Sunday, May 31, 2020

Lot of time, but no time

Needless to say, there is a lot of time on hand, nowadays. But the problem that comes along with it is, something close to the Parkinson's Law -- "... work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

Though the British naval historian, Cyril Northcote Parkinson, wrote these words as part of the opening sentence of an essay in The Economist in 1955 on the way the civil service works, I have noticed that, in a loose sense, the law holds good in my daily routine as well.

Before the stay-indoors order came, everyday activities were all time-specific: and one transitioned to the other as if they were all pre-programmed.

Now, every activity seems to stretch to eternity ... 

I switch on the television and end up watching one programme after the other.
 
I play Scrabble or Sudoku or Solitaire and it goes on like for one hour or even more than that on weekends. 
 
No need to travel anywhere to meet up with friends. Meetups are online and they go on and on.

I found it ironic that even though I have so much time, a lot of chores are either left incomplete or not done at all.

One way out of it, I have realised, is to have a time limit for each activity. Like, if I am reading a book, I make sure I stop reading it and get on to something else after a particular time. 

Seems to be working.

Now let me end this post here, go over to Feedly and check out some blogs ...

(Image credit: Pixabay

Monday, May 25, 2020

What I am waiting for ...

Image credit: Pixabay

Today is Day 62 of the lockdown, which came into force on March 25, and is in its fourth iteration with fewer restrictions and more relaxations.
  
Many rules on reopening of businesses, travel, quarantine etc have been eased; and the buzz is slowly coming back to this city.

Inter-state bus services haven't started, but they will soon. Trains have begun running. From today, domestic flights have resumed. 

With people moving from one city to another, what many feared is happening - the number of cases is increasing. Almost every other day, it's a record high.

Multiple models and numerous researchers have been saying India's peak is still a few weeks, if not a few months, away. Which means, the chances of getting infected haven't reduced, they have actually increased.

I AM RISK AVERSE

I don't do anything that is perilous. However, there are a number of risks in my daily life. It may be minimal, but there is a risk when I take a flight, when I drive a car or when I travel by train.

Am I not living in the midst of so many viruses and bacteria? Is the air I breathe so free of pathogens that I could catch no infection?

As far as the virus is concerned, I am trying my best to be one up on it by taking as many precautions as possible.

Nevertheless, I am psychologically prepared for the day when I might test positive when the new normal gives way to the old normal. I am being more realistic than pessimistic here.

I HAVE ADDED ONE MORE RISK TO MY LIFE

Image credit: Pixabay

According to NJ.com, a top New Jersey health official said everyone would get the disease. 

In an article in the world-renowned medical journal, The Lancet, Johan Giesecke, Sweden's former chief epidemiologist and current health advisor to the World Health Organization, says: 
"Everyone will be exposed to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, and most people will become infected. ... This is the real pandemic, but it goes on beneath the surface ... There is very little we can do to prevent this spread: a lockdown might delay severe cases for a while, but once restrictions are eased, cases will reappear. ..."
But unlike other infections, I am (probably, more) worried about others;.the hardship they would have to undergo.

No, this is not going to be like any other cold, cough or fever. There are wide-ranging social implications too. It's going to ring alarm bells in so many people around me. 

I WILL HAVE TO ANSWER A FEW QUESTIONS

Where all did you go? 
Were you wearing a mask always? 
Who all did you meet? 
How close were you to them? 
Did you shake hands with anyone? 
Do you remember someone sneezing or coughing?
Do you remember who they were, where you met them?

THERE COULD BE A FEW REBUKES AS WELL

I told you not to go out ... What was the need? ... You could have waited for some more days ...

All are waiting for the vaccine. Even when a vaccine is invented, it doesn't mean from the very next day the world has been rid of the virus.

WE ARE NOWHERE NEAR THE END 

Image credit: Pixabay

It's going to be a long wait - for the day when, for most of us, today's risk is no longer considered a risk.

I am waiting for the day when a cough or a cold doesn't alarm people.

I am waiting for the day when COVID-19 is seen on a par with many other diseases like flu, dengue, chikungunya, chickenpox, malaria, etc.   

I am waiting for the day when people would have learnt not to be scared but cautious. 

I am waiting for the day when the stigma attached to the disease vanishes.

A POSSIBLE CONVERSATION ONE DAY

"O, you have a fever? Got yourself tested?"

"Yup! I have COVID-19!"

"O! So you will be indoors for ... what ... one month?"

"Ya. Okay, see you then online."

"Sure. ... Take care."

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Monday, May 11, 2020

Mask shaming

About a month ago, I was at a nearby grocery store. That was a time when face mask had not been made mandatory by the state government, and very few people wore one.

Inside the store, there were just three people at that time, including me. Only one person had a mask on. 

Looking at the other person who didn't have a mask, the storekeeper told him to wear one. "If you don't have a mask now, at least put a handkerchief around your nose and mouth. Don't come to this store if you can't wear a mask."

He didn't stop there. "There are some people who think it's below their social status to wear a mask," he muttered to himself.

