Today’s column was supposed to be “Economic recovery vis-a-vis food security,” but I had a change of heart. There are enough people handpicked for that assignment. So, I decided to share with you my COVID-19 upside experiences, thoughts and learnings.
Yes, COVID-19 is causing unprecedented suffering and inconveniences to us all, but, it is also creating opportunity for innovative human reconnection in social distancing. I too have lost work, forced to live off my credit card and savings, I too am frustrated with imposed confinement and yearning some “buy food” (Chinese in particular). But once I could no longer sleep and hibernate the “vex” away, I started to take stock. COVID-19 has given me (us) pause and cause to do many things which would have continued neglected.
The number of persons planting to eat, cooking, experimenting, sharing ideas and solutions via social media is phenomenal. In this regard, we have never been closer to each other, inspiring expressions of greater respect and value for those who previously did these things for us; farmers, cleaners, cooks, mothers, fathers.
I am blessed, my mom lives with me. Underlying health issues renders her high risk. So, I have had to be extra responsive to the stay at home, stay safe mandate. But this has come with a silver lining. Without the hectic demands of work and school, I am spending quality time with my mother doing things with her that she loves…luckily I love them too. We are gardening, cooking, watching TV (sometimes till 2 am!) and praying together. The garden is blossoming, the cooking is wonderful and the praying fulfilling.
Let’s be real, I don’t know how much longer my mom will be alive or able to do these things with me, but these memories will be etched in my heart forever. And in the process, I have gained so much more from her; priceless times, valuable lessons.
COVID-19 has also reconstructed learning and education in my household. Yes, I am concerned about the loss of school time, but we have life and good health. I am grateful and have come to embrace the education taking place in my home. My children are spending quality time with each other and me. The Trampoline and hammock have been rediscovered, the yard is the walking track, YouTube the instructor. The yard was invisible pre-COVID-19, given school/lessons demands. It is now the venue of the daily evening jaunts.
The kitchen too has become a place of learning life skills not just the food and snack supplier. There has been SFC (Samir Fried Chicken) and breakfast specials of pancakes and scrambled eggs, French toast a la Manesha; Esha’s Oatmeal cookie delights. “Collaborations with mom” must be placed on record. Manesha is now the expert roti cooker (note not maker). She can “sakai” (cook on the tawa) the best dhalpourie and paratha.
Samir has matured into such a man in this period. He handles a saw, cutlass and hammer like a pro. Patience, his only shortcoming, is a work in progress. He and I have dug up and transplanted 10-foot-plus trees, now named spazland and spazmom. He is spearheading the constructing of a bamboo fence with planter around our kitchen garden and has plans to design and construct a watering system for the plants. The demands of school would have never allowed for such skills development.
COVID-19 has brought my family together in nightly prayer. Inspired by my mom who saw an online call for chanting 9 mantras at 9 every night for a global collective of positive energy. We have added expressions of gratitude. Each of us share what we are grateful for. Esha has been exploring the situation of women in places like Iran, parts of India, Afghanistan, and is grateful for the life she has been born into, granted to her without request. Samir is grateful for Esha who pushes him to exercise, Manesha is grateful for her grandmother because she loves looking after her, my mom is grateful to wake up each day, having the strength to be productive.
I am grateful for all the lessons of COVID-19: life is fleeting, make it count; spend quality time with those who mean the most to you, less is more; respect and protect the earth or she will revolt; teaching and learning is multifaceted and not place bound; food production is the most noble of engagements so respect the farmers; natural disasters/pandemics are increasingly the new norms, the mettle of humankind will be how we redefine development and basic needs to flourish in unchartered waters.