By Urmi Bhattacheryya
(Urmi Bhattacheryya is an independent journalist, formerly at The Quint, a feminist and chronic pain warrior, trashy-reality-TV-watcher, and a reader of reads. She’s currently authoring a book on survivors of sexual violence. Also, if you ask, she’ll channel her inner Bipasha Basu and tell you to do bicep curls. So don’t ask.)
New words and overwhelming panic. If you’re anything like me, you’ve holed yourself up in a corner where no newspapers or social media reach – a dark, black recess where the words ‘social distancing’, ‘quarantine’ and ‘self-isolation’ incite involuntary twitches in the body – and you spend mightily productive days, alternating between watching Netflix and thinking you have coronavirus. No? Damn.
I may have spent a large part of the last two months – ever since it became advisable to stay indoors and shun the sun – at home, but I’ve also discovered the wonderful, awe-inspiring privilege it is. I get information about real dangers to our world, so I shut them out – because I have the privilege to do so. I stay home, wash my hands, eat my meals, sleep my sleep – because I have the privilege to do so. And I post about it on social media with the very hashtags I dread – because I have the privilege to do so.
So, now that you and I know we’re privileged, what do we do? We do what’s best for our mental health. This isn’t ending anytime soon – and I know you’ve heard enough information about how best to soap and scrape your fingernails – but here’s the clincher: protect your head and heart, because you can.
I’m doing the best I can, there. I came to visit my parents over three weeks ago, planning to stay a fortnight – and then, lockdown and uncertainty ensued – so I’m here. In Calcutta, in my old home that I moved out of at 18 to go to college.This is the longest ‘chhutti’ I’ve had with my two favourite people since – well, a long time. And I’m savouring it.
So here’s what I do to protect my head and heart, because I can. I argue with my mother in the kitchen and snatch up her utensils to prove what a good cook I can be. Then I bake cakes and shout to her through the kitchen peephole whether the YouTube recipe that called for one cup of cornflour is accurate? I manage to make said cake and I feed it to my father, who relishes everything I make like it’s amrit. I help him wash the dishes, sniggering a little about how compulsive Maa is about what goes where. Then, I snigger with my mom as we make roits (round rotis! I can make those now!) abouthow annoying Baba can be.
I work out daily, twisting my body into yogic contortions and wearing old sneakers to do some cardio at home. I call my therapist for phone sessions and smile afterwards. I write a little, I read some. I (try to) video-call old friends whose faces are blurred through the multiple connections and I smile afterwards.
What have I been doing? Mostly, I’ve been protecting my head and heart, because I can. And protecting the ones I cannot see and do not know in a gazillion houses around the world – because, that too, I can.
Enough about me. What have you guys been up to?