12 July 2020

Social media during the Covid-19 lockdown

The only way to stay connected post the first lockdown, and social distancing, was via social media viz. whatsapp, twitter, facebook, Instagram etc.

I was trying to recall what all transpired on all these media in the past 4 months - I am on 2 family, 2 college, 2 alumni school, 3 office, 1 school (daughter's) and 1 society whatsapp groups.

School group-

>> Is the school open tomorrow? No, they declared holidays till Fri. Summer vacation begins Mon.

Family group 1-

>> Covid-19 spread from China because someone ate an infected bat. This had been known years ago, even a Hollywood movie was made about it!

Family group 2 -

>> Importance of sanitizers, soap, hand washing, masks

Family group 3 -

>> Video of car exploding because the driver sanitized hands with sanitizer before starting the ignition

>> Salt water gargling, steam, tulsi tea, neti, Coronil, Arsenic album, Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir, Becozinc, Vitamin C, garlic, ginger, turmeric for immunity boosting

Office group - 

>> This is all planned as a bio-war by China. They want to kill the US economy. Is there a WFH for us? How long is it for?

>> Business continuity planning(BCP), crisis management team (CMT) established

>> They should continue with the board exams, its so unfair, kids have been studying all year

Friend group -

>> US and UK friends have seen the peak already. Full of advice for their India friends. Videos of folks stranded outside India on how they are surviving

Society group -

>> Instructions for lockdown, do not go out without masks. Instructions for milk, paper distribution, parcel receipt, vegetable vendor availability etc.

>> I am ordering mangoes in bulk, let me know who all wants to order. The person is a friend, hygiene is taken care of

 >> Are you paying the maids?

Twitter - 

>> Discussions on how the disease spread in all the countries. How lax US, UK and Italy were in containing it and how well China curbed it.

>> How irresponsible of the MP, and Kanika, to attend/host parties after traveling back from abroad? They managed to infect so many?

>> How irresponsible to assemble in large numbers at mosques, churches, temples? Close down all the religious places

>> Modiji addressed the nation so well. Felt so good to complete the pay-tribute-to-doctors and light-a-candle  tasks. The day and time was chosen inline with astrology too. We are in safe hands.

Facebook - 

>> Dalgona Coffee, Sari challenge, travel pic challenge, recipe challenge,

>> Books, Netflix, Doordarshan recommendations, discussions, reviews

>> How to do eyebrows at home, easy haircut and coloring


>> Pics of self made food, kitchen garden, nostalgic travel, family pics, sky, rains, scenery captured from behind closed doors


>> Online classes to begin from Mon, Have you installed MS Teams? How do I login?

>> Puzzles, games, apps

>> Mango van stopped due to intercity commute blockage. Mangoes delayed by a week.

>> Containment zones, color coding of areas, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad are the worst! How are you guys coping? We are leaving for our hometowns - you take care

>> Online classes for yoga, meditation, kathak, bharat natyam, chess, music, drawing, sketching, Japanese, coding

>> YouTube recipe channels by friends, family and sundry acquaintances

>> Are you still paying the maids?

>> Please do not chat in private groups, kids!

>> How to sanitize groceries, parcels, clothes

>> Anyone have a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle?

>> Lets meet on Zoom over the weekend. Please ensure that elders are on video too.

>> How do I set up PayTm, G-Pay, mobile banking on my phone?

>> Watch parties - storytelling, music, talent, yoga, spiritual talks

>> Are you still paying the maids? 

>> Endless webinars on reviving economy, upskilling in latest skills, emotional well being

>> Baking a cake is a MUST else pandemic will not end

>> Brooms, mops, vacuum cleaners, robotic cleaners, dishwashers in demand

>> No newspapers, no maids/drivers, no sweepers allowed. You have to dump your trash at the pre-destined location, collect milk at the main gate

>> WFH extended by another month. Oh, I miss my office, when can I go to office? I miss my office chair

>> I miss the school and my classmates. Its hard to follow what the teacher is saying, many times someone mutes her

>> Did the Italians go through all this too ? Boy, did the Americans mess up big time.

>> I am ordering fruits, vegetables, grocery boxes, dairy and bakery items. Interested folks, please DM me.

