WORK FROM HOME – I WANNA GO BACK TO MY WORK PLACE ☹

It was raining heavily and I was balancing my umbrella in one hand and the purse in the other hand and another small bag with my tiffin etc. I realised that I had missed my bus. No auto or taxi in sight and I was frantic. There was an open day in school today. I couldn’t afford to be late, I just had to reach before the parents started streaming in. What a bother…

But today sitting at my window looking at the falling rain I was wistfully remembering those days. It was hectic but it was fun. I didn’t know I could ever miss meeting my colleagues, even the irritating ones. I didn’t know I could miss the early unearthly hour of reaching school. I didn’t know I could miss the noise of the children in the corridors and the hustle-bustle of the school. But I do. Only when the thing is gone do we realise the value of it. 

Anyways cut to present. My life revolves around three words – Work From Home. Let me give you the picture. My husband and I are working from home and my two children are studying from home. And the poor WiFi Router of my house is trying its level best but still barely keeping up with the demands of all our PCs, laptops and mobiles. 

With no need to get up early the teenagers in my house get up just 10 mins before the class is about to start. I don’t know how they manage to look and sound presentable when the teacher calls out their names for attendance. 

As far as I am concerned. I have come to realise that with work from home the work never stops. When we used to go to our workplaces there was a point in the day when we used to shut down our PCs and head home. The work for the day used to end there. But it’s no longer so. Everyone knows you are at home and have nowhere to go. So no fixed lunchtimes and no pack up time. Work goes on endlessly with endless kitchen breaks and cleaning breaks in between.

I am at home the whole time but I am not spending extra time with my family. We all are working and talking on the phone. Looking at each other and willing the other person to get up and make the next round of tea.

The guys working in the IT industry had their processes etc streamlined for work from home environment. But I work in a school, we were always hands-on, never heard of work from home in our line of work. So you can imagine the scrambling we must have done to make teaching at home and learning at home possible. The teachers are no doubt struggling and their struggle is visible but the administrators behind the scene are dealing with completely new ways of running the school. Every form, every notification to staff or parents has to be online. Every programme the school used to conduct has to be online, even exams have to be online. All schools are struggling to come up with a foolproof method to test the students sitting so far away in their homes. There have been storytelling, recitation, elocution, fancy dress competitions online. We even managed the group singing competition and skit also online. 

So in short for people who are not used to this system of working, work from home is a lot of additional hard work, intercepted with bouts of frustration ;). But there is one big advantage of work from home. It has made many of us learn new things and become more technically advanced. People who used to shy away from computers etc., are using it like a pro these days. 

So keep learning guys. This is a transition time hopefully we all will learn to handle work from home better.

ISOLATION – HAS IT ALWAYS EXISTED?

The year 2020, a year that will remain afresh in our memories always. Everything sounded okay for us during the first two months until the third month arrived and the horror sank in, for India.

Cases were discovered, people were asked to stay indoors, use masks, sanitize themselves. The patients were required to isolate themselves so that they don’t spread the deadly virus to others. As a result of all these, new words were being etched to our lives.

The word that dug me deep was isolation because this word has been a part of all of us but only now it is coming to the surface.

Isolation during times of Covid-19 means complete separation from anyone else around you. Isolation is for symptomatic patients.  Isolation means you cut off any contacts ( physical) from those around you so that they are safe from getting the virus from you. You separate yourself from other people for the sake of their safety.

Haven’t we been like this always? Not that we want to protect others but very often when we feel no one understands us, we isolate ourselves (mentally, emotionally)  from those around us. Sometimes we do not want to burden others with our yokes, other times we feel no one really understands us. We succumb to our pains, our sorrows, inner conflicts by isolating ourselves and not opening up. And that leads to a whole new mental phase which is technically termed depression. I don’t think I need to get started with depression and the effects it can have. But I do want to focus that the tiny spark caused in the first place is because we have isolated ourselves.

Isolation is important for those who have the coronavirus. But generally speaking, is it good for yourself if you isolate yourself and allow the monsters within to slowly overpower you? What do you think?

I am sure all of us will have someone in our contacts we have given into self-isolation. What have we done about it? It’s so sad that most of us let such people remain isolated and deal with their problems themselves.

