She died.

And she just died.

I read a post yesterday where a girl I knew posted on Instagram that she was on her deathbed and a few hours later she was dead.

I had not met her for a few years but I had been aware of the work she was doing and she was doing well. She seemed happy and with so much to live for. That’s the thing with social media… we only see what others want us to see. This is more often than not a version of a life that’s way more rosy and picture perfect than it actually is.

And in between all the happy posts and the video shares and comments… In between all she wanted us to see, she didn’t post about her getting sick or her cancer.

She just posted her final hours and she just died.

A deep dive into social media, I realised she’d found out a short while ago… just basis the fact that she stopped posting photographs and started posting throwbacks. A strong, fiery girl, I’m sure she fought till the very end like a star. Never asking or needing pity or unnecessary kindness she handled this dreaded disease bravely!

But then it took her and she just died.

It made me so acutely aware of how transient life is. We’re always planning for the next big thing, we’re waiting for something, wanting for something… never really content but this could all be over in a second ! All of it, all that we are, is so temporary and could change in a flash of a second. In times like these I have never been more aware of this- our mortality.

If we wake up every day…it’s a good day. If we wake up every day healthy… it’s a great day!

It’s hard that it takes deaths, suicides and pandemics to put these things into perspective sometimes.

P.s.(Palat says)-: This shook me to my very core. An Instagram post saying you are dying and to pray… is the hardest to read and also the most sobering. Wishing her family strength and her a blessed afterlife.

Hypocrisy and Death!

#RIP #GoneTooSoon #Heartbroken

All useless tributes that mean literally nothing once someone has passed. It’s not like he/ she can read the ‘love’, ‘the tributes’, or feel ‘the sadness.’ It makes us feel better, like we’ve done something – but in truth it means absolutely nothing!

Yet another life was taken this week- I say taken, because a person was so depressed he quite literally took his own life. And the conversation went back to depression and mental health and how little we value a person’s mental well being.

But here’s the thing, if we’re depressed , we’re asked to speak about it in hushed tones. We’re not allowed to feel sad or bad cause we’re perceived as weak and unstable. And who wants to be thought of as that? Work doesn’t come to the weak and unstable. People don’t want to share their lives with the weak or unstable. And depressed as you may be, it’s a spiralling sadness towards a drain of despair for you.

And it’s all very well to say ‘ask for help’ or ‘I’m there’ or ‘I’m listening’ but let’s be honest – are you truly there? Are you actually listening? And do you actually care? In our busy lives, more often than not when we ask-‘how are you?’ We expect ‘Ok,’ or ‘Fine.’ We don’t really want to know. It’s just part of polite conversation and we would prefer the quick and easy answer instead of actually giving a damn!

It’d just be easier if people didn’t kill themselves cos the ugliness and hypocrisy of society wouldn’t be so blatant for all to see.

But a couple of tweets and Insta pics later, we’ll forget all about it and casually ask ‘how are you?’ hoping for the short, quick and easy answer.

P.s.(Palat says)-: Let’s start giving honest answers when people ask how we feel… If they can’t deal with it, they don’t deserve to be in your life any way!

Note to #Divya1.0

I am the class nerd. I am the people pleaser. I am the eager beaver over achiever and this lock down has been hard. I’ve always felt I can do more, be more, achieve more- all around just make better use of the 24 hrs I now have been given.

And I see the posts about how it’s okay to not be okay and how no one expects us all to learn a new language, develop a new skill and keep a perfect home; but somehow I just can’t let that apply to me.

And in this lonely, lonely time it’s making me quite crazy. I say it’s lonely, because even though you might be( and I am) surrounded by the most incredible people and are loved- you have way too much time too think in the gaps of silence- of which there are many.

So I am learning Spanish, finishing my second computer course and finding new means to clean that cleaning companies are still unaware of!

And I can’t wait to get back… to a new normal, to an old normal… to any thing resembling a ‘normal.’.

Things I’ve learnt…(beyond Spanish, python , C etc).

