21st January, 2021
The year 2020 will go down in history as Annus Horribilis for bringing the Corona Virus into our lives.
If someone had told me a year ago, as I sat in Berlin on a relaxed weekend, that our lives were about to change like it had never happened before in this coming year, that our ideas and perceptions, notions of security and safety were about to be completely challenged and altered – all because of a virus emerging somewhere in China, I would have briefly gawked at that person with a look of exasperation on my face and then gone back to ignoring his/her warnings. Only if I had known….
As the year proceeded, the horror that is the Corona Pandemic started unravelling itself. Besides being confronted with existential questions about managing chores and home office, finding a work-life balance, a lot of us were also being confronted by some anxieties like experiencing the fear of losing someone, of not being able to be there for our families, of being alone. Issues of mental health like Anxiety, Panic attacks, Depression started coming to the fore. An entire generation, which took the freedom of movement for granted, felt suddenly trapped.
I, for one, have constantly been (and still am) on an emotional rollercoaster during this entire time. Having made my peace with the reality of living by myself, I was doing fine till the pandemic started. Till February 2020, I used to travel a lot for work, meet peers, friends and family very regularly and thrive in that environment. This energy would, more than often, be enough for me to deal with the day-to-day reality of living alone. My life was full of loving, caring people; my house was a beautiful home – the loneliness didn’t bother me that much. Enter Corona.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I, like many others, believed that this thing would go away by the end of summer and things would normalize again. Around the same time, my project came to a scheduled end and effectively my employment ended too. But since I had strong credentials, strong references and I believed that the pandemic would be gone soon, I wasn’t so concerned about the impending job search. I first decided to focus on finishing my PhD, another project I had been dragging along for years, while slowly starting to look for a job. With the lockdown came the deprivation of social contacts, the medical history brought paranoia back to my life. Even during the fairly relaxed situation in Germany during the summers, the paranoia of getting infected, falling ill and being by myself during that time, brought back memories of a very different, yet equally difficult and challenging time and stopped me from meeting people, of being in public places.
Another thing which kept coming back to me from that time was the eternal question of support systems. I used to be often asked back then, and continue to be asked even today, especially by Friends and Family in India – How do you manage without a support system?? And it got me thinking. When I was detected with Cancer back in 2009, I was alone here. I had been in Germany barely for three months when the Diagnosis was handed out to me. Initially, none of my family nor my extended family, my closest friends could be around me. Instead, the bizarreness and the helplessness of the situation ensured that a support system built itself around me (more on that under..). This time around something similar happened. I kept complaining that I couldn’t go home, that I was by myself, there was no one to support without realizing that this was untrue. Support system, as we know