It was March end, when the curfew was supposed to hit the country. My husband and I did not prepare to leave Mumbai, but my mum was not listening. She wanted us to be with her come what may. I clearly remember the rush. I had stocked my kitchen with pantry essentials and so was the fridge. But all had to be given away. I stashed some basics in three bags for the three of us, my husband, myself and my 1.5-year-old baby. It was too hard to leave home, somehow. Looking at the plants, while shutting the balcony doors, it did hurt us that we are going to miss this space, but we thought it would be a matter of a month at the maximum.
COVID-19 is all about social distancing, so when we reached Surat, it was a different zone altogether. Life took a chill pill for weeks. My husband gave me a good shouting in a week’s time and asked me not to panic while meeting the building mates. They are risking their lives too by talking to you, so take it slow, he said to me. Ours is a three-decade old four-storied apartment. And our neighbours are almost like family. So, not meeting them would be a shame. At least, we had to greet each other.
The worrying soul in me about social distancing had to calm down a bit and let the lockdown period sail without anxiety. But I did have it a lot in me. Sleeping on my tummy did help. The whole thing about the future and people dying across the globe made me cry once every night. It was too difficult to imagine so many grandparents die in Italy. I could imagine them lying alone in their hospital beds and dying without seeing their families. It was sad to go to bed with these thoughts. And as the lockdown got extended again and again, I started questioning our sense of keeping hope.
Writing wise, the lockdown period was great, as it pushed me a bit in terms of trying new things. I started interviewing chefs for my blog, but knowing that I have hardly any readers, it did feel sad. But I had to keep writing. Whatever ideas I pitched to editors went to trash I suppose, as I hardly got any replies from them. The blog was all I had with me. And I had to write something.
Another thing that kind of got me upset was the fact that I was no more in my Mumbai kitchen. My ingredients were not there with me. I had to depend on my mother’s kitchen and her pantry. This thing was happening to me the second time. I mean, I was on bed rest for almost a year during my last pregnancy, so the lockdown thing didn’t feel like a burden. It was fine. But I did miss my freedom in the kitchen. I’m a mess of a cook. I hardly care for proportions, cleaning up the counters every five minutes and fearing new experiments. Which is why, within 10 days of staying at my mum’s, I had a small argument with her, and I had to make myself know that I’m no more in my kitchen. I had to let go. And soon, when my sisters-in-law stepped in, I started keeping away from the kitchen. I lacked confidence to be around so many people. I’m used to being alone, all fearless.
Online grocery shopping was something that kept us occupied. We were ordering stuff like there was no tomorrow, but slowly, we got a grip and realised it’s not going so bad, and that food stores will be open all year round. I tried my hand at baking buns and loved it. I also mastered a few Chinese dishes and the Pink Pasta.
The best part about my stay in Surat was the food sharing business with the sweet neighbours. I got to learn a few recipes that I always wanted to know from them. Meetha phula, gujiya, keri ki laungi, mint cooler, etc. Also, the more I noticed my mum in the kitchen, the more notes I made in my mind. For instance, I started nailing simple dishes like her. Also, mum has this thing about her. She keeps a positive vibe in the house, and so, I was at a relaxed mode. We had a help, who stayed with us, so the basic housework was taken care of well. My son had the best of his time there with kids all around, and I loved it.
Soon, I realised we had to fly to my in-law’s place. When the airports opened up again, we were a bit sceptical about the safety, but after a few weeks, we realised it’s a little risky, but it should be fine too. And in a few days, after out three-month stay in Surat, we flew to Delhi and rode to the nearby city, Rohtak. This is where my in-laws live. I haven’t stayed here for more than three weeks, but it didn’t bother me much.
After a week, I realised I had to do some major grocery shopping. Why would my mother-in-law, who is nearing 70, keep stuff she doesn’t make in the kitchen? Also, now was the time when I had to cook a lot. I couldn’t eat the stuff that my mum and dad made back in Surat. I especially missed the sweet items that they made like Kasar, Besan ki Chakki, Choorma, etc. I missed their food a lot. But I hardly had any time to think about it. My new schedule was tight, and in the spare time, I just used my phone to update my social media page or slept. The new pantry was sorted till some extent but having no basil leaves didn’t help.
For the next few weeks, I plan to make some DIYs for my baby, and plant some herbs too. I do miss my Mumbai home, but these times are hard on all people around, and I should only pray and protect my family as much as I can. I need to start exercising as the right side of my neck is bothering me a bit. And I need to take care of my husband’s diet, as staying at home all the time can ruin one’s diet. We also need to get my son’s vaccinations done, but we lack courage to visit a hospital for that. I have started shopping a lot, online that is. From Yuvi’s books to home essentials, our list is endless and my husband is really tired of it.
There is so much happening around, sometimes I lose track of how to be hopeful for the future. Till what extend can I protect my family from COVID? What impact will it have on us all in the coming months? When will a possible vaccine be available? Also, domestic tensions have started to crop up, and knowing the suicide cases around us through social media makes me all tensed. What does this time want to teach us? I don’t know. I only have questions in my mind as of now. Let’s keep gratitude till we sail through these times. And a wee bit of kindness towards each other will do no harm too.