How long do we stay in?

This question has been in my mind for the last one year. Exactly for a year after COVID-19 started spreading its waves of destruction across the world, I was the perfect mother hen. I ordered everything online, didn’t go out unless its absolutely necessary, and even if I did go out, I doused myself in sanitizer and handwash and a full bath on top of it all in order to ward off this uninvited virus guest. All in the fear of whatever happened in Italy, in some parts of North India – unable to breathe – that is a really scary way to die. What’s even scarier is watching your loved ones suffocate. Even though my taste buds dreamed of hot Fulka rotis and spicy Chilli Gobi (occasionally they dreamed of McDonald’s burgers and French fries), we never risked our favourite thing to do on weekends – eating out. We kept vigilant, reading the news and keeping ourselves informed of all the gory details of things happening in the world.

Things started changing a bit when I got pregnant and there was the absolute need of going to the hospital for monthly check-ups. First time we went to the hospital, I was too scared to be near other people – I was literally warding off corona virus with my imaginary wand by running away from crowds. That thing is not completely possible when I am visiting a doctor in a big hospital, I started saying to myself. Slowly we started having a tea and snack from the hospital cafeteria and later we graduated to a nearby vegetarian restaurant. Slowly I began enjoying the hospital visits and began to wait for the next check-up eagerly. Its true that man adapts, heals and overcomes anything – whatever fear or trauma. We were slowly progressing to how things were before COVID when the second wave started. Around the same time, my third trimester started.

Work was a very good distraction; I could lose myself in my work – finding out bugs for an application that is going to be used somewhere in the US. But the morning news was always increasing my anxiety to the peak. Thousands of people dying, everyday I could see at least one pregnant woman’s news of death following delivery complicated by COVID. I imagined my children without a mother, my husband slowly moving on in life with another imaginary woman and my children living life miserably. I hated myself for going to pregnancy when there is a pandemic going on. I was absolutely terrified of leaving my elder son. I was often in tears after reading the newspaper everyday (mostly due to hormones as I say to my husband now), and my husband told me not to read news everyday if I can’t control my fears. Anyway, the second wave started waning slowly and we were still safe. I gave birth to a baby girl, becoming a mother for the second time. Honestly, I was still worried when the doctor and nurses touched me or the baby, the fear of contracting COVID-19 seemed to have taken hold of me by roots. After one week from getting discharged, we didn’t contract the virus, thanks to Almighty. That seemed to boost up my confidence so much.

After postpartum rest, so many days of remaining indoors with an infant and a toddler, I got vaccinated and that seemed to inject me with a new found courage to venture out from home. I started going to supermarkets, textile shops etc (warily though). After one month, we even started going out with our 3-year-old, and he was so excited that we just had to take him out again. For the child’s sake, we took him to parks, less crowded shops and even restaurants. Generally, we all got a confidence that things are going well, no need to be worried about going out if we are careful etc. Even our parents started coming out with us sometimes, that was the absolute reminder that things are slowly but surely coming back to normal. We celebrated Christmas by going out with both kids (the younger one now 5 months old), ate outside and still we were good. Naturally, we went outside on New Year’s Day also. The next day, my daughter woke up with a stuffed nose, by evening my son had a runny nose and by next day he developed a fever and I also had a cold and blocked nose. We never suspected anything COVID related, such was our confidence. Gone were the days when I used to lose sleep when my husband sneezed or my mother-in-law had a cold and I wondered if it was COVID. Yesterday night, my head was almost ready to explode with headache and I asked my husband for some pain balm. He brought something and applied on my forehead. With a sudden jolt I realized that I am not getting any smell. Warning bells rang non-stop in my head and I started trying to smell different things – soap, shampoo, perfume, baby wipes, Vicks, Dettol and even kerosene. Nothing. My mind went blank – in shock or fear or some divine sort of courage, I don’t know.

Guilt took over in a few minutes. I cursed myself for going out with an infant and a 3-year-old to restaurants. My husband was lamenting over how we were going out more nowadays. My brain was planning on how to manage two kids who are sick and myself without taking help from asymptomatic family members which included elderly and weak ones. At the same time my brain was chewing over the disastrous things that might happen if something happened to me or kids or anyone, and how I can live (or die) with that. My super multi-tasking brain was giving me courage at the same time – people have endured worse; children are less affected and we are also normal human beings who are NOT immune to COVID like others. Somehow, we waited till morning and got tested. As I sit here, contemplating whether I am having COVID-19 (which took millions of lives around the world) or just usual blocked nose, I couldn’t help but think that I can’t stay indoors any more. Even if I got the virus or not, I simply can’t live in fear and waste moments of precious life. My son’s happiness as he runs around a park, or the look of wonder when my baby girl sees moving cars for the first time, or the sparkle in my husband’s eyes as he eats his favourite masala dosa from his favourite restaurant – all these are more important than fear of the unknown. Casually but with caution, we will step out. Will you?

