A Lockdown Monologue:
What do we do with all this present?
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On February 12, 2020, I wrote in my journal:
“Now that I seem to have built the resilience I need to deal with myself, what I need the most is more of the “other resilience” i.e. resilience from the uncertainty of the world’s events and the possibility of crisis. I am promising myself certainty but I am too miniscule an entity to expect it from the world.”
At the beginning of 2020, my mental health had significantly improved. I was excited to graduate and work on my future plans. I had never felt so mentally fit for years. For me, the lockdown began in April 2020, when I began looking inwards and then at my surroundings in order to express my emotional journey and perhaps even to understand it a little better.
As I write this, I acknowledge the place of privilege that I come from when I speak of self-discovery in a pandemic-induced lockdown, for it has meant economic hardship and even ruin for many families. And then there are others who have faced the death of family members and have had to grieve in isolation.
If someone asked me to define how my days in the lockdown feel like, I would propose these antithetical ideas: a long pause with a deep breath and a fast forwarded ceaseless loop of days that go on and on in which I keep entering, find myself en route and exiting.
In this photo essay, I hope to capture my psychological landscape and recall personal lockdown observations inside the physical space I inhabited during the course of Covid 19 pandemic in 2020. I share some excerpts from my journal that represent my thought processes of the times.
Our house seemed full of us, houseful indeed! It had territorial markers, we knew at what time of the day where the other person would be. Given my family had rarely stayed together, we all formed different bonding activities over the course of several months. My sister and mother bonded over cooking and baking while I and my father took over common household chores to work on. And for my pet Leo, it was a delight to see everyone home all the time.
Strangely, the lockdown reminded me of my convent school days. The last time I was confined to a physical space was in a classroom of my school where I was not allowed to leave the class without the teacher’s permission. Except this time it was out of prevention and necessity. At least, in school moving out was an option.
I kept running into myself inside the house and so I photographed those reflections.
I came to terms with the layers of my own conscience. Like muddy water it needed to be held still so that the dirt settled. I had begun introspecting rigorously.
On May 14, 2020, I felt like a trespasser and so I looked at myself and my family from an outsider’s perspective and wrote:
“Four corners, four walls and four people in my family. A corner for each.
Twenty four hours--a cycle that continues.
Within these four walls, all we breathe is each other’s shadows.
This is our home of today.”
Days dissolved into uncertainty. There were days I indulged myself. I attended numerous online talks, binge watched films and read books from my never-ending “to-be-read” list.
Tomorrow felt like a coin flipped which had ended up hovering in the air.
I thought about fate and loss a lot. My final year exams kept getting cancelled. No one had any answers. They were clueless. So was I.
It was July and the number of covid cases were getting out of control, I wrote in my journal :
July 7, 2020: “My present belongs to my future more than it does to me. What do I do with all this present? How is one supposed to own their present?”
The stoic in me decided to reclaim my present which I was often lending either to my past’s grief or future’s anxiety.
Among all the films I derived hedonistic pleasure out of, Ship Of Theseus (2012) by Anand Gandhi which is based on a paradoxical thought puzzle about personal identity, posed a question to me: “if not a single original part of Theseus’ ship remained in it after repair, was it still the same ship?”
This contributed to my introspective journey further. I wondered “if I replaced all of my past selves with a newer version of self, I will be me but will I ever be the same?”
In August 2020, our online classes at SCM Sophia began. The meetings and online classes were the only social interactions I had, thus, I found myself being seen and heard by others through a screen, more often than ever. Physical presence had transitioned into a remote screen-timacy of virtual interactions.
The mirror selfies turned into screen selfies and the screen acted as a witness to my reality. We have all been living in virtual realities for more than a year now.
I got busier with classes each passing day but on some days I practiced objectively looking at myself. I answered the following questions in my journal:
“Which skin do I wear today?”
“What am I spending my time, mind and energy on?”
“How do I see myself?”
Almost seven months into the lockdown, the bigger picture in the future started looking foggy and the smaller picture of the present felt overwhelming. Out of anxiety, in my journal I wrote:
October 12, 2020: “I am exhausted with allowing small things to make themselves appear like big things inside my head.”
2020 was about to end and I had clung to the naive hope that in the new year the pandemic would be gone for good.
I wrote on December 10, 2020: “I am very hopeful today. I have hope for this life. Hope is a strategy to buy myself time and be patient with today’s struggles. More than anything I wish hope for everyone.”
Hitherto while inside my room I sailed the fickle waters of understanding myself, the world outside was coming to terms with its own disparities and limitations.
In April 2021, my mother contracted the virus and I took the role of a caregiver. Later on, when I contracted the virus, I experienced physical and social isolation in the true sense. I did not touch anyone or leave the house for a month.
Back to the present when I recall this account in May 2021, the pandemic has taken an outrageous grasp over our country. The lockdown persists, stricter than ever and the aftermath is grimmer because this time our breaths are running out and we are walking a narrower road.
The question still remains: “What do we do with all this present?”