Learning and Unlearning from the Pandemic

“Hello!!” “HELLOOOO…!! Am I audible…??”

Thrice did I scream the same, sitting on my bed, and still no reply. The Wi-Fi looked fine and some random sites were accessible too. Left the meeting, joined again and that solved the issue. It was just a glitch in the application. Most of my days started with similar glitches and errors. I was already habituated to such scenarios.

After an hour of tiring discussion with my fellow teammates, finally we could come to a conclusion. And by the end, I was completely drained of my last ounce of energy. Early morning calls can be brutally tiring if it’s not followed by a breakfast. I being one of the proud Bachelors of Bangalore, breakfasts have always been the second priority over meetings. No sooner did the call end than I stormed into the kitchen, grabbed the pack of coffee beans and ended up searching for sugar. Sometimes it seemed, those containers had legs of their own. And when 3 different individuals used the same kitchen, the legs were prone to be more active. By God’s grace, I could finally find it.

Coffee is undoubtedly one of the most amazing miracles of nature. Just the aroma of this beverage was enough to bring my soul back into the body. I looked at the empty streets through the window while sipping from my coffee mug. The streets which used to be excessively filled with traffic and people, were conquered by pigeons and crows. It felt like a ghost town from a horror movie. “So that’s how a Lockdown looks like during a Pandemic”, I thought.

“I tried to reach Sir, but the Police Constables didn’t allow anyone to pass through. I don’t think I can ever come again until the situation gets better.” Out of nowhere, it came back to me while staring into nothingness through the window. Those were the last words I heard from our cook the previous night. The same was said by the maid too. And that marked the end of our carefree days when all we had to do is sit back, name some delicious dishes and it got prepared for us. The upcoming days in the pandemic looked terrible and challenging.

“How many dishes can I cook?? Let’s make a list.”, I thought to myself. On listing down the names of the dishes, couldn’t feel more embarrassed. The number of entries didn’t even cross 3. Even the list seemed laughing at me. Terrified, hopeless and helpless, I kept thinking, “Should have learned a bit when had the chance.” After going through a couple of videos on YouTube, finally found an appropriate meal for lunch which seemed delicious and a bit feasible too. Roti and Aloo Gobi. A quick call with Mom and her consultation was enough to boost my confidence. Let’s do it.

10 minutes into the kitchen, and all my excitement had left me alone. The slicing of the veggies looked so easy and interesting while watching others but expecting the same results from myself proved to be a grave blunder. The potatoes were fine, the onions left me with teary eyes and the cauliflower, with a bleeding finger. After struggling for half an hour, I could see my veggies tinged with yellow, accompanied by a fragrance of spices inside the pan. “That looks great!!” applauded my roommate. Then the Roti had to be handled. Flour, water, rolling board and pin, I grabbed them all. Half an hour more and the results were devastating. 4 dead looking flat surfaces deformed with random shapes, neither polygons nor circles, covered with dark patches of doom, lied on the plate which I knew, no person on earth could consider as Roti. Usually, it’s said Tear the Roti to eat it but, in my case, I had to Break it, owing to its immense strength capable of cutting iron rods into pieces. On taking a bite, I realized there was not even a tiny amount of salt in the curry and the veggies were absolutely undercooked. The lunch turned into a disaster and I got a session of facial exercise instead of some delicious food.

On sharing the disastrous kitchen story with Mom, received a one minute long laugh in return, along with another round of consultation. After watching some more videos, I could understand the chemistry behind the entire cooking process. And this time, I knew exactly what needs to be done. Another attempt, another dish, yet another failure. But the results were not the worst. And the same happened the day after. Each day I tried and failed, but with every passing session the taste of the dishes kept improving. When the world was busy fighting with the virus, I had my own battle with veggies. A spatula in one hand and a frying pan in the other, felt like a warrior who aimed at conquering the kitchen.

After an exhausting long month, finally the day arrived. My very first dish, the disastrous Roti and Aloo Gobi, turned out to be the most delicious one this time. The Roti was not deformed anymore. It was round and fluffy with perfect color and texture. The potatoes and cauliflower were appropriately shaped, dipped in a reddish-brown pool of gravy, garnished with finely chopped coriander leaves sprinkled on the top. The moment I had the first bite, it took me to another world altogether. For a while, I forgot that it’s been cooked by me only. And within a span of 2 months, I could cook literally anything that popped into my head. Gone were the days, when I used to run to a restaurant or order an exotic dish.