>> Unlock 1 : Let the maids, sweepers come. We cannot cope anymore. We want to order food.

>> Will the schools be reducing fee for this year? Transportation, facilities and cafeteria fees should be pardoned for sure. 

>> Lets install sanitization booths, temperature guns and enforce masks. Let us restrict visitors though.

>> I am having network issues, ma'am. Can you repeat?

>> Travel passes between cities, OTP for visitors

>> Elaborate sketches, coloring, photography - what art!

>> xyz maid was not wearing mask today. Please ensure your maids wear masks.

>> WFH extended one more time. Horrible pain in neck and back.

>> Those poor migrant workers. The government should have thought about them

>> Cyclones, floods, locusts

>> How to recognize early symptoms?

>> George Floyd, racism, black lives matter

>> Power cut at my place, cannot come online

>> Anyone needs anything from Nature's basket? I am stopping by today.

>> Are you happy with these online classes? I am not too sure. 

>> Are you allowing your maid to knead the dough? I do it myself and when she is in kitchen, all of us withdraw into the bedroom

>> Riots everywhere, film stars dying or committing suicide, celebrities testing Covid-19 positive

>> Nature is thriving, dolphins observed in Venice lake, flamingoes in Navi Mumbai, wild animals take to the deserted roads in North India

>> Cases are rising, these police and politicians are corrupt

>> Real numbers of Covid test not being revealed.

>> Flights and trains are running, people are traveling, parlors are open finally

>> Migrant workers are the reason the disease is spreading everywhere.

>> How to make attractive yet practical masks?

>> Mental health awareness, clinical depression, are you talking to your loved ones often?

>> Work, work, work

>> Started home catering business. Here is the brochure, taking orders from tomorrow

>> Bored, bored, bored

>> Started counseling from home. Call me for any issues you have

>> We have all sinned, collective karma caught up. Pray, pray, pray

>> Eat, eat, eat

>> Our next door neighbor tested +ve. Oh is it? Lets not go out into the lobby.

>> So many died of Covid - it will happen to all of us one day.

>> Lets ban all Chinese goods, delete Chinese apps and stop eating Chinese food

>> Silence, silence, silence; ignore, ignore, delete.

And so it goes on. Life continues on its roller coaster, uncertain path.

10 May 2020

Lockdown Diaries

On completion of 2 whole months of lockdown and WFH in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought of penning my thoughts.

Social media has been rife with latest updates on the pandemic, the political situation, the categorization of various zones and what it entails, how certain sects are violating the norms of social distancing more than others, patriotism in the form of completing tasks given by our PM, nature mending itself due to this unexpected respite, cooking, cleaning, self-grooming, fitness, learning, spiritualism, psychoanalysis are the new hot skills etc.

Initially, there was a lot of struggle to manage so many tasks on our own. We have been so used to domestic help in India that those who have never undertaken any household duties were caught napping. As people gradually settled into their new normal, there was more focus on where the next meal on the table would come from. Some lucky households had the inhabitants doing the chores in a round robin fashion or distributed them. Whereas other households still struggled with traditional “roles” for each member. The person who was working from home was always “working” whereas the others picked up the backlog at home. If only the working person had focused more on helping the other members, there would have been much more balance all around.

Managing children at home was another herculean task. Most parents felt that the kids needed to be engaged all the time with meaningful activities and enrolled them in various online activities. Personally, I felt they should be involved in the domestic activities and taught life skills which some of us adults had never picked up. This is a disrupting phase in all our lives, and the children need to learn to cope with it in their own way – not in the way we want them to. Schools struggled to get their systems ready for online classes, at least in India. But soon many gaps came to the fore as they found that the children were distracted by the new-found access to digital collaboration tools.

