Second, I have almost wrapped up my surgical fellowship here. I have no place on the rota anymore. I do not have to go in everyday, in a situation such as this. I’m also in the midst of a grand ol’ job change. I was due to move town and start work at a different hospital.

Home

The children have been home bound and locked in for a few weeks now. Withdrawal was hard at first. Unsurprisingly though, they were the first ones to accept the new normal. TV rules don’t exist anymore. And the more lax I am, the less TV they want to watch (I might take this lesson with me if we all survive this).

We paint ad nauseam. (I dread the day our meagre paper supply is sapped.) We dance, fight, bake clay, melt candles, break things, eat lipsticks, cut up newspapers, jump off high places, refuse to eat meat/ milk/ vegetables/ fruits, have ear infections and the like.

We sleep late, wake up late. Re- read One Fish Two Fish. Make pancakes for lunch. Arrange the book rack thrice a day. Lil’ Z “cleaned” her closet today. Boss Man had cereal for dinner.

Que sera sera.

The mind

I am anxious but zen at the same time. I’m steering the ship solo as present. Mr H is stuck abroad. The lockdown doesn’t bother me. It is most likely our only way forward. The doom and gloom newscasters don’t annoy me. They are either truly scared shitless or just trying to milk the situation. The children being bored I can handle. The husband being stuck in another country at such uncertain times, I can deal with. My professional and personal forced state of limbo I can bear.

But, the policeman who stopped me yesterday, brandishing his very endowed lathi; who argued I should wear a mask (any mask!) whilst inside my car, with no co- passengers, with my windows up- chafed me more than all the above things combined. The poor man. Forced to enforce something that he does not understand, or was not explained.

How do we fight a powerful, cunning and fastidious foe when we are so ill- informed. That gentleman harassed me into wasting the one meagre mask I had in my bag. Wrapped in a tissue, treasured. The one I was supposed to use at the hospital the next day. The one I could not leave at the drawer in my clinic, because we are so short supplied that it might not be there when I arrive the next day. We are rationed masks at present. And this is the situation at most hospitals. And this public servant, who is supposed (or so I’m told) to stop me and enquire politely where I’m headed to (I was heading back from the hospital) in these dire times- was more keen on berating me like he would an ill- behaving child, for not wearing a mask inside my car! I couldn’t make this story up even if I wanted to- it’s so senseless.

Also, I wonder – with all the talk of social distancing, why are there half a dozen policemen standing together at some “check- points”. To scare the regular folks heading to their “essential” jobs or to buy their “essential” dahi and aalu for the day? To scare Messrs Corona and company possibly?

The body

Never say never. New city, new jobs, more social obligations, older children with more school work and classes to attend. As a couple who are fond of chucking bits of iron around; we knew time and space would be scarce for such pursuits outside the home.

With talks of our own personal home gym when we move- I always wondered. Would it work? Will my existing motivation suffice?

Well, it absolutely will is the empathic answer. It took me a few days, but I’m now making do. Of course the gyms are shut and I cannot run outdoors (do not want to risk section 269, 270 and 271 being thrust on the poor me), nor do I have any real equipment at home. But I have 50 kgs of myself, and some resistance bands. Also, the universe got kind and I found a pair of rusty, squeaky 10 kg dumbbells lying in a cob- webbed corner; under a bed (I’d gone in to find a Shopkin). It probably belonged to the Mister. It looks like it’s from the 70’s. But it’s serves my purpose well. My last two workouts would probably come under the category of the “best I’ve had in a long time”. In fact, I’m sore today. Sore with bodyweight and a pair of dumbells. Who would have thought!

Till Day 2.

Dr J.

There is no other life but this.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

-Henry David Thoreau

These are peculiar times. We thought we were better, more advanced. Scientifically capable, financially insoluble. Robust immunologically; with superior, sophisticated healthcare systems in place. Drugs aplenty, and resources galore.

And yet, a mere virus has us chasing our tails. We seem no better than our predecessors battling the plague or cholera. We are probably worse off, with the media whipping up mass hysteria.

Amidst the pandemonium, snippets of conversations irk my already chafed and irritated brain. The conspiracy theories, the moronic world leaders mouthing rubbish whilst addressing their nations, the selfishness and stupidity of the individual putting the entire  species at risk. And yet, what bothers me the most is the whining.

About cancelled travel plans. Missed parties. Shut watering holes.

Nobody seems to really know what “needs” to be done. We are all shooting in the dark here. Like I said, in some ways these are extraordinary, unprecedented times. This may be a blip on our timelines, or an event that will change the course of history. Either way, nothing is certain is right now. All we have is our TODAY.

A today that shouldn’t be squandered in the throes of relentless speculation and odious complaints. We could buckle down and do the things that we always wanted to. Spend more time cooped up at home with the kiddos. Read more. Watch Netflix till our eyes bleed. Bake. Sleep. Contemplate. And for those unfortunate folks (like me) who cannot ‘work from home’ – we have less traffic to contend with. No school lunches to pack. No homework to fight through.

Let us not just ‘get by’. Let us continue to live our best lives. In ways that we can. 2019-nCoV be damned.

Till next time,

J

 

At the close, of another one.

The days are mostly long, but the weeks, months and years are astoundingly short. The little ones ain’t so little anymore. Is that a proper wrinkle I see? The greys hairs are in greater attendance. Insurance companies put you in the next bracket.

Involuntarily, I clutch harder at the grains of time, and all I’m left with are a few paltry ones in my sweaty, small palms.

It unnerves me to think that I was 16 when my Mum was at a similar stage in life.

My brief reversion home, is almost at an end. I have learnt something new and remembered many an old thing. My children have had the incredible experience of living with their grandparents and outright bully them on the daily. I have had the fortune of worryless childcare and of also being treated as a kid while being an adult.

All said, it’s time. To sail away to uncharted waters yet again. A new city and a new life beckons. Babies (who aren’t babies anymore, sigh!) in tow. Wish me luck and the universe’s mercy please. I have heard they are in short supply these days.

Till next time,

J.