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Vol. XXX No. 17, January 1-15, 2021
The new year is here, and one hopes the covid vaccine will also be here soon. The Woman from Madras Musings has been reflecting on how strange 2020 has been. While one is happy to bid it – and the coronavirus – goodbye, one can’t help but hope that some changes stick on in 2021, too.
Take social distancing, for instance. (Wo)MMM feels it would be nice if people continue to maintain one-arm distance from each other, pandemic or not. After almost a year of social distancing norms, (Wo)MMM has grown rather fond of her personal space – it’s not going to be easy to revert to untidy queues and milling crowds that push and shove, especially when one’s elbowing and dodging skills are rusty from disuse.
(Wo)MMM has also come to prefer the trend of digital meetups in the ‘new normal’ that we live in. It’s surprisingly easy to carry on a conversation online rather than in person, she finds – one isn’t quite so conscious of one’s body language (what does one do with their hands while talking?!) and the option to switch off one’s video is so useful on bad hair days.
(Wo)MMM has become quite grateful for work-from-home systems, too. Frankly, it’s getting harder to rationalize why one even went all the way to office in the first place. For one thing, working from home allows one to avoid the annoying daily commute. (Wo)MMM knows some who use the time to do productive things like read books, listen to podcasts or even take meetings but she isn’t blessed with that kind of attention span, unfortunately – she ends up wasting time gazing outside the window the whole trip. And then when one does reach office, what does one get? A seat that one is generally confined to, unless summoned to a meeting. When one works from home, however, a universe of possibilities opens up. One can solve a crossword puzzle with paati to take a short break. Eat healthy, freshly made meals on time. Or one can work from the garden, instead of a boring cubicle. Actually, there are quite a few reports showing that employee productivity hasn’t decreased because of working from home – in fact, some studies are showing that people do more when working from home. As for collaborative work, digital technology is enabling teams to work with each other from home, helping them meet their deliverables.
In fact, office meetings haven’t changed all that much in the new normal, if one thinks about it. They’ve gone digital, of course – but apart from that, most meetings are as joyously digressive as they are in real life. On one memorable occasion, (Wo)MMM recalls, the attendees spent a lively half-hour discussing the markers of an authentic mishti-doi from Kolkata.
(Wo)MMM quite likes the freedom to be able to join in meetings from different venues – on days that she visits the parents, for instance, she can log in from their home and continue to work, easy peasy.
And of course, it can’t be denied that in the past year, hygiene has improved in general with regular hand washing and sanitizing and the like. Public hygiene, specifically, seems to have become so much better. (Wo)MMM is rather glad to see that the habit of spitting in public seems to have become taboo (high time!) as has the practice of coughing without closing one’s mouth – at least, these instances don’t seem as common as they used to be, in (Wo)MMM’s observation. In these pandemic days, these are rightfully looked upon more severely as a public hazard.
The Woman from Madras Musings fervently hopes that we don’t let go of the good things we’ve learned from the pandemic. Work-from-home luxuries apart, it’s well worth holding onto good habits like hygiene and public discipline. Here’s looking forward to a brighter, better 2021!
Last week, The Woman from Madras Musings found herself down with a low-grade fever. Under normal circumstances, this would have called for sleep and a jaunt to the doctor if things didn’t get better. With corona in the air, however, it set off panic alarms at home.
(Wo)MMM was firmly put to bed while a family meeting was convened. As it happened, (Wo)MMM had just tested negative for the coronavirus in recent times, which made it highly unlikely that the fever was a symptom of covid. The family nevertheless swiftly put together a corona plan of action, identifying a room for (Wo)MMM to be quarantined in and all the accompanying logistics, too. Presently, the better half surfaced by the bedside carrying a non-contact digital thermometer.
The thermometer declared that (Wo)MMM had normal temperature and was not down with a fever after all. The better half found this quite puzzling, since (Wo)MMM was rather warm to the touch. In fact, in a scene diametrically opposite that famous folk tale The Princess and the Pea, (Wo)MMM was lying on the bed with a series of blankets stacked on top of her, and was refusing to switch on the fan to boot. And so, the next twenty minutes went by in testing the thermometer. (Wo)MMM insisted on aiming it at her forehead, nose, right ear, left shoulder, right toe, left knee and so on and so forth. Astonishingly, the result was exactly the same every single time – not only was (Wo)MMM in perfect health, the thermometer declared, but she was also blessed with an incredibly even body temperature that a tray of freshly-baked cookies would be envious of. The optimistic thermometer was quickly ditched for another one, which confirmed that (Wo)MMM did indeed have a fever. (Wo)MMM was directed to sleep, which she gladly did.
That was all it took, really. (Wo)MMM was back to her normal self the next morning – the blankets were thrown off, the fans were switched back on and she found herself wanting to eat an apple. Much rejoicing ensued as the family spread the word that it was not the coronavirus but a simple flu. Life is back to normal. (Wo)MMM hopes she doesn’t come down with another cold or cough anytime soon.
The new year is upon us and with it, a flurry of new year resolutions, too. Like most, The Woman from Madras Musings also makes a checklist of goals for the new year. They’re all typically quite ambitious in the beginning until reality sets in by March, and the grand checklist is culled to half its size. Come June, one begins to tell oneself that meeting one item on the checklist is a laudable feat. By the time September arrives, the joys of living in the moment feel more important than chasing goals. It is usually only in December that one’s ambitions are kindled once again to make a list of new year’s resolutions for the next year.
This year, however, (Wo)MMM has hit upon a clever way to break the cycle – she has made just a single, bite-sized new year’s resolution and plans to stick to it. Here’s wishing MM readers a very happy new year and may all your new year’s resolutions come true!