WORK FROM HOME – A LUXURY OR AN AUSTERITY?

Ever since the lockdown began, things seemed a little upsetting. For me, it was just a complete stop to the new beginning of my office going. as I was just getting used to the environment at work almost after 10years of being at home. But again work was normal to me as I have been freelancing for a while but going to the office and being with my colleagues was a fun time. Thanks to the lord that i am always surrounded by happy people who keep me at joy.

But again, Everything is a blessing in disguise.

Lockdown and back to work from home did have lots of pros for me as a mom, and a woman as such. There were those times when I hardly took care of myself and every day was a marathon for me. And indeed the new job thing was also taking up my time with my kids, family and my besties. Now with my travel time saved, I kind of profited extra time which I surely get to use in plenty.

I also started working out much more and also took time to be with my kids. Things never seemed to be complex amidst work and life balance for me. Even though at times I do feel exhausted and lost (obvious mood swings), I still feel this is PERFECT!!.

I started to focus on my writing and even reading too. I helped my children to get to read more and also enjoyed my “Me-time” as well as my “buddy-time” which was almost negligible then.

There are also things which are not in our control like work-wise the expectations lay more specific as we have no excuses to make or run away from work. But again, here I feel blessed as my work is my passion, hence it never took my mind off.

Everything seemed to change, but some things never changed, like;

  • everyone around me asking for one more dosa, when I am in a hurry to finish my kitchen work and get to work,
  • asking for attention, when I am lost in work…
  • asking for specials to cook, when I am exhausted…
  • asking for an extra walk, when my legs are aching to take a break…
  • asking for the long story at bedtime, when I am in love with the bed, who is cozily rolling me into sleep.
  • the alarm that goes beeping, when these winter nights are for sleeping.
  • the morning rush, even when I am on a holiday, as others are not…

I know these things will never change, even if its work from home or not. All I need to change is my attitude towards it.

And all will look PERFECT as I wished for.

NEW NORMAL, GO AWAY!

‘Lockdown for 21 days’- many generations witnessed it for the first time in their lives, perplexed and scared, we all waited, unaware of what was going to happen next.  As COVID started spreading its tentacles, lockdown increased. We felt blessed to be at home, safe and together with family and started to spend the time by playing games, making video calls, finish the pending movies and series on our watchlist and experimenting with many new recipes.

As we were adapting to the new changes in our routine, work from home was declared for majority and online classes were started too. Offices and schools were managed and executed from the very comfort of our homes. Initially, we all were happy that work and learning would continue, but for this long, we never thought or imagined. Every month we kept on expecting a miracle for COVID to get vanish, but the cases increased.

I am sure many homemakers, like me, must be dead tired by now. In the pre-covid times, we used to have our ‘me time’, but not anymore. After my husband left for work and kids went to school, I had a lot of free time, but now I crave to get 15 minutes during the day. With offices and schools entering our homes, the meaning of ‘home’ seems to get faded somewhere. Earlier after coming back to home, we used to relax, but now we want to get out of the house. Sanitizing the groceries, managing online classes, the skewed meal times due to anytime office calls, the hushing up of kids during meetings, looking for a new game for kids every other day, etc., etc. We homemakers are really frustrated right now, at least, I am!    

I really had enough now and I don’t like this ‘new normal’ anymore. I long for the pre-covid times when everyone could walk out of the house without any worry. My kids also want to go to their school and meet their friends. We want to travel places, but not with our masks on and botheration to sanitize everything around us.

The ‘new normal’ taught us many things like proper utilization of resources, restricting impulsive buying, enjoying in tough times and a lot more. We have learnt our lesson and hope the ‘old normal’ returns soon!

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.