“The Greatest pursuit is that of finding oneself.”

Millennia worth of efforts in enhancing the comfort and convenience within our households has brought us to the world of today; a world presumably ready to fight obstacles of any magnitude. Nevertheless, in our incessant attempts to improve the external, we somewhat lost track of everything that is within us. This is not a tale of fiction or a euphemistic or eulogistic account, but a brief narration of experiences of the pandemic of 2020 from my perspective.

It all began on the 14th of March, when all of a sudden, my University announced that it was shutting its classes indefinitely. Although the fear of the virus was prevalent yet it hadn’t yet materialised for any of us at a personal level. The rumour of a nationwide lockdown started making rounds, coercing those from outside Mumbai to book their tickets back to their hometowns. I did the same. Coming back to my family under such circumstances was both relieving and worrisome since their fears became mine too. The pandemic hadn’t spread to a large extent in India till then. Yet, the uncertainty was terrifying. Though, not as terrifying as the thought of isolation and loneliness.

The pace of life today has made it robotic and monotonous, all the while making that monotony inconspicuous with the veils of ambition and achievement. At the beginning of the quarantine, we all resorted to virtual socialisation trusting the tested deft of the digital. It sufficed for some time, but after a while, it started feeling unnatural to me. Virtual could be a momentary substitute for the real, but never a replacement. Soon, my online classes and courses ended too. It was then that began my actual quarantine; one filled with solitary thinking, introspection, experimentation, and the pursuit of true and unrelenting happiness.

The first few weeks were the most difficult. There were always so many things that I wished to do but couldn’t, owing to the density of my schedule. Sans the lack of time, I still didn’t. Perhaps time was merely an excuse I had always used to fuel the superficial bubble in my head of my ability. It was the primary realisation I had that my joy had become completely dependent upon diversion and distraction, which further bolstered my internal excuse and satiated my guilt. To evolve beyond that dependency was my primary goal. Then, as I had just resolved to find true happiness, something happened. I stepped out.

Mask, Gloves, Jumper, Full Sleeves, Face Shield and a bottle-full of sanitizer, and I was ready for my very first day out for grocery shopping. I trod carefully and bought everything on the list, but just as I was walking back home, my eyes fell on the roadside. A family of homeless sanitation workers was cheerfully conversing as the children played with sticks and stones. I felt an urge to walk up to them, and I did. I naturally asked them if they had eaten that day, to which the kind lady replied that a van had dropped by and had given them each a course meal. I was devastated on my way back home. I checked online and found that the biggest indirect victims of the lockdown were the migrant workers and the homeless. I called up my friends and we started investigating as to how we could contribute, even minutely, towards easing their plight and pain. We took due permissions from the authorities and started cooking, collecting, and distributing food to those in need. To serve the needy was something I had always wanted to do but had presumed that I would need a much more stable economic condition to be able to do that. I was wrong.

Another disadvantage of the lack of distractions was that escaping any kind of information or following the principle of ignorance for the preservation of one’s sanity became impossible. The news of deaths, riots, suicides, rapes, Etcetera started taking a toll on my mental health. Facing the negatives of life became real for me. I could finally address with confidence what I felt wrong about the world. I could’ve only influenced the world in any way if I had considered myself a part of it as a whole, which further required me to lend it my eyes and ears. Calling up everyone I thought I had lost touch with, texting anyone I thought I need to be in touch with, ranting about anything and everything on social media or talking it out with friends, or discussing endlessly on subjects with my parents viz. misogyny, patriarchy, the LGBTQ+ community, casteism, religion, Etcetera, I did everything I always wanted to but wasn’t able to due to my procrastination.

The unpredictability attached to the idea of following our passions and dreams, or just doing what makes us happy develops our affinity towards the mundane and the monotonous. That affinity eats away our happiness while making us feel like it is channelling it. I cooked, I cleaned, I exercised, I wrote, I sang, I composed, I talked, I expressed, I heard, I shared, I created, I consumed, yet there was nothing that I did which I didn’t want to do or hated doing. The pandemic and the subsequent quarantine taught me fear, taught me how to overcome that fear through action and not ignorance, taught me my privilege and what I can do with it, taught me to address my internal sadness and work on it, taught me to acknowledge my dreams and passions, taught me the significance of both outdoors and indoors, taught me the overlooked importance of those who silently do our routine tasks for us, taught me a plethora of cuisines and recipes to impress even the most sceptical of tongues; but most importantly, in a world where we are endlessly seeking knowledge about others, it taught me who I am.

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