In conclusion, I want to express myself through a poem on isolation:

Numbed was I in a world so chaotic
Silence and fear had taken its deep roots
Scorn and shame had covered the rim
Of my eyes and my dreams
Where shall I go?
I gazed and gazed
Alas, there was none
Who could share my pain
My sorrow that had begun
Numbed was I in a world that has its rules –
You give and give till its all exhausted
You are happy till you walk the pace of others
You are fine till you pretend you can
So was I numbed
So I chose, I chose to withdraw
I chose to hide, I chose to be on my own
I chose, I had to choose to isolate
Did anyone notice where is she?
Did anyone care what is she up to?
Did anyone take note of the change?
Alas! The world and all that swipes them over
Alas! The rules that are so demanding
Alas! No one cares for a soul that is isolated
Oh look, there is something new
It’s not just me but others too
See they have followed my solo path
But have they felt what I feel?
No, they are on to protect their sinew
And the life of their kins
I wonder is there any parallels
They locked up in their rooms and me in my mind
How does it change when things for them will be fine?
Will they in their sanity lookout for those still shut on their minds?
Or will they trade all carefree, leaving all learnings behind?

AMIDST THE PANDEMIC

Imagine if someone checks your Google search history. What will they find on the TOP searching? Well, researchers did that and reported: it’s THE PANDEMIC. Google search trends for July 2020 showed COVID-19 PANDEMIC is the 15th most searched topic and COVID-19 VACCINE as the 2nd most searched topic in India. Does it mean “pandemic” is a new word to our dictionary, of course not! Then why are people searching for it daily, now?

The word “PANDEMIC” comes from a combination of two ancient Greek word “PAN” (all) + “DEMOS” (people or population) = all the people. The grisly impact of COVID-19 Pandemic has almost crippled in a bit or on barrel every stratum of human society. 

Now in India, 18.9 million salaried employees have gone jobless in between March 2020 – July 2020 and possibly post COVID-19 another 2.4 million white-collared professionals will lose their job; 94% of white collared top professionals are suffering from mental health issues; Indian economy is going in loss of US$4.5 billion (Rs. 32k Crore) every day; NASSCOM reported, 70% of Indian start-ups will run out of money in less than a couple of months; 81% of Urban poor has lost their jobs; based on some of the major English newspaper reports more than 140 people in Urban India has committed suicide while in locked down; more than 7500 Corona positive deaths are recorded in Mumbai city alone. These stats may never end… Apart from these stats, individually I have been into extensive research on COVID-19 impact on Urban India life since the beginning of April 2020; almost more than 35 webinar talks I have given on navigating life in and post the COVID-19 pandemic; recently along with some of my church brothers, we initiated to reach out to some of the most needy families affected by lockdown and that of our small visits to those families broke our hearts and taught us in volumes. All that those moist eyes and honest smiley faces without words were telling us, “you know, we were praying for this and God has sent you people like that Good Samaritan”. 

Navigating life in lockdown and the fear caused by this pandemic sometimes corners me with the question – “HOW LONG DO WE HAVE TO FIGHT LIKE THIS TO LIVE? IS THERE ANY HOPE?”

Flipping through the pages of history, we see since the 1st century BC human race has been experiencing pandemics. Predominantly, this fact tells us about the “CONSTANCY of the Pandemics” and hints to us the possibility of its future occurrence. Over the ages pandemics always encumbered us to live with uncertainty and also reminds us about the fragility of human life. Such a situation time and again exhausts us with the same question “how long we have to fight like this for survival?” “Is there anything good, positive, constant, and strong enough to anchor my hope for life?”

Wrestling with these questions, alongside the constancy of pandemics, I find that time, people, physical strength, money, wisdom – all things are fleeting like the passing of wind. But amidst the constancy of pandemics the only ONE that is good, positive, constant, and is strong enough where I anchor my hope for life is “GOD”. 

Amidst the pandemics, the logical consistency of God’s existence over the ages, competence and appropriateness of God’s sovereign power over the ages, and the experiential relevance of the people who trusted God in the past pandemics strongly convinces me amidst COVID-19 pandemic to put my hope in God for survival and good life.