  1. I need people… even the ones who are just acquaintances – the loud ones, the annoying ones, the needy ones and the ones I should’ve blocked. I need all of them! You make life colourful and I’m not crazy about the black and white life I’m in! So let’s bug the hell out of each other!
  2. I love plans… every day I have a new day plan and I love achieving it! Guess Nerdy Divya is still alive and thriving!
  3. I can still learn… I love learning new things, listening to lectures, trying and achieving new stuff! I love it!
  4. I hate the display pics people put up on Zoom / Skype! I need to see you rolling your eyes/ smiling or even yawning! I miss seeing expressions of people!
  5. The lockdown has been bad on my back. My house was not equipped for #WFH and it’s far too comfortable so trying to get the angle just right on work calls I have thrown my back far too often!
  6. I need to do a day/ two like this every month. I have catalogued my belongings and found everything or almost everything that can be discarded in my home and done a spring cleaning in summer! This must become a monthly thing!
  7. I love sanitiser… I have an almost unhealthy obsession with the darn thing… Needless to say the house is sanitised daily, as are our clothes, kitchen counters, hands and anything I lay my sights on!
  8. I am bad at naming pets…With the lockdown we’ve taken to feeding stray dogs and cats daily and since I can’t really name puppies , except my own well… I give them the first name that comes to mind- so we have Pinky( a girl dog who has been sleeping on Pink clay); Flocky( friends with the neighbourhood ruffian Rocky); Boti(friends with the chaiwallahs dog Moti) and the Helicopters( two old dogs who rush to me with their tails going round like propellers).
  9. I can’t document my day or my food on Instagram! Instagram for me is about memories and moments that I never want to forget and as much as the paneer makhani that I made today was Insta worthy, today’s not a time I want to remember. I want to move on. And I hope this happens soon!

As India readies for #Lockdown4.0 , I wonder , even when we get back how long it’s going to take for us to truly be back.

This time has made me truly value family, a home, support and love. I have been more honest with myself at this time and with others and I’m happy I’ve been able to and allowed to.

We will be back and I know #Divya2.0 will be a different version, but I know when I get out into the city for work or go one my first vacation, I’ll see it differently- fresher and with a lot more respect.

P.s.(Palat says)-:We’re each dealing with the lockdown differently and there’s no right/ wrong way. It’s important though to allow ourselves a break and be less critical of who we are…

The numbers will go up.

And the alcohol stores opened after 40+ days for a day and a half and crowds thronged! And then before you knew it- it was banned again- along with all other shops(excepts ‘essentials’.)

Covid-numbers increased , we were told. Social distancing wasn’t kept. How can there be crowds? 40+ days – so what?! Ban everything. Shut everything. And sure, that might seem an approach… but it’s kind of like the Ostrich approach– what I don’t know , is not scary. It makes NO SENSE!

By shutting all stores, you disallow people to get out to buy a bulb, when the lights are fused; to hire a plumber or an electrician and start their earnings again and help the person staying at home. Electricians could come, but should they need any wiring, fuses etc…. well that’s tough cos stores are shut! E-commerce stores are also disallowed from sending these items! I have tried to book a standing broom for weeks as I have a slipped disc , but guess what, that’s not an ‘essential’ item. I can book a regular broom(jhadu) though. I have that. I’m just in pain bending. Too bad!

And with regards to essentials, who decided what milk or coffee or cooking oil would be essential and which others would not. What if my tastes differ… well then tough!

And here’s my actual issue- whenever the city opens or the country opens, THE numbers will rise. They will rise because there are several asymptomatic carriers that may pass it on to people who will exhibit symptoms. We will then check and then we’ll know and quarantine.

This will happen if we open up today, the 18th or even next year.

This is not a virus that’s going anywhere in a hurry.

What we’re going to have to adapt to is the new normal- where we keep clean and healthy and maintain a decent amount of social distancing.

By shutting stores for another 2 weeks – you are just postponing the inevitable without any solution.

Let’s put it this way, if the stores hadn’t been shut- essentials, non essentials- you wouldn’t have hoarding and crowding. We should have established new buying norms i.e. perhaps having people call in with orders and then calling them to pick it up only when ready- in our grocers/ non -essential stores or employing delivery services to help with delivery to avoid lines and queues. Or allowing e- commerce companies to help in delivering items.

But by not allowing shops to function we’re just pretending to not have a problem- a problem we definitely have. What’s going to happen when the city opens up? I for one am going to stock up on bulbs just in fear that the shops after opening for 1 day may shut again and I won’t have light! And that’s what we’re all going to do.

And the numbers will go up when we get out. And then there will be more needed to be treated. But with that, more will develop antibodies and immunity to the disease.

But we will be back at work. Back uplifting the economy. Because by hiding at home if it’s not fear that’ll kill us , it’s the fact that we will run out – of supplies, of food and finally of money!

P.s.( Palat says)-: Fight smart not rashly. We act first and think later… that needs to be changed.

My #LockDownPersonas!

And like several, I’m sure , I suffered through dramatic mood shifts during the lockdown. From taking the moment in and just trying to understand the enormity of the situation, to missing freedoms that I never even knew I needed so much.