Zoom & other video conferencing tools, FB watch parties, WhatsApp video calls, all became a rage with even the non-IT folks. However, all soon realized that there is not much to share in these meetings – after all how long can one talk about what they cooked today, what kind of family drama unfolded and which workout they followed. Each day is merging into another with such monotony that there is not much to share with others anymore. After having exhausted all means of such distraction in absence of pubs, malls, travel, or eating out, hopefully people will finally turn within themselves to find solace. The only place that is agog with activity is one’s inner world. There is so much introspection, observation, epiphany happening there – if only people will take the time to do it. It has the power to not only build our immunity but make us stronger to face the obvious repercussions of this extended lockdown and history-changing events. All this thinking is also very disturbing and one should step past the inevitable regrets, guilt, depression, or suicidal thoughts. The real metamorphosis is not of the nature, or the economy, or human relations – the real evolution happening is that of the Human Being. This evolution will definitely entail writing new rules for civilization, relationships, work, economy, etc.

Trying to apply all that worked before COVID-19 (e.g. taxes) is a fruitless move – need to anticipate the changing dynamics in every aspect. Maybe family members are colleagues now and colleagues are family? Time to rethink all that we have accepted as the immutable facts till now.

03 May 2020

Thappad - a movie review

Watched the movie 'Thappad' today. An extremely well-directed film by Anubhav Sinha. The casting is impressive and each one gave a solid performance.

The story, as the title suggests, is about a slap - from a husband (Pavail Gulati) to his wife (Taapsee Pannu) at a party in front of a roomful of shocked guests. The build up of the characters before this scene is commendable - Taapsee's parents, (Kumud Mishra and Ratna Pathak Shah), her brother and his lawyer love (Maya Sarao, who is a married woman), her maid and her abusive husband, her single mother neighbour (Diya Mirza) and her diabetic mother-in-law (Tanvi Azmi).

The slap changes the dynamics between all the characters and acts as a mirror for many relationships (not just the protagonist's). One would think that the women would be most supportive of the suffering, slapped wife - but it is her father, and her brother's fiancee, who support her wholeheartedly in her decision to divorce her husband.

The film questions the mute acceptance of the sacrifices expected (even demanded) of women to run well-oiled households for their husbands and other family members. These sacrifices are many times demanded by their own elders, especially mothers and mothers-in-law.

Loved the clarity in the protagonist's thoughts - it was just a slap, the first one ever in her marriage, but it brought to light all the inequalities in the institution of marriage to her. And she has no intention of continuing with it. Her own lawyer tries to talk her out of it citing that its not enough grounds for a divorce; the legal battle could get messy and unethical. But Taapsee sticks to her guns and says she would still fight ethically. The title of the film is testament to this simplicity of thought.

The end is sweet but not the typical finding-the-middle-ground conclusion.
A must watch film.

22 April 2020

The COVID-19 saga - a poem

Sprinting, as we were, in the rat race;
Life suddenly came to a grinding halt. 
No more commute, no more traffic;
WFH and online classes we now exalt.

Malls are shut, cinema halls are empty,

Unique drama and entertainment in every home!
Restaurants are closed, travel is taboo,
From hall to kitchen to bedroom we now roam.

Pace of life has slowed,

Yet days are fuller than before,
Work and colleagues are not the only focus,
Family cannot be ignored anymore.

As businesses and economies plummet,

Nature is mending and thriving.
Flight or fright being the usual options,
To escape fear, within self, folks are diving.

The more things change, more they remain the same. 

The rich are managing, the poor continue to suffer;
Medicos and researchers are the new soldiers,
Media and politics still make the common man a duffer.

Soap and masks are the new weapons.

Home is the new war front.
Human beings are social animals,
Yet socializing has taken the brunt.

Gyms and parlors once in high demand,

Bow now before yoga and self grooming.
Diet, exercise, meditation and moderation,
Wisdom and spiritualism are finally blooming!

No forecast warned nor any vaccine found,

Both science and astrology stand defeated.
Karma of the entire civilization caught up,
A new era in history is being created.

A reboot of the world in progress,

The earth is replenishing for a better life.
While quality of life may go up,
Humans and humanity may bear the knife.


06 March 2020

Gender equality - a mirage?

With International Women’s day around the corner, I wanted to pen something on the topic.

Saw the hindi movie – Good Newzz, today. Other than being desired, being a mother, is the second most coveted dream of almost every woman. The 'almost' is for the latter – I understand it is changing rapidly in recent times. The movie highlights the contemporary struggle with fertility issues for many couples – the endless visits to gynecologists, innumerable tests and treatments, countless pilgrimages, eternal questions and advice of elders and the repeatedly dashed hopes despite it all, not to mention the financial commitment. A married woman, who is not a mother, was not regarded well and did not get invited to certain events, until recently. It’s a very disturbing experience for the woman. Things are fast changing, though, especially with growing nuclear families.

