Lockdown Diary: Walking away from the laundry pile
This new normal needs new rules.
- Total Shares
Are you a moaner, or a maximiser? I’m a maximiser to the core, although I moan a lot. Coronafinement has given us all ammunition enough to moan till the end of eternity. We all do it – a family of eight living in a cramped room in an equally cramped slum (wholly warranted moaning), or a homeless worker yearning to squeeze in with his family back in his village hut (whining the least, with the most cause to wail), or a lucky so-and-so confined with a terrace, garden, or pool (it’s a bonus family vacation, Diwali and Christmas rolled into one, minus the pollution and grey sky, so zip it).
Now that the crippling fear of the unknown has given way to acceptance of the unknowable, we must adapt. Charles Darwin (a scientist who apparently knew a thing or two), did say, “It is not the strongest of the species, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” The richer and more comfortable you are, the less adaptable you have become. You miss your almond cappuccino, your trainer, your favourite sushi counter, your hairdresser, the farm parties... but weeks into going without all of it, you realise how little you truly need to sustain your soul and sanity. You hardly miss any of it. You’ve even found new ways to console your cabin fever. You adapt in ways you never thought possible because the strongest human emotion is the will to survive. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever seen pintsize premature babies sucking on bottles twice their size, with all their might, in a bid to live.
Sitting in my corner of the apartment sulking, procrastinating and Instagraming, I decide it’s time not just for adaptation, but for maximisation. This new normal needs new rules. First, I walk up to that overflowing ‘admin’ drawer, that has been taunting me from the day we went into lockdown, and I tell it in no uncertain terms, “Shoo”. Then I walk away from that laundry pile, my French skype lessons, the winter clothes waiting to be put away, the book I’m meant to be writing, the mountain of photos I want to convert into albums and that kitchen cabinet I’ve been determined to organise since 2016. "Begone," I say to it all, and with that, the guilt I’ve been harbouring (about not using my quaran-time fruitfully) lifts. If the world can pause, then so can I. From this day on, I will give into ‘dolce far niente’, or the sweetness of doing nothing (or only the things I absolutely must – feed the family, school my child, disinfect the groceries, write this article) till I’m allowed out. The wise woke to it on day one, I’m fashionably late.
This lull of pleasant idleness is not everyone’s cup of chai. It’s turned some into utterly unpleasant self-styled vigilantes, prowling the streets and courtyards of buildings shouting at kids (desperate for some outside time) and shaming the parents for breaking confinement rules. They fill the empty hours, and the emptier space inside their hearts, with rage and a usurpation of power that must be wrested back from them immediately, or this dangerous behaviour will outlive the virus. If you are confronted by this hostility, calmly aim your weapon – your phone, press record, politely say “Shoo” and walk away.
It’s not just individuals – companies and advertisers are hurriedly adapting too. Decathlon (France’s biggest sporting goods retailer) is offering online exercise classes, along with delivering everything you need to convert your home into a gym. Asian Paints is promoting the idea of becoming homebodies. The flagship India Today Conclave has metamorphosed into the Corona-Series. A French primary school teacher has converted her living room into the most delightful nursery classroom for YouTube. Hotels are giving out vacant rooms to house medical workers, who don’t want to expose their families by bringing the virus home. Gurdwaras and Michelin-star restaurants have reopened as ‘commissary kitchens’ to provide meals to those in need. The rest of us are all scrambling to ease our lazy conscience by remaining productive, donating and finding ways to volunteer, because not having the time is not a valid excuse anymore. Yet, where is the time as one day bleeds into the other?
My husband and I have been social-compacting assiduously within our four walls (sans garden or pool) since the beginning of this outbreak (in sickness and health, but no one ever mentioned pandemics, or incarceration), and, as strange as this sounds, we now have less time together than when we spent 80% of our waking hours apart. In another life, when we reunited at the end of the day as a family, it meant maximising our time together. As much as I’m cherishing (in flashes) and adapting to this endless ocean of mandatory inseparableness, I’d rather have quality over quantity.
Work-life-school separation from home is an acquired discipline that seems like a lovely lofty idea but completely out of my reach. The absence of a clear, tangible space and time distinction of where one ends and the other begins, is something I’d rather not adapt to. So, before the working world goes too far and slashes their real-estate overheads by encouraging a culture of working from home, let’s decide if the world needs more moaners, or maximisers.