Her eyes were brimming with positivity. She had the most radiant smile. I believe certain physical attributes like height & skin colour come into play when you want to be an air-hostess, and therefore, many of them are ‘good looking’ in the conventional sense of the word. However, there was something striking about this lady. As I strained to read her badge, I couldn’t help but ask her what her name was.
“It is Visachu,” she said, with a twinkle in her eyes.
It was the 15th of March this year. Earlier that morning, as I was driving to the airport, I remember seeing a large signboard – “Do not be afraid of Corona,” it said, in Hindi. My father who had called me once I reached back home, asked me if people were being checked at the airports. They weren’t, not yet. I did see a few people with masks on; though only a minuscule number.
Two days later, some of us at work got together and discussed the matter. We had decided that we would close down the office and ask people to work from home. The government had not yet announced any closure, but there were rumours floating around. Personally, I hadn’t thought much of it. I just went about doing the things I always do – cook, work, read and watch the occasional movie. In a few days, on 22nd March, the government announced a 14 hour voluntary lockdown. People were encouraged to stay indoors. Depending on which side you were on, one either frowned and mocked at or simply gleefully participated in the paraphernalia that came with this voluntary lockdown. Some said this was a preparation for what is to come. And rightly so, when 2 days later, the Prime Minister announced a 3 week lockdown, restricting the movement of 1.3 billion people of the country, as a measure to contain the spread of Covid19 in India. This lockdown would eventually be extended until 7 June, though some restrictions were eased after the initial few weeks depending on where one lived in the country. It was on 8 June, officially termed Unlock 1.0, that services would be resumed in a phased manner. Chennai, where I lived, wasn’t doing very well, and had announced a further lockdown, this time to be ‘strictly implemented’ for a further 3 weeks that ended on 5 July.
Given that I had just traveled before the announcement of the lockdown, I thought it wise right then to stay put and not travel home to be with my parents. I was told that people in their age group were at increased risk of contracting the disease. Little did I realise that I would spend the next 4 months at home and mostly by myself.
Humans adapt fast. And I am a person of routines. Work went on pretty much as usual, sans the travel that came with it. Another kind of routine was set and very quickly. There were designated spots at which you’d find me with my laptop during designated times. Before lunch, it was cross legged and on the floor in my bedroom. After I had eaten, it would mostly be on my dining table. The lack of appropriate furniture was an irritant, especially because it would cause my back and shoulders to hurt. I couldn’t do much, so I’d be conscious of my posture and ensure I workout enough days a week. Once a week, I would step out to buy some groceries, and on the same day, I’d permit myself to pick up some food from outside. At all other times, I’d be home, like a lot many others. My house help couldn’t come as public transport wasn’t available. That meant more work, and so the days became packed. I’d move from one task to another, whether official or domestic, and the days would pass very quickly but sometimes leaving me with a feeling of being perpetually exhausted. I wasn’t reading much, and I was conscious of it. That I was locked in the house didn’t help much, given that I am restless by nature. Work related meetings meant that there was some human interaction and I was grateful for it. At times though, such meetings also gave an artificial sense of ‘busyness’ and I began to be aware of this and reduce my meetings as much as I could. And there was a colleague who lived in the same street, who I’d meet and greet, from a distance of course, once or twice a week, when they would go for a stroll within the colony.
Looking back, I realise that some very good things happened to me. I started waking at least an hour earlier that I usually would right from the beginning of the lockdown. This meant I had a lot more time in the mornings. I would spend this time in exercise and sadhana. Once in a while, I’d go out for a short run too. Apart from keeping the body fit, I’ve noticed that exercise does something to the mind – it makes me extremely happy in the hours that follow. Although not entirely by choice, I also remained sober on most days. All this meant that my body and mind were doing alright, despite the isolation and poor work posture at times. Given how easily I take to routine, I realise that these two things, exercise and sadhana, had become a part of my routine. I may miss them on occasion, yielding to sheer laziness, but I didn’t let that bother me and would quickly bounce back. That my parents were speaking with me more than once every day was also helpful I guess. Their well-being was at the back of my mind and knowing that they were doing well put me at ease. While I am not on whatsapp or facebook, I decided that I’d call and speak to some of my friends and relatives.
Two days ago, I decided to finally get home. Today, as I as sit in my room in my parents home and write this, I feel immensely grateful for all the help I had received from all quarters. I am a person of faith, and I have no doubt His Grace manifests as help. It may be some time before I leave home for Chennai. Until then, and beyond too, I hope to sustain the practices I have managed to cultivate. I also want to add new ones. Read more, and perhaps write a bit too.
As I reached the last page of one of the books that I have been reading, I saw a hurriedly scribbled note. It was from my flight on 15th March. As I deplaned, I had asked Visachu the air hostess what her name meant, because it was something unique. Looking back, perhaps it was a timely message from me. I am in awe as to how we receive such messages, and it reinforces to me how Grace is ever present.
The unmistakable twinkle in her eyes grew even brighter, as she said, “It means, take the opportunity and fulfill it.”