Covid Diary by Rituparna Sandilya

After 19 months of facing the virus in India, I realized that apart from my 'blog posts', even my stray thoughts on social media have somewhere unwittingly added up to a COVID DIARY of sorts. Quite a few are reflections on/about my daughter, who has been my only constant companion through this period. The rest charts the covid-graph in my life & mind. Thought of collating it for this month's post for AE.


24 March 2020 (immediately after the 1st lockdown was announced)

May we all live through the coming 3 weeks with strength, patience & compassion. May good sense prevail. Stay safe!

 

21 April 2020


After 4 weeks of lockdown, I have nothing but admiration for those who are successfully harnessing their inner strength and resourcefulness & nothing but sympathy for those who are trying but failing.

Meanwhile, doffs hat to the resilience of kids (at home for 5 weeks now), most of whom don't have siblings to play with, and are thus - beyond zoom classes and video chats - having to retreat into their imaginative world far more than in normal times.

 


21 June 2020


A thing of the past now - 'calling friends over'... the warmth and intimacy of their company, the joy of laughter over food & drink!

Come to think of it, I've hardly socialized in the last 3 years... but there was always the possibility of it, mine for the taking, when time/ chance/ inclination permitted.

Somewhere on the other side of Corona, a few (many?) months from now, that possibility might return. Only, many of us or our friends might not be around to take it... & every single gathering will be filled with (dearly-missed) absences.

Meanwhile: the only duty is to hold fort & survive, & help others survive; to pull each other up, every now & then; and to save some remnant of hope for our children!

 

15 July 2020

I wake up every morning resolving to overcome my fears; I go to bed every night knowing I’ve failed.

 

23 July 2020

“The petty done, the undone vast”: another daily reality!


12 Oct 2021


SEVEN MONTHS 

Her height can be marked on the wall

Her weight measured on a machine

Her IQ recorded in quarterly report cards.

But how does one fathom the depth of her understanding

Of the cage we are in?

In seven confined months

I've only been responsible for her food and sleep,

Her school, health and hygiene

But she, of my sanity!

I could only offer her dreams of a better future, for her and me

She gifted me clouds in return, in the here and now.

I want to drown in their airy vastness

I want to float with them, over dales and hills.

I was a premature baby of seven months

My mother had told me

In these seven months, I have been born again

As my daughter's partner.

 

31 Dec 2021

As the year draws to a close, let's remember all those who have lost their lives to the pandemic - both covid victims & warriors. And the pain of their bereaved families.

Let's spare a thought, too, to those who have been undone by the virus in other ways - losing livelihoods/jobs & thereby facing poverty or reduced circumstances.

Let's also not forget the other covert damages in our lives - the killing uncertainty of everything that surrounds us; the fears & anxieties that have already taken a toll on many, especially those with no respite from confinement; the strain on relationships - real or virtual - of every kind.

Things won't miraculously change in 2021. But let's at least hope the virus has considerably lesser control over our lives in the new year.

I personally feel very grateful that my loved ones have been spared, but somewhere I also feel guilty for staying alive when so many have died.

There is a randomness to death that we can only resign ourselves to, if not accept. There is also a beauty in life that defies logic. Let's cling to it with all our might!


1 Jan 2021 


I have come out of 2020 with a new respect for my 8-year-old daughter. The year was hard on everyone, but perhaps hardest on children. And I am amazed at how she has coped - with patience, resilience, imagination & resourcefulness!

That she continues to cry for the silliest of reasons (& often, for no reason) in her interactions with me, has been more relief that irritation this year... for it's proof that the child in her is not lost completely.

I just hope, though, that this test is not prolonged indefinitely...

I wish a kinder & saner 2021 to all my friends!




19 Jan 2021

The biggest harvest of the past 10 months has been death. Some are so hard to take…


29 Jan 2021

GRATEFUL 

If you find no difference between your weekday & weekend,

no respite, even of an evening out, or a quiet getaway,

no escape from the cage you have willingly entered, or been thrust into...

...there's still a lot for you.

There's still sunlight on undulating curtains,

the incessant chirping of birds in droopy afternoons,

the play of clouds in a cable-streaked patch of sky.

There are the musings of the mind about unforeseeable futures,

the beatings of the heart for long lost and unnameable loves.

Though much is taken, much remains to be grateful for.

Think of it: there is always a lot to be grateful for.

 

22 May 2021

Every day, each one of us, is putting faces to these numbers. The zeroes of the millions morphing - by some internal software - into human ovals & rounds, with perhaps a smile we loved, or a pair of striking eyes, or brows that knitted up with too much worry too often.