The entire process puts tremendous pressure on the couple, especially the woman. The quest of motherhood is even more challenging than motherhood itself and often unacknowledged. About motherhood, a lot has been said so will refrain from my own emotions on the same. It brings so much transformation in the woman’s life and it takes almost 6-7 years for her to be able to focus on herself again. If the woman is working, it puts added stress on her.

A woman goes through so many stages and transformation throughout her life. From a carefree student, to responsible sibling, to wife, daughter-in-law and mother. The working woman has the additional hat of her career to carry. Some undocumented roles are cook, nutritionist, housekeeper, teacher, keeper of child’s and husband’s social calendar, event planner and sometimes fashion designer. God help the mother, if the child is a special child or requires special care and attention. One can have as much help as one can afford in terms of nanny, cook, etc. but it only helps to a limited extent. The decision making, and relationship building (with the help), still remains with the mother.

Most of the inspiring stories one hears about women who reached the top of their careers through sheer hard work, sleepless nights, many sacrifices, are stories of extraordinary resilience and grit. In the normal course, its simply not possible. And that is the “equality” that women seek. It should not require heroic effort or compromise; it should be an easy choice – like it is for the men. I am frankly not sure if it can ever be achieved seeing how nature designed the genders and considering the skewed balance between the burden placed by society on men and women.

When facts cannot be changed, it is better to adjust one’s mindset and expectations to maintain sanity. At least that is the way I’ve lived my life. Do only what is doable in terms of physical and emotional health, general competence and appetite for multi-tasking. Also, always be clear on what you want, instead of what others expect. Let that be your guiding north star. Then you will never go wrong. Ever noticed, when you travel by a cab, bus or in someone’s car, the first few minutes will tell you if you can trust the driver. If you do, you sleep well during the travel. Similarly, when your family, and your employer too, notice that you can handle multiple things well, eventually they do become your strongest allies in the pursuit of your dreams. But if they see you struggling, they will constantly ask you to give up something, course correct, to achieve balance. Their “judgement” may seem unfair, but they are trying to support in their own way.

What does “being” a woman mean? Oh, its no different than being a man. Both want to be able to lead their lives with free will, respect and pursue their dreams. Both are just wired differently for this and hence the gender “war”.

A child trains one by crying at various needs and one eventually learns to interpret them in context without the child ever uttering a word. Similarly, women need to train the people around them (especially spouses, colleagues, etc.) to listen to their needs and work with them to achieve their goals. This can be done without loud “feminism” too.

So, women, do live your lives to the fullest. Have fun, make memories, pamper yourselves during the rollercoaster ride. Do not get into the game of “becoming inspirations”. Just be yourself.

08 February 2020

Kindness is the biggest worship

When Anu was 6-7 years old, and I used to go through her class work during PTMs, I noticed that she always described me(her mother) as kind. I used to think that was because her spelling prowess extended to 4-letter words only and this was the shortest attribute she could think for me. Words like intelligent, hard-working, honest were something I expected to see but they never came up.

On questioning her, I realized that kindness was the highest attribute in her book. If a person was not "kind" (polite, not criticizing or belittling her, respecting her boundaries, accepting of her flaws) then he/she never made it to her favorite list.

For most of my childhood and adulthood I set a lot of store by qualities of intelligence, honesty, humility, courage and confidence. I used to admire people with these qualities a lot. But my daughter taught me that kindness is the most important one to have. If you have all others but not basic kindness then you still have a lot of work to be done on yourself.

Most people start out being kind, but life, and its bitter experiences, slowly turn them apathetic, if not downright cruel. Indeed, maintaining kindness in face of the betrayal, judgements, emotional and verbal abuse via our family, friends, colleagues, neighbors etc. takes a lot of resilience and fortitude. One needs to constantly work on self.