And even as the world around us seemed falling apart and staying at home seemed most important- it did seem like we are all stuck in our own version of the ‘Big Brother/ Big Boss’ household. The characters we are stuck with , seem equally interesting/ annoying and we’re all seeing sides come out that hadn’t for a while. My OCD is on overdrive and the nerdy me that I left behind years ago, seems to be out and about again!

And that’s when I realised – we all have our new #LockDownPersonas ! There are the #MiniMasterChefs that have cropped up- showing and sharing ridiculously delectable recipes and photographs making you wonder a) where they get all this incredible produce when you’ve run out of lemon and b) who’s cleaning the kitchen after!?

There are the #OCDMonicaGellers who like me are learning a new skill, doing exams for no reason at all and need everything put in a particular place and in a particular way! They drive themselves and all those around them mad… don’t believe me – ask the husband!

There are the #Vacationers for whom this is a time to bond with their spouses, share their kids with their spouses, take afternoon naps and wake up late! These are usually the ones who have help or staff at home and they’re in no stress or need to go back to the real world cos this one is sooooo much better!

Then there are the #Scaredys who worry about every forward and tremble at the slightest change that happens around them. They haven’t moved and have no plans to- ever!

And there are the #Saviours- self proclaimed– who head WhatsApp groups and proudly claim to be know-it-alls. They enjoy their God like complex and ask for nothing but non-stop praise and gratitude.

The only difference between us and BB is that there you have no/ little contact with the outside world- here we have fake WhatsApp forwards, newscasters ready to scare every one just to gain higher ratings and of course the neighbourhood watch dogs and society heads who are enjoying their status upgrade because of the sudden rush of fear. They now are relishing the power and are happy to give you all the gossip, ‘magic cures’ and even create new rules, laws and tenets that you must obey! They are the #KimJongUns of the neighbourhood who credit themselves by being the final voice. No one around them has a brain or ounce of smarts. They are the rule makers, the deciders in their mini kingdom and all must obey!

And that’s where the problems crop up because unlike in Big Boss , you can’t really get out!

We’re all meeting our new personas and the new personas of those we call neighbours. And though we’re learning so much about ourselves, I know that I’ll be making friends with a few of my new personas… and leaving a few people who became #Saviours and #KimJongUns far far far behind!

P.s. (Palat says)-: It’s going to be a new world out there. We’re going to have to start appreciating cleanliness and personal space. We’re going to start having to value people and relationships. We’re going to have to start respecting freedom and nature. We’re going to have to change. We’re going to have to be better.

I’ve shared my #LockDownPersonas… what’re yours!?

lockdown stencil print on the grunge white brick wall

Candles in the Dark

And since we had an address by the Prime Minister at 9 am, I rushed through the cleaning and re-decided my house-work plan to make sure I’d be cleaning in front of the television just to ensure that I heard the speech. And then it started and he congratulated us and thanked us for supporting the #SocialDistancing which now was followed as a necessity rather than habit and cited how we were leading the way for the world and people were citing India as an example and honestly, I felt more than a bit proud. It’s hard for 130 crore people to stay in a location, forget stay at home and even though there were issues, by and large, this was being obeyed!

And so I stayed on, there were rumours that the un-lockdown would happen in a systematic manner and I wanted to hear the plan. Also running a small business in this economy is hard and I was hoping I’d hear a plan that would give me hope.

But then we were given a plan of switching off lights on Sunday the 5th at 9 p.m. for 9 minutes and we were asked to hold candles, torches, diyas or mobile phone lights at our balcony- and that’s when I got up and re-started my work.

I am not criticising the plan because I lack solidarity with my government or my people. I’m not even criticising the plan because I don’t have candles-I do.

I won’t be lighting candles on Sunday at 9 p.m. because, I will be asleep.

With the lockdown I start my day at 5 am, and then walk 7 km with 2 bags of food to be feed 14-20 strays who currently are starving because the shops that used to feed them scraps are shut and the walkers in the parks have also been stuck at home. Hence the dogs have been fighting each other for scraps, getting injured and hurt in the process and are famished. And every day if I can do one good thing it’s this. After the walk, there’s cleaning, swabbing and disinfecting my house, then cooking for the family. And then after that we get on to a work call with the team, to keep them and myself positive and see how we can ensure that business does not suffer.

So no, I won’t be able to stay up on Sunday because to make a difference to the world, I’d rather feed those that can’t. I’d rather get on that work call and keep my business afloat, because I’m not hearing any plans from the government on how we’re going to revive the economy or how they’re going to ensure that people stay employed.

