‘Eager To Get The Vaccine & Reboot My Roster’

Nita Balmohan Rajesh (37), a Bengaluru-based HR professional, is hoping the age-bar for getting Covid vaccine to be lowered so she could safely step out of the virtual, closed-door world

My eight year old has a complaint: “It’s been 13 months sitting at home, Amma.”

My ten year old daughter chimes in: “It’s been the worst year ever, would you agree Amma?”

“Are you saying we can’t visit our cousins even this summer?” they both ask grumpily.

This is the new-found 2020 mode for my children: Sulk, even cry over the smallest of issues, yell at the sibling, take 45-50 minutes to finish a meal, and the worst, sneak more time on their personal laptops. Gone are the care-free days of playing in the park undeterred, getting a time-out for “pushing” a friend. “There are no friends in the park; who should we play with?” they complain and grudge about restricted hours for using iPads.

My husband, Rajesh, and I do feel guilty of this at times. Indeed, that one hour of screen time that we allow our children due to office engagements never ends as scheduled. “Another five mins please…”

Nita’s misses outings with family

How you wish to travel back in time to pre-March 2020! You woke up, readied the household for school and work, and went to office in person. What a feeling it now seems! Eight hours in a world away from the home. You actually MET people! You hugged some of them and shook hands with many of them. You solved business issues face-to-face and you could understand their speech coherently without the masks getting in the way.

You could see the entire human expression, the twitch in their lips when they disagreed; the eye roll when someone said something disagreeable; the nose turning slightly red when upset or angry. You didn’t have to plead them to turn on the video, or increase the volume. “Hello, can you hear me?” You were certain they heard you clear. You looked forward when the clock struck the hour to be back home. You enjoyed your favorite songs on the radio while cursing the reckless drivers on the road.

ALSO READ: ‘A Year Of Pandemic: Setback & Fightback’

You then came home looking forward to solve world peace-level problems. “Amma, Lalith wouldn’t speak to me today. He’s being best friends with Aditya. What do you think I should do?” Or “Amma, my skates don’t fit me anymore. How will I attend my skating classes tomorrow?” Just reminiscing those episodes brings a huge smile. No wonder we were physically healthier and mentally ‘less depressed’.

You didn’t have the luxury of snoozing your alarms, getting into conference calls un-showered or moving the breakfast hour. There was a purpose you woke up with to complete the 101 to-dos! You looked forward to your work-travel and then the vacation you did take.

Nita with her colleagues

The three things I miss a lot is the feeling of being in an aircraft, in a real office and dropping the kids in their school bus. Is there something wrong with me, I confessed to a friend, and we both laughed.

And the age-limit on being eligible for a vaccine certainly doesn’t make any of this remotely happen anytime soon. I do understand the demand-supply situation and completely support the fact that the older folks are at increased risk and should be prioritized. I am certain millions of us will be willing to pay a retail price to procure these vaccines and move on to our “normal” lives. Hope the 30-something aren’t asking for too much! Are we?

As Told To Mamta Sharma

‘Work, Studies, Business… All Suffered From Internet Ban’

Noushad Saifi, 34, a social activist, says by suspending internet services near farmers’ protests sites, the government caused untold miseries on local residents as well as peaceful protesters

Roti, kapda, makan and the internet! In the current times, especially in the post-pandemic world, the internet has become some sort of a lifeline, a basic right of people. Many people’s livelihoods and education depend on the smooth and efficient functioning of the internet. Thus suspension of internet services near farmers protest sites by the government was a body blow for local residents.

One can understand an internet ban during riots, to check mindless violence, to keep miscreants or anti-social elements from spreading fake news. But to ban the internet during a peaceful protest is uncalled for. This is brutal suppression of democratic dissent.

We are a family of eight staying together: my parents, my wife, my two children and I. We also have a nephew and a niece staying with us because they wanted access to better education opportunities available in Delhi-NCR. One of them is in Class 10, another in Class 12, both Board Exam candidates and for them each day is crucial. Their studies suffered when the internet was banned twice in our locality recently.

ALSO READ: ‘Studies, Protest Both Important For My Future’

Students have anyway had a difficult year because of the pandemic and classes shifting to online mode. This is the year when they need support the most. We can’t afford them getting anxious about their future. I just hope their exams go off smoothly.

Saifi (inset) says people in his locality in Loni, UP, were badly hit by internet ban

If the internet spreads fake news, then it is also the most potent tool to counter disinformation. The day after the Republic Day violence in Delhi, our local representative tried to distance himself from the farmers protest. He said he never supported Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait. But locals circulated videos and photographs of him being present with Tikait that very day. Thus the internet ensured that the public can’t be taken for a ride anymore. They are not dependent on media to get the correct picture, for they can get it themselves and report it.

