Day 21- And it shall continue

So, this is not the end, as expected. After the early days of ‘break- taking’, and routine- creating, the past few days have been surprisingly busy and productive and messy and incredibly wholesome. I did domestic duties and kept the children occupied during the day, and worked on a paper all night. And trained at dawn. When did I sleep, you ask? Ha!

That is what I’ve been up to. No movies, no Netflix ballyhoo, no snoozefests. Yes, there were late-night, balcony green- tea rumination sessions and early morning stomach vacuums. Also…

Chaotic water fights under the shower and endless mopping and scrubbing of ‘stuff’ (aka play dough, actual dough, acrylic paint, poster colors, oil paints, glue, glitter glue, fabric glue, juice, ice- cream, yogurt, curry, cereal infused milk, milky biscuits, chocolate, wax, bits of paper, bread crumbs, rice flakes, corn flakes, yada yada yada) from the floor tiles. Arguments with a 6 going on 16 ‘woman’ who thinks math is overrated. And reasoning sessions with a 3 going on god- knows- what man which mostly ends up with me being smacked in the face with various items of the household. Lounge wear and sleep- face. Roots desperate for color and brows like Frida Kahlo.

Aah! I miss my old life.

There have also been loads of curfew- less, non- time-bound pajama parties and sleep-ins. Forced to eat home food, sweaty, impromptu carpet and baby workouts; and the appearance of a flicker of a shadow of an eight- pack (HELLLOOO ol’ friend!). And loads and loads of cuddles from tiny humans who mean the world to you.

I do not miss it THAT much.

Till next time,

J

Day 8- WhatsApp fuckery!

My post today is going to be be a tad different. I’m a very hesitant user of WhatsApp. For several reasons. But I must admit, it has it’s uses. And of the millions (of course I exaggerate, or do I?) of messages and forwards I receive, I do not usually bother with the forwards. But sometimes, I get riled up. I did so today.

I think I need to share it.

This was the forwarded message-

Amazon, they use to give full two pages advertisement in all newspapers. Flipkart, don’t know how many times they celebrated Big Billion Days in a year. They flooded with Chinese products to Indian market. Sold them and made huge money.

Big Basket, Grofferrs, their notifications was ringing every hour till last week. Malls, Super Markets, Big Bazaar. Where are they now? They stopped all services! No delivery at all. Tomorrow when dust settles they will come again with 20-30% discount sales. We forget what they did in these difficult times and go again to online and super market. Think again!

Who helped us during this tough time? Our own street Grocery storewala. He is supplying grocery and necessary stuff in this lock down period. The milkman is supplying milk everyday. He has not shut his service and ran away. That small vegetable shop run by lady is still open. Don’t know from where she is bringing vegetable but she is feeding us. Will you forget this help?

I will not. I have decided henceforth I will not go to Amazon, Flipkart, Grofferrs or Big Basket. No malls, no super market. I will shop in Kirana store, local dairy and small vegetable shop which helped my family to survive. It’s okay I will spend some more ruppes. But I will not forget what they have done for me and my family.

Thanks 🙏

( Don’t know who penned this but a point to note )

And this was my hastily, almost subconscious, frenzied reply. Copied and pasted. Not even edited for grammar or spelling.

I have ruminated for a while before replying to this. Please do not be offended, or take this personally. You guys must have noticed that I am quite reticent on WhatsApp. My replies are abysmally delayed, and a forward from me probably means I’m sick or delusional. But sometimes, replies are warranted, even to errant forwards from strangers.

The quantum of misinformation and rubbish that we are bombarded with on the daily, on this very useful platform is mind- numbing. Generally, I consider it a nuisance, but now I realize that daily shots of this, even in minute doses is enough for mass indoctrination and amplified mob frenzy. To make matters worse, our current political climate seems to fuel the mania.

I urge you all to read, from every source you can. Widen you horizons, wisen up on local, national and international matters. Have a world view. We are all (on this group at least) people of science no?

Consume from the left media, the right wing, the centre, middle- every fucking publication and media if you have to . Look for evidence, not conjecture. Start looking at news as you would a scientific paper. What level of evidence is it? Among the five (or six, or seven) levels, Whatsapp in my humble opinion is level 100. Worse than nothing.

Or you could chose not to know at all. Forget the media and their endless rambles. The screechy voices and sketchy on field reporters. The journalists who can’t string a sentence together. (Would I be allowed to work if I couldn’t place a suture?) The 24 hr ballyhoo. Be blissfully ignorant, and therefore happy. And, also not have a WhatsApp account.

Let us look at this seemingly innocuous forward for example. To put the record straight- I am one of those who orders extensively online. It makes my life a lot easier, trust me. And the past week has been hard. I first ordered on Amazon Fresh (where the delivery window is 2 hours) on Saturday evening (a day before the curfew), and received a slot for the next Wednesday! I knew then, that this was a portend for things to come. My orders have all since been cancelled, and not by me. Today an email said, deliveries for essential items have resumed in my area. I went online- no luck! System errors it said, then ‘no delivery slots’ apparently. Of course I was gutted, irritated. Suddenly Amazon is the enemy no? Of course, beat the beaten dog to death!

Amazon is a multi- national, billion- dollar, corporate giant. With almost a million directly employed employees and several more indirectly employed. Does any sane man/ woman believe they do NOT want profit at this time? When ecommerce orders have jumped exponentially. During the good times, they could offer massive sales and offers and quick deliveries due to their gargantuam stockpiles and armies of warehouse and delivery workers. The warehouses and stocks are worth shit if the workers can’t show up or if they are beaten half to death on the way to the homes of their consumers! Also, the term “essential” item is a minefield. Ask the folks who run the companies. (I could elaborate, but that would be too much)

Other countries who have been hit by COVID-19 worse than us, especially the US and UK are still quite reliant on ecommerce suppliers. They consider them life- savers. They write up thank you plaques outside their doors for these folks who get them their milk and bread. They are no less heroic to them than any ER nurse or physician.

Why are we suffering then?

The answer is always the same no. Inadequate, or worse- wrong information handed to the folks in the field. Mismanagement, political shilly-shally, and many a time , ignorant or fanatical idiots at the helm.

As for the kirana shops, I do not doubt that at least some of them have altruistic intentions; but the majority are here to do what everyone else wants to. Make a quick buck, make hay while the sun shines. Exactly like the ones who hoard masks and sanitizers and sell them at exorbitant prices. Prices for essential commodities have been artificially risen to upto 70% in some instances. Again, this is multi- factorial, and not entirely of their making, yet they do play a part. They behave in a patronising manner, refuse to provide bills in some instances, refuse to serve customers who question them, refuse to give items that were asked for (in those shops where the customers wait outside, and lists are handed over to the employees)

Do not get me wrong here, I am not trying to glorify the giant corporations or vilify our poor, small traders, my grouse is with this “shooting from our arses” mentality. Where everyone with a fuckall WhatsApp account is an expert.

Please, I beg of you my lovely, smart , intelligent ladies. Let us pledge to screen every message and forward, scrutinise every “fact” and second guess every image and video before we mass circulate this. Let us not let idiots and imbeciles insult our intellects this way.

I apologise for my rant. I wouldn’t say this anywhere else; except to MY people.

P.S. My milkman is a super star. That IS a scientifically proven fact.

What say, just a tad too much?

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 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.