Smriti Nambudiri UG’22 As we come up on almost 4 months of lockdown, there’s no doubt
By Smriti Nambudiri, UG22
As the Spring Semester marched on, I, like all other Ashokans, made myself another cup of coffee to accompany me while I scrolled through Google Classroom and Canvas. It was in one of these many, many, moments, that my mind drifted and the realization hit me:
It’s been a year since the first lockdown.
A year since I last met any college friends. A year since I savored Dhaba’s Paneer Kathi Rolls. A year since I ran from A-03 to AC-01 for back-to-back lectures.
It rushed into my mind all at once, and I sank deeper into my sofa. Did I spend the year just rotating between online classes and 3 am binge sessions? Had all my time been spent in chores, and chasing pigeons off our balcony? What had I even achieved all this while?
My answer was embarrassing, but obvious. And anyway, finishing nearly the entirety of Netflix’s animated shows has to count for something, right? There was also that one incident 3 days into lockdown, involving my brother running across the house, and me chasing after him, the ‘Rocky’ theme blaring from my phone. I could lie and talk about the books I read, the workout routine I practised, and the many baked confections I perfected, but who would I be kidding? I hadn’t left the confines of my society complex for more than 10 minutes at a time, and the only walking I did was from the couch to my bedroom and back. The only real skill I can say I cultivated is how to mediate a 10th grade-related cross-house argument between my brother and mother without something breaking. That, and I re-learnt how trigonometry works in my brief stint as my brother’s Math tutor (something I only did when I was offered compensation).
As these thoughts circled through my head, I was greeted by a now-empty mug. Thank god. With the new semester and my schedule, I really didn’t have the time to question the passage of time and its consequences.
But as the day went on, I couldn’t stop thinking about the last time I had dragged my crappy blue suitcase out of the Ashokan gates. Whether I was practising the guitar or scrolling endlessly through Twitter, the thoughts followed. And as time went on, the question moved from what I had achieved to, what had even happened the past year?
Honestly, time hasn’t been the easiest thing to keep track of when trying to wait out a pandemic. It was far too easy to have been writing an essay for 2 hours, only to look up and see that just 5 minutes had passed. But, it was also just as easy to click ‘play’ on a tv show, only to ‘One Episode More’ your way to 3 am.
Well for one, there was the rollercoaster of online learning. What first started as a measure to tide us over a 2 month lockdown, ended up becoming a fixed part of life. After all, between my entire family being stuck at home together, and everyone working, my brother had managed to swindle access to our room for his online school. 10th Grade board exams and all. So I had volunteered to set up base in the living room for the next year, sinking further into my own ‘sofa crease’.
Somehow, almost two and a half semesters had passed in a blue-light blur of Zoom meetings, Classroom notifications, and Google Form exams. A comment one of my friends had made, back when everyone still kept regular Zoom calls with each other to ‘stay in touch’, has stuck with me: “Damn, did Skype drop the ball or what?”
Online classes are the weirdest middle ground. I won’t say I miss having to run across campus from one class to the next while mentally calculating just how long of a coffee break I can factor into my travel. But, when Twitter and YouTube are simply a tab away, focusing on classes has become its own Olympic sport.
In an effort to wile away boredom, even during the holiday months, I, like almost everyone in the world, tried everything I could get my hands on while staying indoors. But even after the Netflix parties, the one-day-long baking obsession, and simply spending 3 hours staring out of the window at the empty road, nothing changed. That same, drabby cloak of quarantine blues stayed heavy on my shoulders. Whether during holidays or classes, it was ever-present. It almost felt mocking, because nothing I did in the past few months was productive, and it felt really disappointing.
This wasn’t a feeling that just went away after a few online meditation sessions, and no amount of bullet journalling was able to help me sort through this haze. The constant need to “be productive”, to make something of all the free time I now had, was an invisible weight that everyone seemed to be dragging around. I mean, the first things people saw as soon as lockdown started were articles and videos about ‘How to Make Your Lockdown Productive’, ‘Making the Most out of Quarantine’.
One day, I was scrolling through these articles in my pajamas, 5 months after the first lockdown announcement. I was sipping green tea that my mother had bought in an effort to whip the family into shape (or she had mistaken it for normal tea, but that’s just my theory), when it hit me.
Who cares about being productive? After all, if you think about it, we are all living through a historical event right now. Who on Earth has the time to learn to crochet at a time like this?! (Though if you do know how to crochet, help a girl out, would you?)
We’re all living through something huge, that jostled us out of our routines and threw us into something bizarre and frankly, weird. It’s an unprecedented time, and we are all simply trying to cope with something wildly beyond our control. And for some reason, society has tried to convince me that I need to be focused on becoming the next Picasso in this free time, which is absurd to be honest. Sometimes, you just need to lie on the floor for 2 hours.
It’s been a year since I met my university friends in person, and a year since I was last on campus. In that time, I’ve had to learn how to get a new routine with more people in the house, while also grappling with online learning. All with a pandemic in the background. Not to mention, adjust to not being able to meet people casually, while also being further removed from family members, and also having to share living spaces with people you haven’t had to work around before. This whole year has been one big learning curve. So, if nothing else, I’m proud of all of us for making it this far. Because God knows, it took a lot of effort to get here.
Now to just make it through the next semester the same way.