That’s what God said in the Bible,

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty LORD. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with long life and give them my salvation.” 

NEW NORMAL

New Normal phrase has become synonymous with the COVID period, however, if I look back there were various times when normal way of living was altered drastically and yet it was never named as “New Normal” because such things are expected. 

When mobile phones suddenly became popular over no period of time, it changed the way we lived. I was studying engineering at that time and we had to wait long queues at the STD booth to call up our family or friends. Every time we received a call at the hostel landline, the security guard used to shout in the loudspeaker so the whole hostel would know who received how many phone calls in a day. It was a very different way of living and with the mobile phones getting popular amongst students, the normal way of getting in touch with your family changed completely. 

Similar example would be for how emails replaced the handwritten letters, how digital cameras (or phone cameras) replaced the film-based ones, how ola and uber changed the way we book cabs, how UPI changed the way we deal in money transactions and so many more examples. I think the world is changing so fast that it is hardly possible to define a normal. Every day, every month and every year there are new innovations coming up which are bound to change the way we live. 

One personal New Normal that I will never forget is what happened immediately after I got married. I lived with 2 of my flat-mates for about 4 years before I got married to the guy I love. Of course, I and my husband started living together after marriage as expected – not very far away from the home that I lived in with my flat-mates. After about a month, my husband’s brother moved in with us as he had just started his job hunt in Bangalore. So in a very short span of time, I went from living with 2 girls to living with 2 boys. And yes, it was a very drastic difference. 

I suddenly realized that in my new home now I was the only one who was interested in cleaning up and buying groceries. I also realized that there was no space (or respect) for my beautiful pair of earrings that had always adorned a part of the wall in my previous home. I realized that my collection of shoes looked very different next to the boys’ shoes. I figured that I was expected to cook and cook all the three meals. Suddenly, there was no space in my life for my own likes. I had to hunt for time to do what I wanted to do. And I realized that this is what my life is going to be. I liked the change and I had a lot of fun with boys. But there were periods when I just wanted to go back to my older home to my girlfriends and live with them again. 

So, the feeling of a new normal hasn’t been new really. But now it is being used to denote a time that we never expected to see – the corona period. Of course, the new normal is going to change a lot and transform all of us beyond our imagination as a society. New normal is just a feeling of getting out of your own comfort zone and that indeed is always tough. Let us adapt to this new normal for now and hope that this normal gets evolved to better new normal.

RESPECT IS ESSENTIAL

The other day I asked my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up. She said, “I want to be a garbage collector”. And on being questioned “why” she gave a quirky reply “it doesn’t need much education, but if I want to be a doctor then I have to study really hard and I can’t” 😁. Actually just before she arrived at this choice of her, I told her in a casual talk that to be a nurse or doctor you need to study really hard, six-seven years after your schooling, and excuses that you give now won’t do. Just five years of age and she got many answers and options changing according to her mood. I am waiting for her to settle with one choice and focus on it diligently. I promised her that I would back her no matter whatever her choice is provided it is ethically, morally correct (this is unspoken to her though given her age).

1. Gardener,
2. Garbage Collector,
3. Artist,
4. Caretaker,
5. Bus Driver,
6. Deliveryman/ woman,
7. Engineer,
8. Nurse  

Literally, whatever, I don’t mind provided she is happy in her life and never wrongs others, end of the discussion.

Why I am indifferent to her choices? Do I really don’t care about her future? Yes, I am. I am more concerned about her happiness therefore reluctant to pressurize her into something she is not happy with. And secondly, I firmly believe that no job is lowly or less important. If a person is taking care of his/her family needs, proving to be a contributor to the working of machinery called Economy however minuscule or indirectly proportional it might be, then how can we question its Importance? Every job irrespective of the prestige it carries, influential power tagged to it, income package & perks, social treatment it receives, organized or unorganized sectors to which it belongs holds a prominence/importance in our lives. Every person doing their respective jobs sticking to moral and ethical conduct deserve equal importance. I have learned this from my father. I have never seen him talking to or about any person to no matter which strata of the society he or she hails from and whatever the job description of that person is in a disrespectful manner. He throughout his life has maintained and practiced one value “Every person who is WORKING honestly deserves respect. Respect isn’t related to the position or income”. He is my source of inspiration who shaped my beliefs. One recent example that rekindled his memories in this context: In January 2020 there was a strike of the garbage collectors in the Brussels region. Just in a week, the entire city was flooded with the sticking garbage sacs. Had it been one more week there was a probability that we could have encountered serious health issues much ahead of Covid19. So aren’t they essential for our well being?