Before he could turn to me, I quickly pulled out a handkerchief and tied it around my nose and mouth.

That storekeeper was rude. There was no need to speak like that, even though he is well within rights to have rules for customers in his store.

He might believe in the benefits of wearing a mask, but there is a way to convey it. 

His comment on that gentleman's "social status" was unwarranted, and it could have sparked off an argument between the storekeeper and the customer, who merely chose to ignore the remark and calmly took out a handkerchief and tied it around his face.

NOW MASK IS COMPULSORY

On April 15, the Union government made wearing mask compulsory in public places (The Hindu BusinessLine). However, many state governments issued rules for their regions much later. For example, in Karnataka, the wearing of the mask was made mandatory only on May 1 (The Economic Times).

In Bengaluru, failure to wear a mask attracted a fine of Rs 1,000. It was later reduced to Rs 200. The municipal corporation collected over Rs 2 lakh by way of fine, till a week ago (The Hindu). The figure must have gone up by now.

Following the government order, our residents' association mandated that we wear one even if when we are within the complex but outside our flat. So, now whether it makes sense or not, I wear a mask the moment I step out of my house. 

DOES IT HELP?

There have been many studies on whether a mask is beneficial or not. But none of them have conclusively proven one way or the other.

A mask does protect the wearer and people who are nearby, and in some situations, it's better to have the mask than not have.

But the problem lies elsewhere. Many people overlook the fact that the mask does not provide foolproof protection. 

The covering itself will have viruses, and when one unwittingly touches the mask to adjust it or to remove it, the pathogens get transferred to the fingers, an aspect that the wearer is unlikely to realise since the mask gives him/her a sense of (false) security and protection.

BBC's latest weekly Health Check programme featured the topic "Should we wear face masks?" In it, Prof Robert West of University College of London, who conducted a review of more than 20 studies on this subject, said, "The evidence is equivocal". Listen to this very informative programme here.

MASK SHAMING

With opinions split on the issue, there is a disgusting new social phenomenon: mask shaming. That's when a person who wears a mask ridicules and shames another person who is not wearing one; or vice versa. What my neighbourhood grocery storekeeper said to the customer was a typical example of mask shaming. 

NBC recently reported a case of what an Oakland resident experienced while she was on a morning walk. “It happened to me the other day... I went for a walk in the morning and someone came up to me and said 'put on a mask!' I felt bad.”

This letter writer in The Columbus Dispatch says, "Unfortunately, people are now being conditioned to shame anyone who doesn’t wear one. In fact, some have gone as far (sic) to suggest you are a murderer for not wearing a mask. This is absurd." 

On another discussion page in Reddit, one person speaks of how it's normal for people in countries like Hong Kong and Taiwan to wear a mask when they are not well.

One post on that page says, " "A person who wears a mask isn’t admitting that they are sick or paranoid: They’re acknowledging that they are aware of their civic duty regarding public health." We need to listen to our Asian friends and stop mask-shaming in western countries."

Well, wearing masks is not a common practice in all Asian countries, definitely not in India.

Mask shaming is occurring in the reverse direction as well. People who don't wear one are making fun of those who are wearing one.

Here is a post in Reddit, "Today, I wore a (sic) N95 mask in a Costco in Toronto, Canada and overhead head (sic) some random person said (sic), "Wearing a mask makes him look like a Monkey." I got pissed because it was my first time wearing a mask in public. I DGAF anymore. At least I have a mask on and doing my part not to catch or spread the virus. North Americans need to stop Mask Shaming!"

Probably the term 'mask shaming' is being used in Western nations, especially in the US, but I guess, the practice is prevalent all over the world, especially since the scientific opinion on the issue is split.

TAKE PRECAUTION, DON'T SHAME ANYONE

Whether wearing a mask is compulsory or not, there is no justification to scoff at someone.

When you see someone wearing a mask or not, don't outrightly judge him/her. There could be a reason for wearing one, there could be a reason for not wearing one. 

If the law mandates that you need to wear one, do so.

But if there is no rule, do what you feel is right, and leave the issue to the other person's wisdom.

Remember, a mask doesn't give you foolproof protection. It's helpful in some situations, but it needs to be worn and handled in a particular way, for you to be actually safe.

Take care.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

A to Z Challenge 2020 - Reflections

Finally, here I am with a review of the Challenge. Probably among the last to do it. 

This year was my third year at the Challenge. Though I had known about similar blogging challenges before, I couldn't participate in them owing to my hectic daily routine which itself was a challenge.

I chose to sign up this time not just because I had time on my hands, but also because I believe blogging is an excellent platform to read good articles on a variety of subjects. It's not like the ubiquitous social media platforms wherein one tends to find fleeting thoughts rather than well-thought-out compositions. 

In 2018, I didn't have a theme. Last year, it was 'journalist jargons'. This year, when the time for 'reveal theme' arrived, I didn't know what I should blog on. 