The Sunset Reminder

Once again I saw the reddish orange hues of sunset from my window. The same window from where I had viewed the same sunset, yet it feels so different today. The dust mites on the window sill are sticking to my fingers in a reassuring way. This view reminds me of the person I was before. Before I was engulfed into society’s norms. That wild girl in me yawns in her deep slumber, just reminding me of her existence somewhere deep down beneath many layers of grief and heartache and memories, where she was buried carefully. That person is just a memory sometimes, albeit a beautiful one. The sunset made me full of warm mushy feelings and hope and all those cheesy cliches. Today, I feel nothing. In fact, sunsets are reminders to fold the clothes, take a shower and do mundane household chores. Gone are the days when the setting sun reminded me of stolen glances, love filled conversations, all the butterflies in the stomach, gossips with roommates, and evening walks with my best friends. When I close my eyes I can still smell the fresh grass in our college grounds and the laughter in the background. Maybe this is how we grow old. Things that once mattered the most seems ordinary now. Definitely growing old.

Dealing with the Monotony

When you watch a happy family enjoying shopping or watching a movie , we may feel like ‘Wow, look at them. They are so happy’. Often we feel the same about ourselves too. Like we are good. We are making some good memories. And in those happy moments, we may feel so proud of the lives we have created for us and our family. The thing about happiness is they just don’t last. Cruel isn’t it? Even a little jape made by any outsider or by someone in your family may spoil the whole balance of your family. And when there is no external factor, sometimes our own inner turmoil may affect the happiness of the whole family.

Dealing With Monotony - Guest Columnists - Parshah

Mostly, the inner thoughts impact women more. This indirectly makes women the problem-makers in a family. The main reason being women are over-thinkers and more sensitive. Another factor being the fact that women are providing more in a family – be it in raising children or cooking or cleaning – in addition to regular jobs in case of working women. These are ingrained deep into the minds of people and that cannot be changed, even though some positive changes can be seen nowadays. Most women never complained in the older generations like our mothers and grand mothers, but today its not the same. Some call it equality, others may call it feminism. The same way a loving husband who helps his wife in household chores is seen as the ideal man by some, and a good-for-nothing-fella by some others.

Coming back to the topic, over-thinking in women may just strike a chord unexpectedly. You are perfectly happy in your life, doing all your chores responsibly and even your husband is contributing as much as he can. All of a sudden you feel as though he can do something more right? Why is the child being so un-cooperating? Why should I be the one to solve his/her tantrums always? Why am I supposed to solve everything for everyone? Its like I’m living for making others’ life comfortable? Who will make my life comfortable? This saga of thoughts may continue to result in fights between couples who were perfectly in love an hour ago. For some it may dangerously lead to thoughts like ‘I am so worthless. Nobody loves me. Why should I keep on living? ‘ . The one thing about our minds – its a dreadful master and a faithful servant.

Most of the women dealing with depression came all this way. I think we just need to show the red signal to our thoughts when it goes down that dangerous path. Its difficult, I know. But definitely not impossible. Atleast we need to divert our thoughts – take up some of our old hobbies, read a book, hum a song. Take a piece of paper and jot down the things around you that make you happy. List out the name of persons who genuinely loves you, even though you may feel like they don’t. Take a break from all the chaos when it becomes too much. Go shopping alone, go to a beauty salon and get your hair done – You’ll definitely feel better. When nothing works, go hug your mother. It all becomes better then. Now you know how your child feels when he/she clings on to you. I’m sure you’ll feel double the energy in doing all those tiring things for your child. Also remember how much your husband cared when you were having the baby. That alone will erase all the hard feelings for him. Converse with love and I’m sure everybody will understand you.

Just put all the negative thoughts that monotony brings into a hypothetical trash box and throw it away. All these are fool proof methods – tried and succeeded by so many people. So, its all about your mindset. Nothing about life is monotonous, we just need to add the colors ourselves. Colors of love, passion, happiness and gratefulness.

What if ?

Little post update!Recently, I’ve been caught up in my busy life – work, family etc and all these were making me feel so overwhelmed. I’ve been feeling really low these days when I found my old diary in my cupboard. I simply read through random entries and instantly I felt better. Some of my entries were really enjoyable when I read now…for example 60 things I love about my life. An I’ve taken the pleasure to number it and write down everything that I love. I haven’t been writing regularly since marriage and I regretted that instantly. Priorities change, but you should be your first priority always. That should not have changed.

I found this small poem I wrote in my old diary and I’m sharing it here. Can’t help smiling at the hopeless romantic that I was before marriage! (Or maybe I had too much time and romance novels!)

What if ?

What if I died today

and couldn’t meet you one last time

What if I lost my memory today

and forgot all our favorite moments

What if I became deaf today

and could never hear your voice calling out my name

What if I lose my mind today

and couldn’t recognize you anymore

What if I lost my voice today

and couldn’t sing a last song for you

What if all these never happen

and you never knew how much you meant for me..

So, what if your problems are never ending, keep calm and hug your mom! Keep your loved ones close, tell them you love them and enjoy all the little things you love in your life!!