The new word on the block: Seems this pandemic Covid19 along with its tumultuous impact on our lives have made a strong impact on dictionaries (read added volume) across the world 😁. New words never thought of before or never heeded to or heard much about before are marching in our lives from left, right and center every day. “Essential Workers” is one among them. It is used in reference to the sanitation workers, Doctors, Nurses who are working tirelessly to provide treatment to the affected patients (read article Caring for Caregivers). A big salute to them for their never say die attitude and selfless service. But I feel the ambit of the term “Essential Workers” should encompass more professions or workers who are in one or the other way making contributions to make our routines unimpacted or seamless.

Few examples:

  • Teachers giving online classes to our kids so that their education isn’t hampered.
  • Delivery guys delivering goods amidst this chaos so that we are safe in our homes.
  • The pilots involved in rescue operations of bringing the citizens back to their families.
  • The non-profit organizations making sure that the basic needs of food and medicines reaching the most vulnerable sections.
  • The police force working 24*7 to ensure that law and order situation isn’t compromised even if it means risking their lives.

Neither the last nor the least the homemakers whose work has only got doubled. To cut it short, I believe every person who is working to make sure that the normalcy isn’t derailed is an Essential Worker.

Thank the pandemic: One positive aspect of this otherwise murky situation is that it brought forth how we undermine the “others” job and unabashedly declare ourselves to be independent but the fact is we are not. We have all the way believed that few works are respectable and important while the one at lower pedestal and be jeered at, faceless contributions in our lives be it of a farmer or a cobbler or a weaver, were (most of us) never acknowledged. These testing times are not only testing the dexterity of socio-economic conditions of the counties but have been a litmus test to our understanding of what we consider to be “Essential”, isn’t it?

Coordination, Co-operation, Respect – Essential for a well-knitted society irrespective of the times and trends.

QUARANTINE FROM THE ‘SIN’ VIRUS

How times have changed! Today you endanger others just by a touch, perhaps a hug or even by speaking to each other without wearing a mask. “Quarantine if you are the danger” is the norm in today’s life. We no longer fight swords or shoot guns to nullify an enemy. ‘We quarantine’. That today is our biggest weapon. This tiny virus could even debilitate the giants. But moving on from the virus – and how quarantine has become the first approach of anyone and everyone willing to save the world – let’s talk about life. Have you ever thought of this three syllabic word “quarantine” in the larger context of life?  

Can quarantine go beyond fighting off a virus and living ‘14 days’ in an enclosed bunker where the sun seeks permission to penetrate? Can it be above sitting in a room, by the window, admiring the moon, and teaching yourself to count the number of days by observing its shape? The completion of ’14 days’ will strike-off the label and make you part of the band again. Ohh, happy days are ahead – you tell yourself. But then a thought strikes your mind – the health mustn’t deteriorate.

Maybe, just maybe quarantine could do more than that. It will still fight. But not the virus of a health pandemic. Instead, one that has encapsulated our mind and heart. Something that existed since time became known – SINS. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death.” You see this virus also kills. But how do we run from it? Simple – go under a protective cover. Alienate yourself from SIN and Quarantine yourself. 

If times, such as this, has taught us anything it is the power of quarantine. When COVID-19 first hit Mumbai, our locality was a severe red zone. People were dying. Authorities failed to cope up with the number of casualties and as things got worse, all they could do was request us to ‘quarantine.’ There was no medicine, no cure, hospitals were overburdened. We had to stay home. Meetings were called in the locality. Everything was shut. For three weeks, we avoided seeing each other, speaking was beyond question. The situation was extreme. We wouldn’t open windows for fear that the virus was airborne. Fear of death had sucked the smile and hope out of our lives.