I have been taking part in the farmer protests from the beginning and I believe banning the internet leaves many people feeling unsafe and anxious. Many people draw courage to go to these protests because they feel connected and know that they can call or message their friends anytime if they find they are lost in a sea of people.

ALSO READ: ‘Rihana-Greta Amplified Voice Of Farmers’

Moreover, even though farmer protests is in the forefront, the shadow of coronavirus still looms large. I have nearly 200 groups on my WhatsApp where we coordinate together to provide help and support to people around us and even in remote areas. On the days when internet services were suspended, we were unable to help or reach out to people.

Even though the lockdown has ended, many professionals are still working from home. These men and women could not attend office when the internet was down.

Modiji encouraged everyone to go cashless and opt for online modes of payment post-demonetisation, but by banning the internet, the government has backtracked on its own promise. If a vendor cannot make an online payment in time due to internet ban, they will switch back to traditional mode of transactions. The government should keep all these factors in mind before taking any such drastic step.

‘Work From Home Is Tougher Than Office Routine’

Anamika Taneja, 31, a Public Relations professional, says work becomes strenuous when there is erratic Internet, no team-talk, and furniture not designed for long hours of sitting

The grass is always greener on the other side. When our generation was working in offices after a long commute, we craved for the comforts of home. And now when we have been working from our homes, we miss the many things in office that used to make our work easy but we took them for granted; the biggest being uninterrupted internet and power supply. The pandemic is perhaps teaching us to value what we have – water the grass and turn it green wherever we are.

Frankly, when the lockdown started most of us had thought Work From Home would be a breeze. I work with a trade industry association. We thought we would have so much time because no long commutes, and we would be all fresh before starting work because we weren’t packed like sardines in the metro or there was no frustration that comes with traffic jams.

Taneja feels her workload has increased manifold

But the time we earlier spent in commuting is now being spent in cleaning, sweeping & mopping, cooking before work. Earlier, I had a maid and a cook, but the lockdown meant no one could come in. Mercifully, my husband has been of tremendous help. He helps with household chores but because of Coronavirus the workload at home has also increased for him also a lot.

ALSO READ: ‘Some Work From Home, I Workout From Home’

In office, if we had a small query we could just walk up to other teams and get the answers, but now for everything we have to pick the phone. Sometimes there is no network, sometimes there isn’t enough charge in the phone and laptop because of long power cuts, sometimes the other person has network issues or is busy with another call. So the same work which earlier took say five minutes now takes 15. The internet connection is not as good at homes as it is in offices. That also makes work take longer to complete.

Time whizzes past so quickly that I am left wondering where my day went. On most days I have been sleeping around 3 am. Thankfully, my boss has been supportive. There is a new term for when you don’t know what day of the week it is because all days feel the same while you Work From Home: it’s called blursday or whensday.

Taneja misses friendly office banter

Another thing that I realised is that, in office all the furniture were ergonomically designed for work purpose. But working at home, at leisurely seating, the back pain has become a major issue. We had to go buy new furniture and clear out a portion of our house to be used as workspace. We also take out time for doing mild workouts during breaks.

ALSO READ: ‘Online Yoga Helped Keep Calm In Lockdown’

The times are unprecedented and uncertain and even the industry leaders are learning new things and adjusting every day. There’s a lot to learn these days. Many websites are offering free industry certification courses during the lockdown, which are otherwise super expensive and thus I finished four such courses in the past three months.

Since we all have been working alone from our homes, we miss the friendly banter and the motivation that colleagues provide to one another. We no longer take a break, which I realise is an important part of re-energizing. The only break at home from work is spent in chores like cleaning or cooking.

I hope the pandemic ends soon and we get to have a little hold over time again. In the pre-pandemic world even the stress was structured, now everything has become fluid and the industry and both national and global economy are coming to terms with it.

‘Some Work From Home, I Workout From Home’

Pranjali Bhu, 29, a Jaipur-based Zumba instructor, did not stop sweating even when all fitness centres had to close down due to Covid-19 pandemic. Her story

I was always inclined towards dancing since childhood; I even hold a degree in Kathak. But Zumba caught my attention seven years back, in 2013, when I was overweight and was trying every possible workout. For me, Zumba worked wonders as I shed 20 kg. This played a key role in finding my sweet spot in Zumba. I got training and then got myself licensed to become a professional Zumba instructor.

I am licensed multiple forms of Zumba, such as toning, aqua, strong, core, glute training and more. I started taking Zumba classes six year ago with my studio in Jaipur, Abhikalp Dance and Fitness Studio. 

The classes had to be paused as Covid-19 started seeping into our lives and fitness centres had to down shutters. But fitness does not know any bounds. Just like any entrepreneur would do, I decided to talk to my students if they would like to ‘workout from home’ along with ‘work from home’.

