One year!

It was exactly a year ago from today when I rushed in to my workplace and informed my boss that I will have to work from home for the next couple of days. At around 9:30 PM the night before, we had got notified that my daughter’s school would be closed for the next 2 days. It was the first school to close actually, because of a Corona virus case found in the school district. The boss wasn’t very happy about letting me “WFH”, but nobody really had a choice there because I couldn’t keep my daughter alone at home; so he relented. Little did we know, that not only would her school remain closed, but that all the other schools also would close the next week and within 10 days, a shelter-in-place order would be issued in the state preventing anyone from going inside an office!

And that was the last time I saw the face of my office! It’s been a year since then, and what a flabbergasting year it’s been! To keep a record of the madness that ensued, I thought I should write a post about it, even though I won’t be able to describe everything that happened during this time within the space of this post…

The whole saga began rather skeptically, actually. By this time last year, we had been hearing about the novel corona virus in little bits and pieces of news for almost two months. No one however knew what to expect. Even after schools closed, we had hoped it would go away quickly, we had a couple of social events too. Then, as March came to an end, the cases began skyrocketing, and that was when the actual isolation began and the panic it created was hysterical. There were SO MANY RUMORS! People began hoarding groceries and toilet paper, investing in air purifiers, relearning how to wash/sanitize hands… The last part was actually the most ridiculous! As a partial germaphobe and control freak, I am constantly washing my hands or applying hand sanitizer – it goes with me everywhere- and I always have ample stock of clorox and other disinfectants too! So I was like, come on people, this is basic stuff! Yes, we need to be more careful now, but we should have always been practicing basic hygiene! And don’t even get me started on the hysteria about going outdoors. Mixing with people is one thing, I was actually super-glad that I didn’t have to go into crowds and could stay far away from people, but some people were actually not stepping out of the house for the fear that someone with COVID might have walked and spread their germs in the air! <major eyeroll> Paranoia and shaming were at new heights!

By then, schools had begun figuring out how to deliver online lessons. And the couple of months left in my daughter’s Kindergarten year passed soon. They hardly taught them anything even with the new streams of tools such as i-Ready, RazKids, and so on; but we kind of expected that. After a few weeks, her extracurricular classes, i.e. Taekwondo and Bharatnatyam also began over Zoom. Then it was summer vacations, and since cases only multiplied, the next school year also began virtually, and we got to know how little the kids are taught in school.

Online work, on the other hand, was the best! There was no pressure of leaving the office on time to pick up my daughter, ironing clothes, packing lunches and snacks, driving through traffic and snow, etc. etc. Even late nights at work were much more comfy from home! So much that I began dreading the return to office whenever that would be. Well, I still am, even though it’s been a whole year.

However, we were set to miss a lot of trips and activities over the summer, and we were horrified at that (lack of) prospect. I may be far (really really far) from being a fitness enthusiast, but I love going on trips and long drives and treks and hikes and walks and bike rides!. My husband and I are very outdoorsy people; in fact he and I first bonded over our shared love for treks (we had been just acquaintances for 3 years by that point), but I digress as usual. Our daughter too is a highly enthusiastic person, and needed to burn off all that extra energy lest she unleash it on us! Hence, our dear old Stony Creek Metropark was our biggest savior! That’s a 4000 acres park about 20 minutes of a drive from my house, and we used to go there frequently before the pandemic – but “frequently” took a whole new meaning during it. Almost every other day, we started going on walks there, away from people, on obscure trails, early in the mornings. We had been going to that park for years, but we discovered so many new vistas and hilly trails and unpaved jungle trails there! We bought bikes and rode on their beautiful bike paths. (There was a bike shortage at that point, because international travel was suspended and China was the source of the virus – and of course they were also the source of all kinds of raw materials and assembled parts, including those for bicycles – so it took us a couple of months of hustle to get all 3 bikes). We played games in the open fields and took occasional picnics – all of this away from people and civilization, and it was amazing! There were also other trails and parks we explored, and had a great time.

If Stony Creek was the highlight of our outdoors adventures during the pandemic, another Creek was the highlight of our indoor time – a TV show called Schitt’s Creek! The number of movies and TV shows we watched soared dramatically during the pandemic – we even had a wonderful, wonderful book and film discussion group that met online every weekend- but we were obsessed with Schitt’s Creek! That show put me in a never-before funk, where I was actually heartbroken over the series ending. And mind you, I have been obsessed with plenty of shows before, including some like Marie Kondo’s, so there’s hardly any emotional depth there, but whether it was the loneliness brought upon by the pandemic (even though I am not a very social person – it’s the free time that makes you notice your loneliness?), or that my husband and I blew through the entire 80 episodes in a span of 2 weeks and bore its full onslaught suddenly, but this show affected me like nothing before! I have to say that it is among my top 5 favorite TV shows of all times and probably second only to F.R.I.E.N.D.S. It is amazingly written, with actual laugh out loud moments, but also features very kind and good people at the heart of very eccentric and sometimes mean personalities (I am looking at you, David. Also, I totally love you, David!!!). Never has a hoity-toity character been combined with such endearing vulnerability on TV – and Dan Levy (who is also the creator, producer, writer, and director of show) has portrayed it with so much sincerity and tongue-in-cheek wit, it is unbelievable!

Thankfully, all this idiot-boxing didn’t deter me from my original true love – reading! I read so many books during this year, and you can read all about them on my Goodreads page!

The pandemic also made us cook a lot more, especially in the initial months (although I must admit, we could barely resist ordering outside food for a month!), and we experimented SO MUCH! From Shakshuka to Dalgona coffee to Chicken roulade, and traditional Maharashtrian fare we had never cooked before, we had the Masterchef tournament at home coupled with the Great British Baking Show. My husband especially honed his skills and how! I mean he was always a good cook, but the extra time in the pandemic saw him try his hand and excel at so many dishes!

While all this sounds great, and believe me, in a way it was – I was quite happy to be away from people (yes, unsocial much) – but on a general social level, this has been a terrible year; more than 2 million people have died, so many more have lost their loved ones, people have been displaced, lonely, worried and whatnot! My heart goes out to them, and because of their sorrow, I have to remember to be grateful that I have had a relatively good year, and to recognize my privilege for getting to work comfortably from my house, to be able to see my daughter learn and grow (and also annoy and slack) – when else would I have gotten that opportunity and time? This time also taught to not take anything for granted – including the behavior of people in response to a major crisis. When the pandemic began, everyone stayed home, the air was cleaner, the water was purer, people were considerate towards each other; and those with minds not as cynical as mine announced that this will continue. It didn’t. Human beings were soon back to creating a mess of the one planet we have access to. In fact, in my opinion, everyone behaved exactly the same way they would when there wasn’t a pandemic. People who are homebodies stayed homebodies, people who go out went out, people who were generally cautious stayed cautious, people who were paranoid and idiotic stayed the same, too!

So that was my year of the pandemic. I don’t know what this next year will bring, but hopefully, it will be less heartbreaking and earth-wrecking and everything in between!