The face of a friend, parent, sibling, spouse, lover, relative, neighbour, acquaintance, colleague, student, teacher, mentor. Friends of friends one has never seen, but know well through stories. People one had lost touch with long ago. Also, people who make up the web of one's daily life - domestic help, vegetable seller, street-side snack-stall vendor, chemist... & so many more. Not to speak of doctors & health care workers.

I know at least someone who has lost someone in each - or more - of the above relationships. I am myself not exempt from it.

Facebook is now one long & never-ending obituary column. We wake up to see every day who is next... 

 

24 May 2021 

I felt a pang when I first saw Debkumar Mitra 's 'Night walk on clouds' – a fresh pang of loss for all those who have departed suddenly, untimely, over the past year. They, the souls of the dead - who have not been allowed to bid farewell to their dear ones, to voice their last wish, to be granted the dignity of last rites - have ascended the night sky & are walking on clouds. Not drifting or wandering lonely, but walking together with fellow dead souls – with no social distancing. Sharing their stories. Their whispers no doubt dispersed by the wind to mortals below.

This painting somehow reminded me of ‘Small Comfort’ - one of the many Partition sketches by the Punjabi artist S. L. Parasher, where a group of women form a circle of grief, heads bowed in mourning. 

The point here is the sense of community and solidarity – one on earth, by those left behind; the other of the dead, up in the air. To me, the dead also seem to be taking comfort in their common destiny.

 

15 June 2021


Post-covid is a frustrating phase, as one tries to catch up with pending work but the body stubbornly refuses to keep pace -- beset as it sometimes is (apart from continuing weakness) with previous ailments one had stopped thinking about, or new ones one had not foreseen. I am still in this phase now... hoping it to end soon.

Not the best of times... especially when confinement due to illness is sealed doubly with repeated lockdowns. But I have taken heart from this little composition of Srishti's about why she loves Nature - all the more so because she has actually very little access to it. For once, I didn't correct her spellings!

 



22 July 2021 

'Aar parchhi na' (I can't do this any more) ;

'Kichhu bhalo lagchhe na' (Nothing interests me);

'I'm stretched to my limits';

'I'm exhausted';

'I need a break';

'No, I'm not well at all'.

I have heard these statements, with increasing frequency, among my friends & family - especially in the last couple of months.

Has anyone noticed the toll Covid has taken on mental health? From having to pretend that things are normal & continue with everything as usual, when actually lives have fallen apart, we are plagued with the fear of impending disease & death constantly stares us in the face? If it has not already stalked our families and dear ones, i.e.

How many of us can afford to take a break even when we need it desperately? How many are able to articulate their fears or exhaustion or trauma even to themselves?

In the coming months, as another 'wave' is supposedly all set to hit us, I pray for not just a lesser death toll, but a greater awareness of and sympathy for the mental well being of all around us. 


*****

I was insanely busy in August and September, and October was primarily a festive month for us... all of which contributed to keeping covid thoughts at bay. At least for me.

There has been talk of a "3rd wave" in India for months now... I sincerely hope that doesn't come to pass... AMEN !!


Comments

Kirsten Bett said…
Hi Rituparna, what an impressive blog. And it's so true, the mental aspects of COVID and lockdowns... There is only so much you can take. I love how the dates in your blog show our change in coping. I wish you well and hope COVID is a thing of the past soon!!!
Elizabeth Kay said…
Fascinating. I love your honestly, observation and empathy.
Rituparna Roy said…
Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you for reading my post & your kind words!

I think I am my true self only in my writing... I am at home, in writing!

Everywhere else, there is always a gap (small or big) between appearance & reality...

Regards,
Rituparna.
Rituparna Roy said…
Dear Kirsten,

You are so right in your observation about the change in coping over the months being reflected in the diary. When the first 3-week lockdown was announced in India in late March 2020, we were wondering how on earth we will go through it... 20 months later, we have been through so much more...I just hope we emerge out of it wiser & more compassionate as human beings.

Thanks for reading!
Rituparna.
Peter Leyland said…
Great idea Rituparna, using diary entries to chart the course of the pandemic in India and how it affected you. I read it while having a cup of coffee just after I had had my UK booster jab.

I really connected with your concern about its effect on our mental health, particularly for those isolated. I find reading and writing always helps. Thanks for the blog.
Amen! Though when I saw your entry for 31st Dec 2021, I had a panicky moment I'd somehow missed an entire year without noticing :-)

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