Corona Reflections | 220320

Epidemic. Pandemic. Lockdown. Social distancing. Self-isolation. Quarantine. #staythefuckhome. #stayhome. Check in with your vulnerable neighbours and relatives. Check in with your loved ones, but virtually. #virtualwine. #virtualdates. #WFH. #W(orkout)FH. VC. Live stream. This fascinating, unprecedented situation, in which I receive newsletters from restaurants, yoga studios, and galleries from Sydney to San Francisco, and updates from loved ones based everywhere from Auckland to Aarhus, which are virtually the same: the former category are closing up (and thus struggling), unless they can offer remote solutions, that is, takeout, delivery, online classes, and the latter is doing ok (for now), but super worried for 1) physically and mentally vulnerable people around us (loved ones as well as strangers) and those poor, over-worked health workers across the globe, 2) the economy (surely we’re now facing a hideous recession, right?), and 3) what society is going to look like … followed by all of the trivial concerns, which all have to be caveated with how relatively small and privileged they are, like, ugh, my holiday got cancelled, or now I can’t go to x, y, z event, which I was so excited for. I was supposed to be in Copenhagen this weekend, seeing lots of highly missed dear friends. Instead, Sanoop and I get to relax in Hampstead, enjoy being in one place for weeks on end — for the first time in years (!). We love our beautiful cocoon of a flat, the sun is shining, we go for refreshing walks and runs on the Heath, and even get to experience new nooks and crannies and entire sections of it, because we have more time, and we cook like never before, and make lots of tea and coffee, and sit in our kitchen window, on those bar stools which we’ve never really used before, and soak up the sunshine. We can’t go see our families in India, Denmark and America due to the grounded airplanes and closed borders risk of carrying the virus with us, but all of them are doing just fine, and we talk to them regularly on audio and video calls, just as we’re as social as ever, meeting our friends for tea, wine, cheerful/philosophical/warm chats and virtual boardgames on FaceTime, Zoom, Hangouts, Skype, WhatsApp video. It feels like social media is finally playing the role it was always meant to play — connecting people who are physically apart, and ensuring that we all support and inspire each other and spread and share vital information, kindness and compassion. All of those good things flow through my mind, only to then get countered by voices reminding me that it’s not like that everywhere; there’s lots of division and destructions going on out there, outside my little sunshiny cocoon of a life. And who says I and my loved ones will be spared? There’s no guarantee for anything right now … Aaaand back to feeling grateful again. It’s spring, and when I look out on the trees on the Heath (tsk! Check your privilege with that view, girl!) the world seems exactly as it always was … harmonious and peaceful and … moving, breathing, alive. Water that’s cleaner than it’s been for years, due to banned boat traffic, means that dolphins are now swimming in the canals of Venice, and people in Beijing can see the sky and the mountains surrounding them — for the first time in generations. If only we play this right, the pandemic could be a reset and a kickstart of all of the best possible environmental developments … Aaand back to being blinded by the backside of the silver lining again. Worries about everyone who can’t just #wfh, but who’s been laid off or has to shut down their business, or who doesn’t have a very pleasant home work environment, or who finds it deeply disruptive to mix those two spheres so literally; how to maintain a healthy work-life balance when your dining table doubles as an office desk … indefinitely? Not to think of the kids — missing out on an entire spring (and summer?) of in-person interaction with kindergarten / school / uni friends, sweethearts, and teachers. As one of the lucky (introverted) ones, whose entire career has consisted of working remotely for giant American tech companies that are all impeccably set-up for navigating and supporting a 100 % digital nomadic lifestyle, and who’s more than used to shutting all external noise out and working productively out of everything from airports and cafes to various airbnbs and other accommodations across the globe (and timezones!), and who’s accustomed to treating my body to copious amounts of yoga and pilates and walking and running to balance out the physiologically damaging consequences of various non-ergonomic work positions, and who actually thrives with a routine of being home, I’m fine. More than fine; I’m loving this. Yes, I love and miss the office, the office canteen, and my commute along the canal, as well as my daily pilates classes and meeting friends for wine after work. But my new reality is also quite neat — I go for a run on the Heath in the morning, after a bit of yoga, and then I pick up coffee to support my local coffee shop, which is staying open for takeaway to spare all employees, and then I go home, shower, drink the chai that Sanoop has made for me, and work all day, taking only short breaks to hug and talk to Sanoop, and then I stop at 6pm, go for an evening walk with my love, cook dinner with him, and spend the evening either reading, watching something nice, or talking to someone(s) I love. The days feel rich and super quick. The company I work for has been handling the situation so well — we’ve all been offered home-delivery of work-from-home-kits containing everything from office chairs to monitors to contact details on therapists and coaches, managers are transparent and honest and do their best to instil a sense of comfort in teams, and the 1:1 and group chats are glowing. Suddenly, EVERYONE is in a little square during meetings; I’m no longer the only one calling in, with all other attendees seated in the same physical conference room in Bangalore, Zurich, New York, or California. We’re all in this together, and people are super friendly and patient with each other — constantly checking in, supporting each other, and really using each other to tackle sudden bursts of panic (Yikes! My parents are faraway and ill, and I can’t get to them), lack of productivity (my kids, pets, and spouse need attention), and need for relief — we’ve got thousands of chat rooms set up, in which people are sharing funny memes, pieces of good tips and tricks to keep mentally and physically sane, and bonding activities. Irrelevant work projects have been down-prioritised to make space for meaningful ways of responding to the crisis around us, which is impacting every country in the world except for Antartica, and will continue to do so for … no one knows how long. We keep trying to sort the news sources, so we only absorb the wisest and most constructive pieces of information and advice, but it’s hard to keep track, and it’s necessary to take breaks from it and escape into happy fictive worlds in some of the moments allocated to reading and watching stuff, and even a lot of experts on various fields are also just guessing. One thing we do know is that this is a big thing, we’re all experiencing.

