Escape from reality: When there's bad news everywhere, retreat to comforts from a gentler time
While discussing a new web series, the very popular Pataal Lok, a friend observed that movies and literature, her staples for entertainment forever, don’t particularly interest her anymore. It’s true, now that we’re living through such a surreal moment, as wild as anything science fiction could come up with, invented tales seem so banal. It has been 90 days of the lockdown life. A hopeless fatigue has set in because any hopes we harbored of staying in and defeating the virus are over. Danger is omnipresent. In fact, the unpredictability of Covid-19 feels much more vivid than it did during the height of the lockdown, exacerbated by the news that Delhi’s Health Minister has a lung infection related to the virus.
This spate of new infections bring all our latent fears to the surface: no matter how much we try, can anyone really escape this? More and more, there seems to be a certain inevitability to contracting corona, it’s so close home now. Every day I hear of friends and acquaintances testing positive but mercifully, surviving, and well. Of course, the idea is to stay healthy as long as possible and not add to the distress in hospitals. My ENT doctor told me that at this point, in Delhi, he would have a hard time procuring an ICU bed for himself. Having said that, intellectually, even if we know we are better off bored and anxious at home, it doesn’t necessarily ease the panic. When you’re alone with your thoughts that are swinging wildly like a pendulum, anticipating which catastrophe is mostly likely to hit you, the eternally optimistic human being considers if there’s any truth in what those naysayers claim, that coronavirus is one big hoax? And that like with chicken pox and measles, we’re just better off getting it and getting over it. Indeed, this uneasy state of waiting has gone on long enough.
Which is why, finding comfort in so much uncertainty has become the greatest challenge of 2020. Truth be told, even in the best of times, none of us really knows what lies ahead. It’s just that we’re too caught up living, to think about it. Right now, since we’re cooped up and cranky, restricted in the same space with the same people, it’s that much harder keeping these existential dilemmas at bay. By now, even the most passionate (amateur) baker is discovering the lure of fresh bread has faded. When I look back on these days though, definitely, I will recall (a tad wryly) that the lockdown achieved something 25 years of being an adult didn’t: it got me into the kitchen. Not out of choice or by any means anything as romantic as a sudden, creative, calling. It was because I had two small faces gazing at me accusingly after 50 meals of dal-chawal. However, despite three months of cooking regularly, I don’t believe I have magically transformed into a Nigella wannabe who will henceforth be Googling recipes with gusto. If anything, this time spent in the kitchen has reinforced some truths to me: that I can’t wait to get out of it and outsource what I have always felt is a painful chore.
No doubt, the pandemic has left a lot of us feeling alternately lost and frustrated, even as we busy ourselves with new routines, crucial to get us through these months. The silver lining being that while we try new things we stumble on our own truths. I’m not going to get through a pandemic by baking and making my bed. I philosophically accept I ‘have to‘ cook right now but what really gives me joy is re-reading books I loved in my childhood. I recently re-read The Enchanted Wood, one of Enid Blyton’s most enduring works and despite the awful lot of exclamation marks! The imagery of a tree growing different fruits on every branch transported one to that magical world and to lazy summer afternoons in the 1980s. It’s likely that life will not return to normal this year at all. To those who have valiantly used their pandemic time to learn a new language or to code, I say hats off. To those who have sought refuge in simple pleasures and found their own emotional alignment, that’s pretty good too.