Sunday will make brilliant front page copy, beautiful Instagram images and even spectacular city images. It won’t however help us back on our feet. It won’t make my Monday less terrifying and I know there will be a few idiots who’ll ditch the candles for crackers; so I hope they don’t hurt my poor defenceless animals more than they are already suffering.

P.s.(Palat says)-: In a time of fear, we need to be told we’ll be back and stronger than ever… even if that’s always not believed. I need that plan. I’ll stay up for that!That’ll give me hope. That’ll be my candle in the dark!

Lockdown Life

And so the lockdown intensified… if that’s even a thing and basic veggies, deliveries , medicine too were halted despite assurances that they would not be stopped! The freedoms that we took for granted are now luxuries that can scarce be afforded, even if available!

And honestly it’s scary. It’s wonderful to have announcements and notices printed about how stocks are plentiful but scary when you go into a store and can’t get milk, tomatoes or bread! Worse still I’m out of lenses and medication. For food, we’ll improvise and the husband will pretend to enjoy ingredients being mixed together with tons of chillies… but without the meds my immunity will go further down and my blood pressure even higher (I have high blood pressure- surprise surprise!)!

And that’s my #CoronaUpdate!

But here’s the serious worry. As a small business owner, it becomes hard to understand how to fund a future for employees, my company and my family in times like these. And don’t get me wrong- I know it’s privileged to be able to run a company and have a family and employees but with taxes not reducing or being waived, rents not being pushed/ being waived and no foreseeable plan of any relief, it is going to be a very different world post the virus.

Companies, even the biggest and best are going to have to make employee cutbacks and that will affect thousands. With the economy crashing, it’s a matter of time for businesses to make hard choices and harder decisions. It would help if we got some relief on taxes…to allow us to stay afloat- less productive , but afloat. Ours has always been a country of entrepreneurs and small business owners and we need to protect that.

This attack will come and go but crores of futures will change… It is important that everyone gets a fighting chance to bounce back. That way the virus can take away our freedom for a while but not our livelihood forever.

P.s. (Palat says)-: It’s a time to stand united and strong and positive. So here’s a shout out to the Skype creators and Zoom creators… You allow me to still stay connected and see my niece smile and dance.. and that is precious!

I’m not ok- Isolation vs. Loneliness

So the isolation seemed a welcome idea for me … don’t have to deal with Toby, our annoying and extremely confused office help who seems to always get everything wrong! I would also avoid the commute to office with the one-ways and the honking. I’d even avoid the school rush in the morning while navigating my walk with Magic.

And don’t get me wrong, it started just fine. We were exhausted after the ordeal of getting back home, and lacking sleep and energy and cuddling up with the puppy wasn’t hard at all. Maybe I’d even get to watch the Love Island episodes I’d stored up or catch up on a bit of online classes that I’d signed up for.

But then without notice the emptiness and loneliness hit me like a ton of bricks. Sure #SocialDistancing seemed like the only option, but the lack of contact, the silence, the sheer loneliness started catching up. And with that fear. It didn’t help that the news only sold more fear and social networks were crammed with conspiracy theories. And all of a sudden in a world of billions, we understood that we were a drop in the ocean and that too barely!

Then you heard about dolphins returning to the Venice canals and watched the sky (even above Mumbai) become clear again. And it was even more sad to think that it took a pandemic and isolation from the human race for the world to try and repair itself. If we hadn’t been so darn awful would we have to stay isolated and away from the world to let the world heal?

As this virus passes, I vow to do better, to pollute less and harm less. I vow to take better care of those around me and worry about the spread of infection, instead of citing this as normal. If nothing else I think we’ll all become a bit cleaner and safer and that’s a win right!

I’m also starting my #HowAreYou … a tool where I’m planning to touch base with employees, friends and even random strangers so we can get together to share, chat or even play a game… I’m starting this on Skype first and then hopefully Insta next! I’ll make a few friends and maybe #SocialDistancing does not have to be so isolating then… There are more of us out there feeling alone.

P.s.-: Don’t hoard. Keep in mind others. The Universe has taught us a tough lesson and if we make it out of this… don’t lets line up for #Lesson2

Travel and Misinformation in the Time of Corona

It was that time of year again for the annual offsite and information about the corona virus was now coming to India. It was lucky though that our trip for the Offsite was to SriLanka where no one had the virus yet and who was widely circulating a video talking about how safe Sri Lanka was at this time and how the one Chinese tourist who’d had the virus had been successfully cured. They showed off their beaches, they were welcoming visitors and they were super positive about the fact that you were safe here and welcomed here. We also then decided that continuing the trip and celebrating our anniversary and #ParentTrap (where we kidnap our respective parents and take them on a holiday to an undisclosed location) would be just fine.

