The lockdown experience: Make the best of it

The lockdown experience: Make the best of it

The story we need to tell ourselves is that six months, even a year, is not a very long time in our long and happy lives

Representative image.

For so many students sitting in their homes and not knowing when the lockdown will end for their particular schools or colleges, this is a difficult time. Opening up has risks. Not opening up has other worries. Some have lost a loved one to Covid-19. Others have faced severe restrictions due to the lockdown or quarantine. There are harrowing stories emerging of some who are unable to cope as they are cooped up in their homes.

Young audiences, all a bundle of youthful energy, desperately want a way out of this situation that has snatched them away from friends and locked them in with parents. A recent survey by a Bengaluru-based organsiation reported that “students registered 41% increase in emotions of anxiety/fear/worry, 54% increase in anger/irritability/ frustration…” This is a worrying state of affairs.

We would want young audiences to take pause and approach the challenge with ways that are simple and potentially powerful. Call it a strategy, if you will, but it is more than that because it will help us manage not just the immediate but also cast a long shadow on how we shape up and emerge from this situation. Can we come out of the lockdown as citizens who are smarter, wiser, and equipped with at least some tools and experience to manage the change of a high order? That would be such an asset. 

The story we need to tell ourselves is that six months, even a year, is not a very long time in our long and happy lives. This may not be easy for young minds to fathom as many of us grow with the idea that a year, particularly an academic year, is too much to lose. This is the Indian context. Globally, many students do take time off to travel, to do projects elsewhere, and away from their universities.

It becomes a source of good learning that is a very different form of academic achievement. So think of this as an opportunity where you can use your head, heart and hands to nurture the self. When we are 50, 60, and 70 yrs of age, we can hopefully look back to these days and tell our children and grandchildren some powerful stories about how the world changed one fine day in March 2020, when an unseen, unheard of and unknown species wrought collective havoc on mankind by the changing the way we lived, dramatically, drastically and maybe decisively. So what is that story of the lockdown that you treasure?

A good way to begin is to make a new friend, a very different friend, a close person who we live with but don’t know fully and well enough. This is yourself, the innerself, the ocean that is embodied in you. Think about you – do you know yourself, do you really understand yourself, do you really “meet” yourself? Let this be the beginning of a new enquiry.

The first problem: Nothing is predictable. But look again, and think again. Is this really new? Uncertainty was always there – right from our birth. That this uncertainty is manifest today in itself makes it less uncertain. Come one day, and there will be a nasty surprise. We are in waters we know are uncertain. This is better than being in waters that we think we know but actually do not. In sum, don’t take the standard prescriptions for granted. Instead, Enquire. This is our head at work.

Source of joy

Second, amid this uncertainty, what is it that brings me joy, happiness and an element of playfulness. Books and certificates apart, it is good to pick up an activity that is a source of joy, a new discovery, an element of fun – and usually something we have never tried before. Is classical music a source of joy, or painting, or singing, or just dance? Or could it be listening to distant radio broadcasts or reading the classics? Explore. This is our heart at work.

It is not easy to always talk with meaning and connection to our loved ones. But we must equally know that one of the biggest regrets of many successful people is that they did not spend time or talk or listen in to what their loved ones had to say. Do you have a parent,  a grandparent, a sibling, who you haven’t sat down to listen to in years? Do it now. Make it an ongoing conversation. Write it as a diary. These treasures will hold out for a long time. Engage. This is our heart at work.

Many youngsters know that stress at work and in school means that they eat in not very healthy ways. Their sleep habits are equally unhealthy. Here is an opportunity to govern these two. One of the best diets offered is the one that probably your mother follows – eat as much, as long as you cook it yourself.

You know the ingredients, you understand the oil, you know the masalas. Pick up cooking as something that will stay with you forever – whether you are a boy or a girl. Prefer traditional, Indian, food. Roti-daal or idli-dosa is preferred to pasta and pizza. Why? Because, in the former, you usually start from scratch with the most fundamental ingredients. Let your family senior be the guide. Then, with everybody around, and to your heart’s content, Eat. This is your heart and your hands at work.

Enquire, Engage, Explore, Eat. This will also drive a routine that can regulate the day and help us sleep well. Sleeping well and deep of course will help give the energy to exercise till you break out into a sweat, with mindfulness in every breath. There will still be some who need help to do this, and if you feel you are anxious, feeling low or easily disturbed and often not in the mood, do not hesitate to reach out to your trusted friend or adviser – in the house or outside.

(Chetri is former executive director, Gross National Happiness Centre, Bhutan: Rattannai is a journalist and a faculty member, SPJIMR) (The Billion Press)