But on May 21, as the situation in other parts of the state worsened, we stepped out of our homes for the first time in nearly a month. We were no longer in a red zone. The shops were open. Candies were available and we were smiling again. Like life had returned into a dead body, we were seeing each other again. All possible only through quarantining. You see quarantine was always there, only we didn’t know how valuable it was in our lives.

Today quarantine has become invaluable and priceless. It is our first and perhaps most powerful step to fight off the virus and protect ourselves, our family, and the endless strangers that consciously or accidentally come into our contact. But if quarantine is so powerful why don’t we quarantine ourselves from the bad, from SIN? We must coach ourselves to quarantine from sin to keep our hearts and minds away from it.

Stay away from it. Unlike the coronavirus, the vaccine for sins is already available. All that is required is quarantining ourselves from sin. Quarantine your heart away from the bad. Remember it is your biggest weapon. The Bible says “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.” Hiding ourselves in the Lord using His protective shield and His sanctuary to cover ourselves work exactly like how we self-quarantine ourselves.

Today as you quarantine and fight off the virus, remember to coach your heart to quarantine from sins. Quarantine from the bad.

(BY Joseph Biswas)

IT’S SQUARES AND CIRCLES EVERYWHERE

During childhood, we used to play a game. We would draw squares on the floor and number them. One has to hop through the squares with single-leg following the sequence of numbers. If the other leg touches the ground, that was considered foul. The longer one can religiously stay inside the border of the square while hopping the safer it is. If the leg touches the border, that’s foul too. The score would increase each round, basically, we add up the numbers in the squares, and at the end of all the rounds whoever has the highest score wins. The game was fun and everyone wanted to outperform others.

I got reminded of this game when I was standing in one such square marked on the floor at the medical store. Similar markings in squares and rounds were made at many places all through India so that people can maintain ‘social distance’. This word became a buzz word in no time after the pandemic hit. People were too worried about maintaining distance. I witnessed an argument between two gentlemen over maintaining distance at the grocery store. One of them just requested the other to maintain distance and this lead to a heated argument. Some were following the rules religiously and some were ignoring them.

Maintaining social distance is nothing new to us, Indians. For many generations, there was a disparity between people belonging to different religions and castes. The upper caste would have the final say in everything and the lower castes were looked down upon. There were people belonging to some castes who were considered untouchable. Women during menstruation are untouchable. Eventually, we modernized and developed distances based on social class. When we are so well versed with all these, why was it difficult to maintain such a distance when the government requested it?

Because physical distancing is not the same as social distancing. When following physical distancing measures,  we are supposed to stay 6 feet away from people who do not live in the same household as we live in, which includes our friends and colleagues. We have no clue who are carrying the virus. Asymptomatic cases made this worse. The virus sees no difference in gender, religion, caste, ethnicity, or age. No matter we are rich or poor,  famous or not, celebrity or a common man, we are alike before the virus. Only as long as we maintain the distance and wear a mask, we would be able to protect ourselves.

Some news that I read in the papers really made me realize there is so much as a community we have to change. There were instances where front line workers were not allowed to their respective houses. The same happened with Air India pilots. These are the people who are putting their lives to risk so that our community stays safe. We shouldn’t distance them, that’s immoral.  There were some encouraging examples too where, in some societies, doctors were welcomed with flower showers. Tributes were paid to all the front line workers and sanitary employees. Without them, we can’t even imagine what would be our situation. I myself made a new friend – my neighbor. Her work timings and mine are different, we hardly ever saw each other’s faces before this work from home came into existence. But, this pandemic, at least made us say hello to each other at times and I cherish that.

stay-connected

There may not be group hugs, graduation walks, chit-chatting in the corridors, lunch with colleagues, or attending huge conferences in person any time sooner. Maintaining physical distance during these tough times is very important… Let’s not make this time burdensome for ourselves. Let’s wave hands, smile at each other even if we cannot hug or shake hands. Continue to have virtual meetings with family, friends, and colleagues. No matter how far we are physically, we have the same bond as before, maybe even stronger bonds have emerged. We have crossed many hurdles in life, this too shall pass.