The offsite went without a hitch. Of course there were the hundred new forwards and even a few now ridiculous videos, ‘Go Karuna…’ being one of the most stupid things I’d seen in a long time. But nothing so stressful given to us by either country in terms of information. And then suddenly overnight, post a Trump address, India too turned into full panic mode. However we were in a resort with almost no world news coverage and even less India coverage and suddenly overnight our borders were shut.

We were given this information over a one line email at 7p.m. on the 16th of March (our anniversary) from SriLankan air saying- “Flight UL143 is canceled.” No plans as to when we might get to leave, or even if this was an option. In a flight (more fright) option, we looked online to desperately search for a flight while simultaneously calling the airline, which offered just a series of unanswered calls! The first flight out was Air India at 2 am on the 17th. The resort was 5.5 hrs away, but that couldn’t deter us. I booked our flights, albeit at a higher rate and we rushed to the airport.

Hundreds of scared, stranded tourists surrounded us in the airport. Sri Lanka, this haven of calm in the midst of this virus, was now blaring Buddhist chants on speakers and people were trying to leave to go home, any route, any way.

The resort had helped. The Guest relations executive had gone above and beyond to organise a car to get us to the airport even though this was last minute and the resort is far from the city. The GM of the Taj Colombo had confirmed that the Air India flight was taking off and had even told the ground staff to expect us , if we were slightly delayed as we were traveling across country. The humanity shown was exceptional. But unfortunately it didn’t allay fears.

At 2am we finally boarded even while watching masked medical doctors usher away a group of petrified tourists who had probably been cited on their infra red cameras for symptoms of the virus. The plane was silent. 35 people on a full jet.

We arrived at 4:30 am. And filled in the medical forms and were shown to doctors who asked questions, which were helpful as long as people stayed honest. I’m sure more than a few, because of fear, lied to avoid being quarantined, or tested, but we got out.

As we were leaving the Pranaam officer who had escorted my family and me, mentioned, that it was a good thing we got back to Mumbai. The city was disallowing flights from Sri Lanka, Turkey, UAE, Dubai, Europe and other destinations by the 17th i.e. the day we arrived. No tourists were allowed in. No Indians either.

Had we waited even for another flight in Sri Lanka we would possibly have been disallowed carriage to India.

How terrifying to think that there was a chance , we’d have no country to come home to and eventually no visa for the country we were in.

In a country of 1.4 billion odd people it’d be nice to be given this information clearly by governments, diplomats and whatsapps rather than fake forwards and non-sensical storage lists. I’d like to have been told that my home would be shut whether I needed to come back or not and be given some lead time to come back home.

Today when I see the hundreds of Indians stranded across the globe, my heart breaks. To be told you can’t go home and aren’t welcome in the country you are in is so, so very frightening.

We need humanity now. And we need our governments to help guide to keep our people safe. Not leave them where they are- stranded and with misinformation- but to get them home.

P.s. (Palat says)-: I. write this after the most hectic , frightening anniversary. trip ever. Back home, back with family- the only thing this trip has taught me is that there is far too much misinformation out there and unfortunately not enough correct, important information being given to us when we need. And it will be misinformation that eventually gets us, even earlier than a #$% virus!

Pain spirals and magic

And with the tensions of the week building, the Multiple sclerosis enjoyed its play ground of havoc! I had dizzy spells, pain everywhere and the added stress kept pushing me in to a deeper, deeper spiral of pain!

And suddenly I just stopped. I asked for a moment for my self and Aditya said he’d take over gladly and helped me delegate some of my responsibilities. And lo and behold, the world did not shatter. My life did not self destruct. I took a moment to breathe and was able to enjoy the week so much more.

Sure, the pain didn’t disappear and there were moments where I just wanted to curl up and howl- but in between , during the shoot there were also moments where I enjoyed myself and truly lived in the moment. I marvelled at the magic. I basked in the magnificence of what had been created. And I truly felt grateful.

That’s the thing, life is meant to challenge you and even sometimes overwhelm you but sometimes skipping a beat is not so awful. Putting yourself first even for a moment can actually help you. So even though you may be in charge of your whole world…maybe for a second if you let it run without you… it might actually even surprise you.

P.s.-: Still the control freak… though I’m trying to stop… truly!Multiple sclerosis shows me every day how I’m not really in control… and maybe that will help teach me better!

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