Broken By Pandemic
Nandan Kaushik, Undergraduate ’22
I don’t like the pandemic. Let’s begin there. I dislike it very much, because it has taken me away from Ashoka and forced me to stay in one place for a month now. I managed to take a couple of walks soon after I got back, but with the national shutdown, I was stuck at home indefinitely.
I know that I am not alone in this. People want to get back, get on with what they were doing. Yet, we have all been separated, and tossed into our own little spheres, with only the internet to connect us. Some are not in the most conducive environments. Some are out to fend for themselves from the environment. Even though the idea of a greater good forces us to do what we do in this isolation, we still yearn for the day when we can leave again. Chennai is a social city. We often joke that, while the rest of the world enjoys six degrees of separation, if you have even four in this city from someone, you are a rarity. For a city like this, a pandemic lockdown has taken its toll. Everyone has begun cherishing their grocery trips, their gardens, and the spaces within which they can move around.
The Pandemic, in other words, has made us appreciate what we have. Books are being read. Music tastes are being expanded. People are writing, singing, doing things they normally had no time for. The little things in life have become more precious to us. Learning, that we had put aside for when we have more time, has begun to happen at last. We know that we are going to be here for a while – so let’s make the best use of it.
I remember leaving from Ashoka, I threw my clothes, a couple of books, and most of my coursework into my bag, and left for the airport with some friends. I knew I would miss being on campus, late nights at the Dhaba, meeting friends at the mess for meals, and all the energy and excitement that campus brought with it for me. But at home now, I have more time to myself. Sleep, a commodity rare at Ashoka, I am now catching up on. My friends are a little annoyed by it, I know. Staying up past 10:45 is rare these days. I have gone back to the schedule I maintained before Ashoka. The days are a little crazy now, almost surreal, with classes at home over my laptop, with an internet connection that on occasion has a mind of its own. But in between, there are things I can do for myself, that are impossible on campus.
And of course, in the midst of all this, I experienced rain. A major point of positivity for the city. The rain. And I am no different. There is a visible change in my mood every time it rains. Tamil Nadu weatherman, the city’s most reliable weather forecaster, sends out predictions and updates on Facebook and Twitter, with people from across the city letting everyone else know where it has reached. And this causes excitement for all those reading, as they examine his images, and try to predict where it might go next. And as the overcast sky gives us some eternally-much-needed rain, and the first drops fall noiselessly on the balcony outside, everyone in the city feels a common joy, and in that rain, we know, despite everything else that is going on, we are connected.