Learning: When it comes to survival, one must always be self-dependent, either be in financial matters or in household chores especially in cooking.

The Pandemic had introduced the need for a Home-Centric work culture. The flashy colorful walls and interiors of the office got replaced with a bean bag in my room. The incessant struggle in the traffic had turned into a history. The impromptu casual conversations with colleagues were nowhere to be found anymore. But these substantial changes barely had any negative impact on the performance of the employees. We started adapting to it. We started changing our lifestyle and priorities to meet the requirements.

Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. The team which I belonged to, had never seen each other physically. I could only remember them through their voices. But there was a sense of empathy in each one of us. Waves of problems and requirements kept coming one after another, but we sailed through successfully. One of our colleagues had chosen to move on and leave the company. A virtual farewell session was kept to acknowledge his significant contributions. We all spoke a few lines applauding his efforts. At the end of the call, the manager insisted everyone to turn on their front cameras and that was the first time I was looking at the person. It was hard to believe, we had been working together for so long and in his very last day, I got to know how he looked like.

Unlearning: We need not rely only on parties and outings to build a strong team. If there are appropriate efforts, mind sets, communication and togetherness among the people, forming a healthy and sustainable team is effortless.

Unexpectedly one morning, I woke up to the news that the restrictions have been lowered which were imposed due to the lockdown. Travelling services and commute got commenced once again, along with certain limitations. Considering this as an opportunity, decided to return to my hometown. After a tiring journey of 20 hours, I finally found peace at home. And in return, the home kept me as a prisoner for 14 more days. Things went back to normal after that. Calls on weekdays, cooking on weekends and casual get together with friends occasionally. It started getting monotonous after some time though. But that was merely a calm before the storm.

“I don’t feel well today. Can you get the grocery from the store?” asked Dad in a sleepy voice. He didn’t seem well at all. His forehead felt warmer than normal. I fetched the grocery along with some medicines. But it barely had any effect. The following day, things looked even worse. Ceaseless cough, hoarseness in the voice and a very high fever. Our worst nightmare had come out to be true. He was Covid Positive. The test reports were a shock for the entire family. Appropriate arrangements were done for him to stay in a separate room.

“How long does it take to recover??”, we wondered.

The following morning, I woke up with a severe headache. “What’s wrong with me!!” I mumbled looking at the mirror. On coming out of the room, saw that everyone in the family was having a feverish face. “You too??” my brother asked. And I replied, “Yeah… I think so!!” Looking at the symptoms, it was obvious, that all of us had got infected. It was just a matter of time, that the reports claimed the same as well. The test reports were out and holding that I said, “Great!! Now all of us are in this together.”

Travelled more than 1500 kilometers, used several public transportation services, faced a lot of people on my way back to home and still got saved. Just a month at home, followed all protocols and precautions, took some medications as well and the results spoke for themselves. Lady fortune can be deceiving at times.

The Government officials lost no time in putting up a poster on the door which declared we were imprisoned at home for 3 weeks. No physical communications or interactions were allowed with the outside world. In short, we were on our own. The amount of ration and supplies we already had was meagre, seemed difficult to sustain for more than a week. And once again we started adapting and worked like a team. The cooking responsibilities got distributed. We went into the kitchen in turns and no one was supposed to stay beyond an hour, as per our plans. No taste, no smell and no complaints. Dad used to look after our timely medications and potions while we handled other household chores. Mom was told to take complete rest, but she denied, as usual.

When the supplies and medicines came to an end, some neighbors and relatives were kind enough to get those for us. They stood far away from the door and left the grocery for us to pick up. Almost everybody who came to know about our condition, offered help in return. My colleagues kept checking on me since the very first day, I had informed them. Things started getting better. The symptoms gradually reduced. After a week, I was back to work and received a warm welcome from everyone in the team.

Learning: We do live in a fast-paced world. Since childhood, we are taught to run for our dreams. Grades, ranks, salary, promotions and career have always been our priority. Let’s just stop running for a while and think again. We’ll realize that it’s the people around us who have been the constant source of power. Family, friends, relatives, colleagues, they are everywhere. Who are we, to have been blessed with such amazing individuals in our lives? We better take a moment to appreciate and respect their mere presence, for they are the ones who make our run worth something in the end.

Hence, Thank You all…

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