ALSO READ: ‘How I Turned (Dining) Tables On Lockdown’

Their zeal to do it online was infectious. It enthused me, and without much ado, I started the online session on Zoom, immediately after the lockdown was announced. Earlier it was a party in the studio, and now it’s a virtual party. In terms of challenges, for some specific classes, people do not have special equipment at home. So, I made them use water bottles and towels, easily available at every house, for strength training classes.

To my surprise, the students are just loving virtual classes as they loved studio classes. 

Amidst such a pandemic, it is really important to keep ourselves fit, both physically and mentally. And that is why my students are loving the idea of virtual classes. Just like a studio, we also talk and discuss besides doing Zumba sessions. Sometimes, it is about diet, sometimes about forms of Zumba, sometimes it’s just motivation and other wellbeing practices.

ALSO READ: ‘Creating Jobs, Making Profit Amid Covid-19’

Since the lockdown, I do two batches a day, and the number of students are growing. Each batch has 20-25 women. Earlier my classes had women from Jaipur, now there are students from Gurugram, Mumbai, Chennai, Indonesia, and London. It is really good to see the growing awareness of fitness amongst women.  No matter how busy they are, the students also take out time for my classes regularly and that is motivating.

The Covid-19 had put a spotlight on how people have begun to feel stressed and unhealthy. Some of the common Coronavirus-related concerns are irregular dietary habits leading to higher calorie consumption, body aches due to long sitting hours, mental stress, depression, anxiety and so on. The ‘immunity’ is playing a major role in this situation as well. This is now the time when people should make fitness a lifestyle.

‘Stay At Home, Work From Home, Cook At Home’

Lokmarg speaks to a vegetable vendor, a housewife, a security guard and a house help about how they are surviving during the Coronavirus lockdown across the country

Vipin, 32, a vegetable seller in Indirapuram, Uttar Pradesh

In the beginning, when the lockdown was announced, there was complete confusion and we didn’t know what was going to happen; if we would be able to get vegetables from the mandis. Thankfully, matters settled down in a matter of days. With the help of information from valid sources I came to know that we could resume essential work if we ensured social distancing. So many of us vegetable vendors in the area coordinated over phone and appointed different people for different tasks. Thus, only one person would go to the mandi. He would take bath on return and only then would we take vegetables from him. Different vendors sat near /inside the gates of various housing societies in the area so that people didn’t have to walk far. I am happy to say that people are dutifully maintaining social distancing while buying vegetables.

Our vegetable sales have increased because many people are now staying at home, working from home and cooking at home. I hope people become kinder and nicer to each other after Coronavirus. My family too stayed put and I didn’t send them back to my village because I don’t want to take chances with their health.

Raju Paliwal, 64, a housewife

While on one hand, I am happy at the peace and calm around us during this lockdown, on the other I find it difficult to spend my time at home all the time. I live with my son, and even though he helps me a lot with household chores, I don’t like to tax him since he is working from home. The sudden increase in household work at my age is a bit overwhelming. I cannot go to the temple, nor meet my daughter and her family even though they live in the same housing society. I do not belong to a tech-savvy generation, so catching up with friends also isn’t easy. To kill time and also stay active, I massage my legs multiple times a day. This helps in the absence of my daily walks. We have stocked up pretty well. I wish and pray this lockdown gets over soon and we can resume normal life and once again get to interact with one another, without being afraid of getting affected by a deadly disease.

Kundan, 32, a security guard

Our workload has increased a lot post-coronavirus, since we have to keep a hawk’s eye on who is entering or exiting the gated colony where we work. We let in people only after a thorough check and we have to keep the basic travel-related information of residents if they have returned from foreign travel. I live nearby, so commuting to work is not difficult. I have stocked up my kitchen well and will survive the lockdown period easily with my family. However, if the lockdown period gets extended, I don’t know what will happen. We haven’t been paid our salaries yet, but I am hoping we will get it by soon.

Many of the society residents have been proactive in taking care of us. They keep us supplied with food, chai, water, sanitizer, hand wash etc. Plus, they check on us to boost our morale as well since we are the frontline workers in preventing this disease from spreading. I am happy people listen to us when we remind them about staying at home and maintaining social distancing. I hope we find a cure to coronavirus as soon as possible.

Rukhsar, 22, a house help

I belong to Bihar but work in Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh) as a housemaid. After the government announced the lockdown, most of my fellow villagers, who used to earn their livelihoods in this locality, panicked and rushed home. I told them what my employers had taught me: take precautions and maintain social distancing. It was painful to see my friends and fellow villagers ready to walk on foot for hundreds of miles because of fear. Now the street where I live is a desolate place. My daughter lives in Bihar with her grandmother and the uncertainty of not being able to see my daughter is a difficult emotion to express. Most of the households where I work have given me full payment for this month, but there are doubts about what will happen next month. The loneliness and a feeling of being trapped in one’s home is telling. I hope coronavirus goes and never comes back.

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