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Stranded Abroad- life in Mumbai Lockdown

When three weeks of not leaving the apartment turned out to be a pleasant surprise in the march of 2020.


A time when extraordinary circumstances called for ordinary solutions...

A dear friend, who comes from the north-sea coast of Germany asked me the other day, ''how is it to be in India right now? How is life?'' Well, here is how life is:


‘’Every day is like ‘Groundhog Day’. Here our clothes repeat themselves all three days. The variety in fruit and vegetable is an absolute delight. Together with my parents, we watch a 'defence lawyer solving crime'- series at night (every day a new epiode 😉).

To which she said- ''I laughed so much reading that. Do write a blog post about it''. Well for those of you who don’t know me personally, I was to fly back to Germany after visiting my parents in India for a few weeks. I came here way before Germany had its first case of ‘you know what’. India seemed to be far away from all this back then. Felt almost as if we were safe- as if India was a cell with an impermeable membrane. But by the time we went for a beach vacation close to Grandpa’s village, the news was already flashing various ‘you know what’ statistics from all over the world and Delhi was in focus. The week after we returned all refreshed and exuberant after a mind blowing time at the west coast came a state-wide lockdown. Followed closely by a complete national lockdown (not allowed to leave home except for groceries and medicines). All flights got cancelled. A free-rebooking due to the current circumstances would be allowed. Ye!


With that started our 'Groundhog Day' Life. Today, its been three weeks of it.

Fetching groceries was never an ‘own initiative’ topic for me. Now I am ever ready to go down that one time per week to fetch the green stuff. I am quite happy go lucky in this situation (but that’s also my personality). Yet, when it comes to being in the grocery store and touching things other humans may have, my heart begins to thump. I try brainstorm asap, which veggies and fruits were not bought last week. Pick them, make the payment, rush out of the store and walk home. Proud to be the taste-bringer for our coming week :) (I stopped going to the previous grocery guy since he sneezed into his hands before handing the pack of wash powder to me. Also I changed the medicine shop.. as within 4 square feet of area four sales-people share the counter).


The moment I return, mom turns on the tap (so that I can go wash my hands) and makes me put the clothes and cloth bags I had on me for the shopping into a bucket of hot soapy water. The groceries are kept in a corner- of the extra room which has place for a tiny temple shrine. It’s also the room, where I sit on the shiny black granite slab next to the big window. From here, I like to write my blog posts. Its nice, as when I look out I see the dusty tops of eternally parked cars, the striking blue bottom of the now empty swimming pool, neighboring buildings of up to thirty floors alongside many fig and coconut trees just a few meters away. Pity the window is covered with mosquito net day in and day out. So its not exactly an unadulterated sight. During the day its warm, thirty degrees outside. Inside it is cool with the ceiling fan (the sound of moving air makes it feel extra cool :)).



Since over a decade, I have lived without television. Also I have always agreed with Hans Rosling's view of the news and media coverage. When visiting in India, if I ever come across a newspaper, I only jump to page 3 of the supplement ;)

But news and me have crossed paths often recently, as my parents are fans. Initially the news-channels started dishing out statistics about 'you know what'. Innumerable predictions and expert interviews were an integral part of the information delivered. Day in and day out. I was so confused. Is this news or celebrity debate or modern-day oracle show? As hours turned to days, it started feeling like being haunted by onscreen Déjà vu. Over time we all agreed, that the multiple TV-channels with romantic Bollywood hits from the 80's and 90's made a better start for the day. So that's the new routine. ;)


Social-Media (we the people) – work differently in different countries I guess. In Germany I have never heard of Whatsapp forwards. But here, oh my 30-40 a day (on my parents cell-phones)!


My favorite video (and the only video forward I felt like watching) was the one with pictures of street food items and indo-chinese delicacies, finely edited to the melody of the Bollywood love song ' teri yaad aa rahi hai' (meaning: i am truly missing you) ;)

My folks would talk about ‘you know what’ almost non-stop during the initial days- (whatsapp forwards introduced innumerable theories of why the current situation happened, who is to blame, whose conspiracy is it, financial predictions and solutions through alternate medicine among others). So I requested them to make a slot- for eg. 6-7 pm only ‘you know what’ blabber. And rest is normal life. If that would suit? They didn’t make a slot. But the frequency of the topic is reduced considerably: max three to min zero times a day. Ye!



Personally, I have deep respect for how the Indian government is dealing with the situation- very strict! Giving clear cut does and dont's. Recently they have put a ban on whatsapp forwards as well.

It is somehow nice to be together with fellow countrymen at this time of crisis. The feeling that there are 1.3 Billion people sharing the same situation (staying home) with oneself, feels unique. Am aware and extremely grateful to be amongst those privileged who don’t have to worry about food and shelter.


The one Sunday eve- 22nd March when the entire country observed curfew and was to clap and make noise at 5pm felt so special. The sounds of blowing of the Shankh (conch shell), the clapping, the ‘oooooooooo’ vistory sounds gave goosebumps as everybody gathered in their balconies and windows to do so.

I don’t know if my experiences of the night before can be attributed to lockdown or mosquitoes or both. Well, mom and me were being tortured by an almost invisible mosquito at midnight- so we got up to optimistically swing the electric racket in the air. That’s when I saw a single branch of the fig tree outside my window sway heavily. It was laden with bats. Big and small ones. Never watched them so up close in nature till now.


If the occasional late night mosquito bites (and the subsequent loss of sleep) are discounted, life is good. Cant go out. So I recently start doing what dad does to keep fit. Walk the length of the apartment- to- and fro. For 30 minutes in the morning and thirty in the evening. Shortly before noon, I learn a new vegetable recipe from mom. After lunch I try make my parents play cards with me. Every time they come with much reluctance. But when they sit down on the warm tiles of the living room, they play focused and are at times annoyingly competitive. The exchanges between us are so funny that mom almost gets pain in the ribs with laughter. We all pause then, so that she can calm down, disentangle her muscles before the next laugh.


With time, I have come to re-acknowledge my mom's quality of deep devotion. It is currently directed at cleaning and cooking. She attempts to try out new recipes from youtube and is extremely elated to know that the meal has turned out yummy. Dad is surprising me too by making chapatis in the kitchen and doing dishes twice a day (very rare for his generation).

In India, we have more than fifty TV-channels showing movies (even Korean films are dubbed in Hindi). Mom and me prefer Walt Disney ones. Oh they feel so good! 4pm is Chai time with biscuits. Later in the evening is also Yoga time- looking at Youtube videos. Some evenings I meditate or join my friends back home on conference call, or telephone with friends in India. My dad calls us daily at 8pm to watch our favourite crime series, with the same euphoria, as if it’s India’s cricket world-cup final commencing. At 7.50 am, he goes through the apartment reminding us to conclude our current activities within 10 minutes time. Rest of the time, I am working. Luckily most of my work is online.


Today I realize that being well versed in what I call cardinal rules for home office: mindfulness, focus and positive self-talk is serving me very well.

I inculcated these habits during the last months of 2019, way before the current situation became a part of our lives.


Also, I am utmost lucky and grateful to have company of my parents during this Groundhog Day phase. It will stay to be one great memory of time spent with the family.

That's summarizing my experiences till date. How has it been for you?

Wishing everyone peace and health. Stay home, Stay Safe!!


Sunny Greetings from Mumbai,

Jaaee

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