My mother has a knack for discipline. Through not-so-subtle arm-twisting, for years, she has been compulsively trying to make me get in the shower before lunch, eat on time and (Re: “for the love of god!” — that’s what she mumbles over this bit) not push assignments to the last minute.
According to a study by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), It takes 66 days to grow a habit. A 41-day-lockdown — that restricts movement, real human interaction, dependence and supply of essentials — has curiously “glamourised” the wisdom of mothers. It has instilled habits.
In West Bengal’s Barrackpore, a young woman is setting her sleep cycle right. “My insomnia has little to do with quarantine. It has been a recurring irritant and there are days when I have stayed up for 48 hours straight. But now, I am finally being able to hit the bed by 1 am and wake up by 7.30 am. It makes all the difference,” says Snigdha Mishra, a postgraduate in English.
Mishra, who is aiming for the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF), explains how the extra time brings her anxieties to the fore. She is grouping study hours with regular breaks to not feel the pressure of an “endless chunk” awaiting her attention. “I divide my time in one and a half hour-long slots with a window or two in between. It actually allows me to prepare better,” Mishra adds.
Strange how new academic years were about new routines long ago, and while elder siblings dictated slots and subjects, I remember using sketch pens to highlight the A4-size sheet in parts. As a generation negotiating dysfunctional institutions on a broken planet, perhaps, the Covid-19 crisis will help us find comfort in routine.
Lead analyst Saikat Banerjee can’t feel any significant health improvement after he started walking in the evening on his terrace. “It’s been three weeks. I walk for 45 minutes or an hour. Mone hoy bhnuri ta ektu komchhe (I think I’m shedding some belly fat),” he says in jest. Fortunately, the apparent lack of results has not discouraged my friend from ambling through the sweetest tucked-in spot of a day.
Last I checked, my other feminist friend in Tallahassee, Florida, was a confirmed lazemonger (adding words to my curfew glossary). As a Ph.D. scholar living miles away from home and having to change research plans suddenly, 26-year-old Rwiti Roy is cutting down on excess energy. “Nowadays, I religiously run and cycle. It helps me sleep well, reduces anxiety, and grants a sense of accomplishment,” the young academic adds.
Being an aspiring homebody with a fragile threshold for polite conversations, social distancing was no uphill task. But the withdrawal of our collective reliance on cheap human labour has thrown me into the lap of confusion. I do not pull out a separate spoon to add sugar to my tea. I wash the one I just used to taste for salt in the curry. I make mental notes of kitchen activities to minimise cookware-use. Small victories may not decide the fate of a big fight. They, however, do make us belong… to habits and routine.