A couple of days before the kick-off, I thought of our current state and what I was doing presently. And that became my theme - how I am keeping up my spirits in these troubled times.

It was a pleasure to not only put up one post a day barring Sundays but also to connect with some amazing bloggers, check out and comment on their posts, and read their comments to my posts. 

I had never read so much on niche subjects like quilting, herbal oils and Geographical Indications. There were reminiscences of childhood memories, introspections, reviews of books, travelogues, offbeat destinations, short stories etc., besides, of course, the highs and lows of the routine nowadays. 

A BIG THANK YOU to everyone out there who read my posts, keyed in comments and kept coming back to my blog. It was a wonderful journey, getting to know you all.

Here are just some of the bloggers with whom I connected during the Challenge (listed in alphabetical order of the blogger), the name of their blog and their theme:
  1. Anagha Yatin - Canvas with RainbowShort stories

  2. Anita Sabat - The Explorer of MiraclesGeographical Indications of Odisha
     
  3. Arti Jain - My Ordinary Moments - Stories from childhood revolving around grandfather's garden

  4. Darshana Suresh (Dashy) - Wandering Wows!Inhibitions

  5. Frédérique - Quilting Patchwork Appliqué - Quilting work of favourite artists

  6. Frewin55 - How would you knowPosts around personal and societal responses to the Covid 19 crisis

  7. Genevive Angela - Living A Life Of GratitudeShort stories for inspiration

  8. Jade Li - Tao Talk - Essential oils

  9. Jhilmil Bhansali - Parenting and Lifestyle - Parenting 

  10. Keith - Keith's Ramblings - Short stories with words that have fallen out of use

  11. Moondustwriter - Penned in moon dustIssues faced by elders

  12. My Space - My SpaceShort stories

  13. Ninu Nair - Bookishloom - Books

  14. Nisha - Teeth That SparkleTravel Stories from Across the World

  15. Red - Doesn't Speak Klingon - Thoughts in these Covid times

  16. Shilpa Garg - A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose! - Various aspects related to books and reading

  17. Simrit Bedi - Suburban LifestyleActivities for kids

  18. Sinjana Ghosh - Backpack & Explore - Offbeat destinations of India

  19. Suzy - Someday Somewhere - In the Lockdown

  20. Sweta Sharma - My Random Ramblings - Quirky, humourous and relatable definitions

  21. Tomichan Matheikal - Tomichan Matheikal's blog -  Books

  22. Wendy - Wendy's Waffle - Various aspects related to moving house
See you soon! Take care and good wishes!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Lockdown relaxed, but no one is in a hurry to get back to old ways

Though India has extended the lockdown till May 18 (it began on March 25), there is considerable relaxation in areas which have seen no, or very low cases, designated as green and orange zones.

In fact, 90% of Bengaluru should be limping back to normality from today with many commercial establishments opening.

My house falls in a ward that has seen no positive cases, but my district is in the red zone since a few other wards in the district have seen a high number of cases.

Since my ward is in the green zone, many people will try to get back to their normal routine in my locality from today. I can already hear the sound of quite a few vehicles plying.

Following the latest government order, our apartment association took a decision a couple of days ago to allow in domestic helps but with strict controls and monitoring. But the fact is everyone is hesitating to make the first move and ask them to come back.

No one wants to change the new status quo if they have an option not to.

In fact, we initially thought we would ask our maid to come, but later we changed our mind. That is because there is no necessity -- we are managing with cooking and cleaning, and the maid (who has been with us for nearly 15 years) is being paid her usually salary though she hasn't been working.

Also, we thought let us see how the situation pans out, now that from today many people who have no option would begin to move around and get back to work.

The rule of thumb is don't be in a hurry to go back to the old ways; wait, watch, and restore normality in a phased manner.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Z for Zen - My favourite things to counter COVID-19 stress

(This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. This is the 26th and it concludes this series, wherein I wrote on activities or ideas that keep me refreshed during these depressing days.)

For about a month now, I have been exploring Zen, a Japanese lifestyle that emphasises simplicity, straightforwardness, peace, calmness, enlightenment, equanimity, meditation, etc. The first time I looked up the Internet, I was drowned in the ocean of information on the subject.

There are multiple aspects to Zen which I am still getting myself acquainted with. I can't call myself as someone who is fully into it. But I am reading up about it and practising some elements of it.

An important aspect of Zen is meditation (common to many other practices similar to Zen) in which breathing is the key. But here is it not the strenuous form of breathing, instead, one "observes breathing" by counting inhaling and exhaling.

Another aspect of Zen is being in tune with reality. and coming to terms with what is present now, and understanding it with calmness. It helps to resolve any problems by addressing it directly.

Being in harmony with nature is another element. It's not always possible to be 100% in tune with nature. But I guess, the aim to do as best as we can.

For me, Zen is just another method to be in the present, to be calm, purposeful, at peace with the surroundings, both people and things. And this is a time, like never before when we have been forced to look inwards, reevaluate our priorities, our repurpose our journey of life.