Today.

Beautiful sunny spring day. I am grateful for what we have and grateful for the fact that to me it’s a gift to be home for a while. Subsequent thought is always: I feel sorry for everyone who’s sick or dealing with stressful consequences of this situation. Next up: I’m grateful that my street has created a ‘buddy programme’ where we can help the vulnerable residents — with shopping, cooking, dog-walking, phone calls to those who live alone and might need a friendly connection. Next: difficult times can be a fertile ground for extreme outbursts of resilience and fantasy. The pandemic has forced us to focus, here and now, on essentials of surviving. Once we get out lives back, we will crave beauty in order to live life to our fullest on this beautiful planet — beauty as truthfulness, soulfulness, invention. Beauty as a remedy and a vehicle. Beauty as a reason to progress and a way, again, to be truly human. My reality: Woke up and did the 5 Tibetans and other asanas that my body asked for, to the tunes of this Yoga Sunrise playlist. Went for a refreshing run on the Heath, where there’s fortunately enough room for all to practice social distancing. Smiling at dogs, birds, green seedlings, daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses. Chatting to my parents, and then a dear friend in Copenhagen as I zigzag through my favourite paths of the heath. Home; Sanoop’s homemade chai ready, with frothy turmeric almond milk and rose petals to smell and smile at on top. We drink it in the open kitchen window, looking down on the swans in the pond below us. Have berries on coconut yoghurt for breakfast, while he gets ready to go out. We embark on a 4-hour long exploration of parts of the Heath that we haven’t been to before — usually, over the past year, we’ve just gone circling around the paths near home, with Kenwood House, or the Pagoda Gardens, as the furthest reach. Now, with shelter in place, we go where it’s recommended — to the most remote, least travelled corners, a sort of win-win situation: we’re being considerate, while at the same time expanding our ‘home’ to cover new territories. Getting familiar with more of our immediate surroundings. Stop to buy salads to take over to a grassy meadow to eat in the sunshine. Back home, we make a banana bread, FaceTime with friends, and eat the cake in the window sunshine. Write on each our laptop until a late homemade dinner. Laundry, tea, comedy shows on YouTube, reading. Bed at 10 PM.

COVID-19 updates:

Our humanity will shine like never before

Yuval Noah Harari: the world after coronavirus

The rich confront the virus: ‘Do I quarantine in the Hamptons?’

London falls quiet as coronavirus empties streets — in pictures

Banana bread:

Ingredients:
  • 4 bananas
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups oat (or half oats, half coconut flour)
  • 2 spoons baking powder
  • Raisins, cinnamon and cardamom to taste
Method:
  • Preheat oven 175 degrees
  • Blend banana, eggs and oil with a hand blender
  • Mix in raisins, oats, cinnamon, cardamom and baking powder
  • Pour in oiled tin and heat in oven for 35 mins
  • Enjoy your moist banana bread (cake) with a cup of tea or glass of sparkling wine

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