A month before D – Day: The COVID-19 virus was wreaking havoc in a few parts of the world, especially China. I was one of those intelligent ones who said that since India is entering a hot summer, we will be unaffected. There were a few cases in India though; starting with Kerala… but like many others I was confident it will disappear in a week or so. On one such day, I boarded my office bus in the morning. Upon entering the bus, I surprisingly found the lady who I had seen almost every day, looked prettier than what she actually was. I could not decipher the reason immediately. Having taken my customary seat somewhere in the middle of the bus, I started watching music videos on YouTube. An advertisement popped up for face masks!!! BINGO… that is when I realized the reason for the lady’s prettiness. She was sporting a face mask, which had covered almost her entire face, leaving only her eyes visible. No wonder she looked better like this. It was amusing to me that she was so cautious about a virus impacting people in China. Silly lady that was.
A week before D – Day: India recorded the highest number of positive cases in a single day. WHO [World Health Organization] warned about the virus getting out of control. I had to attend a workshop at office. It was organized in a five star hotel. Team games, some motivational talks, great food, cocktail in the evening, etc the day clearly had all the right ingredients. During the team building games, we were put into groups tugging and towing at each other. The ensuing bonding and fun was felt by one and all. All along there was one spoilsport who refused to participate in anything and instead preferred to be all by himself. Upon coaxing him for the reason, he asked “Folks, have you all heard of social distancing?” The blank stare on most of our faces give it away. He never bothered to explain, but just shook his head in disbelief. He advised us, “When you have time, watch the move Contagion”. I remember watching that movie but all I could recollect was cursing the director for killing Kate Winslet halfway through the movie.
D – Day: India recorded the highest number of positive cases in a single day. WHO warned about the virus getting out of control. Now there were a few cases in Bangalore. I was still not worried. That is when I heard that someone living about a kilometre from my workplace was infected. One of my colleagues was from the same apartment as his. This was the only topic of discussion at office, in all the Whatsapp groups, in the news channels, well almost everywhere. This was the day when everything changed, well almost everything changed for many people in Bangalore. I started to read more about the virus and its spread.
A week after D – Day: India recorded the highest number of positive cases in a single day. WHO warned about the virus getting out of control. Schools were closed in Bangalore. My boss reprimanded me for taking public transport to reach office. Even when in office, I started attending all meetings over video calls rather than meeting people in person. I was washing my hands almost twice every hour instead of twice every day. And I was using a lot of the hand sanitizers at office. Due to these, my hands, from the elbow downward, felt like they belonged to someone else. And the sanitizers ensured that I was on a high most of the time.
Two weeks after D – Day: India recorded the highest number of positive cases in a single day. WHO warned about the virus getting out of control. Little did I know that this will be the beginning of a very long winter. Offices were closed and so we had to switch to work from home. We shopped for face masks and everyone in the family sported them. We were commenting on each other as though we were wearing the latest fashion collection. We were informed that on the weekend, a three week country wide lockdown was coming up. My wife took me to 3 or 4 shops to buy groceries and essentials. She had bought enough to start her own retail outlet. I never dared to tell her this though.
A month after D – Day: India recorded the highest number of positive cases in a single day. WHO warned about the virus getting out of control. My daughter had developed an abscess on her little finger. One of the evenings, we had to take her to the emergency at one of the popular hospitals in Bangalore. The nurses on duty were watching a movie on a laptop. The doctor was taking a nap. We were the only patients at the emergency, which during normal times would be crowded like a market. Even though I did not prefer working from home, I had no choice but to get used to it. I converted one of the bedrooms in the house to my “Home-Office”. The room also had my guitar and a couch. But I was determined like hell to ensure that the two of them do not disturb my working hours. I was missing the travel to and from office since this meant I lost out on my music and more importantly I lost out on “My Time”.
Two months after D – Day: We had observed a Janta Curfew, we clapped hands, we light lamps, we showered rose petals on frontline workers… but India again recorded the highest number of positive cases in a single day. And WHO warned about the virus getting out of control. It was two months since I had eaten non-vegetarian, since it was a non-essential during these times. My family forced me to take them to the terrace of our home. Upon going there, I never knew it was so spacious and airy. So this became the place for all the morning and evening walks for my family. I frequented this only during the weekends. My Yoga classes were on Zoom nowadays. When I did not feel like it, I used to switch off the camera, and observe all the poor souls trying to twist and turn their godforsaken bodies. Wonder how many of them used to stalk me like this.
Three months after D – Day: India recorded the highest number of positive cases in a single day. WHO warned about the virus getting out of control. The new term of school started for my children. Classes were being conducted online. My elder one was enjoying her classes. She never missed a single day of her classes. When the teacher was painstakingly explaining mathematics, science, history and other subjects; here she was sleeping on the sofa, or reading her favourite novel, or watching TV, or knitting, or stitching… basically she was into everything but listening to her teacher. On one of the days, I was surprised to see my younger daughter attending classes for her. She was there as a proxy when the elder one was playing with her grandparents. I tried everything in my capacity to correct her ways, but finally gave up. As for me, work from home was the new norm. I missed office, missed the interactions, missed the food, the parties, the travel and all of it. But I had no choice but to be holed up here at home. Occasionally my guitar or the couch got the better of me during my working hours. I convinced myself that it was not a crime to indulge in these once in a while. Little did I know how the meaning of ‘once in a while’ would change in the coming months. One of the days, I had to host a leadership talk. I was dressed in neatly pressed formal shirts for the meeting, the camera was switched on throughout and the event went very well. A couple of them even complimented me for being dressed in formals for the meeting, even though I was working from home. To me though, it was actually strange wearing formal shirts, half trousers and sitting barefoot all along the meeting!
Four months after D – Day: India recorded the highest number of positive cases in a single day. WHO warned about the virus getting out of control. Offices were finally opened for those who volunteered to come to office. I wanted to lead by example for my team and went to office. It was really awkward to wear full pants after many months. I felt like a kid wearing pants for the first time. I drove to office rather than take the public transport. There were more support staff at office, than employees. I wore a mask at all times and never ever stepped away from my desk. Wearing a mask and spectacles was a disaster, since the later used to get foggy when I breathe. I never went anywhere close to my friends and colleagues. I did not want to use the rest room and so I did not drink water throughout the day. The office actually felt like a quarantine centre rather than a workplace. My wife had warned me to call her when I was approaching home. I did not know why, but thankfully remembered to do so. She gave me instructions on what I should when I reached home. I had a no-touch entry into the bathroom. All the doors were kept open and there was no one in sight [they were all in hiding until I got into the bathroom]. I was accepted into the family only after taking a shower, washing my clothes, cleaning my tiffin boxes and sanitizing everything else that I carried from office. I later realized that my wife had poured a few buckets of water mixed with Dettol on the car, the stairs and the walkway which I had used. Damn… it was scary to repeat this everyday going forward.
Present Day: India recorded the highest number of positive cases in a single day. WHO warned about the virus getting out of control. With no end in sight, life has really entered into a new norm which has no place for shopping, malls, restaurants, vacations, socializing, schools, offices and everything else which I thought was so very required for us humans. Everyone in my family is holed up inside the home for about two months now. Only I step out of home for about 30 minutes every two or three weeks, to buy essentials. And when I step out, I wear a face mask at all times. I must be looking handsome with most of my face covered with it!