Recently, some family members refused to visit another member who had just lost a spouse to a long drawn out battle with cancer. The reason cited was that the family member had not been so nice to her mother many years ago. Then there are others who boycott family members due to non-conformance. But no matter what the person's sin, isn't that person deserving of basic humanity and goodwill? It is only when one is down and out that one craves the milk of human kindness. If one deprives such a person of that, isn't one breaking the basic laws of karma and sentencing oneself to angst through continued lives?

People do so many poojas, visit temples far and wide, memorize and chant all sorts of mantra and prayers but how can they forget the basic law of karma? It says be kind to everyone, including yourself, irrespective of your past deeds/thoughts. What goes around comes around - so if you harbor bad thoughts about someone they will come back to haunt you and make your life miserable one day. Even if you never voice those thoughts, or act on them, the object of your thoughts will feel the vibes from you. And when you hurt someone who is down and out, the curses that are wrung from their soul, will trap you into the karmic cycle afresh. Why then do such 'evolved' people persist in such naivety? What is the way to break out of the vicious cycle of karma?

The answer lies is constant self-introspection. In being in the moment, and not letting past memories interfere with current action. In always putting the person, instead of their actions, in perspective. Being kind is indeed the highest virtue and best worship one can offer God. Financial debt is not the one to worry about always, need to make time for one's spiritual debts too. 

26 December 2019

Senior citizen groups - engaging the elderly!

My mother is the member of "Association of senior citizens", in her area, for past 7 years now.  She had retired from government job at the time and recently moved to Pune to help with the caretaking of her grandchildren alongwith my father. Though she had joined this group while my father was still around, she is benefiting most since he passed away (4 years ago). Loneliness and depression are the bane of old age, and losing a spouse, hence this has been a godsend for her.

She has been regaling me with some of the events that keep happening through this association off late. I am so impressed by what this is doing for the senior citizens of our society that I felt impelled to put pen to paper.

1. Monthly talk by External speakers; below topics were covered so far-
  • Audio/video talk on Antartica expedition,
  • Birdwatching as a hobby
  • Lecture about celebrated Marathi authors
  • How to create comedy
  • Dialects of different regions of Maharashtra
  • Info about how to use smartphones
  • Lectures by doctors/alternate therapy practitioners on various topics
  • Info about insurance policies etc.
  • Talks by retired army officers 

2. Activities-
  • Yoga
  • Navaratri garba
  • Sangeet sangha – sings songs as per occasion / festival
  • Saahitya premi mandal – discussion on literature
  • Monthly booklet published with contributions from members (sponsored by local merchants, sponsorship solicitation is another activity that generates the required budget for outings etc.)
  • Affiliation with some local schools – teach shlok, spiritual lessons, monetary help to deserving students etc.
  • Conduct programs where members’ grandchildren get to showcase their talent!
  • Felicitation of milestone birthday or anniversaries of members. (felicitating with flowers, small gift like a book etc.)
  • Outing – day trip as well as overnight
  • Plays and musical events at local theatres

3. Annual competitive games; generally conducted in Dec-
  • Essay / poem writing
  • Elocution contest
  • General knowledge quiz
  • Drawing and coloring
  • Throw ball into a bucket
  • Carrom
  • Chess
  • Playing cards – bridge
  • Speed walking
  • Surya-namaskar

    All the above is in the local language - marathi. My mother has definitely improved in her confidence and social skills due to this. She used to be a highly introverted person, but am proud to see her taking decisions independently and lead a fulfilled life sans the unnecessary travel and shopping frenzy. The overall increase in general knowledge, awareness of new fields, and friendships created out of these, is something she loves. As you grow older, its harder to make friends, but these kind of associations do help find some companions, however temporary. She is able to converse knowledgeably with her children as well as grandchildren, work with gadgets, book a cab on phone etc. Of course, not all the credit goes to the organization only - some is due to my mother too for her gloriously curious nature and hunger for absorbing new concepts!

    Thank God for such institutions that keep our elderly engaged, and active, post retirement and/or completion of family duties! Let us do all we can to help them in whatever way we can.
Image result for old people india

Social media during the Covid-19 lockdown

The only way to stay connected post the first lockdown, and social distancing, was via social media viz. whatsapp, twitter, facebook, Insta...