Why my heart gently weeps

I cried all the way while driving back home. This was three weeks ago. I was at the Aadhar enrolment centre in New Delhi for an update in my national identity card, my first outing after the lockdown in April. If I didn’t have to leave for the UK in December for my research, I wouldn’t risk my life trying to get that update. A cash-strapped researcher can not afford the treatment if the pandemic strikes, but worse would be the cancellation of my dreams and a future I have diligently worked for over the past year.

India is, any given day, a nation of swarming multitudes and when the government reopened select services at carefully curated, stringently limited centres to facilitate the outbound journey of researchers like me,  it came with a tacit understanding that there would be crowd, streams of it, and social distancing would be impossible. That update, as it was, was the first step in applying for the visa. I just couldn’t miss it.

As soon as I stepped out of the centre and got into the car, I broke down. Ten kilometres of the journey back home was tearfully difficult – I stopped at traffic signals and felt ashamed at my emotional outburst. A woman crying at the wheel is a woman in distress. I didn’t want the world to see and make assumptions about my life, especially not when I had a tough time making sense of the outburst myself. And then, the reflection came to me in a blinding moment. The mask and the conversations from behind the mask at the centre flashed before me. It’s weird that I am saying this but I am quite awkward with social conversations. So, isolation and lack of social interaction shouldn’t affect me much, I have always told myself. Except that in many ways, we skip life’s profound realisations only to get a handle on them in the simplest of ways. Like, stepping out after months for an update in the identity card.

I am not the life of a party but street conversations with strangers is my strong suit. They say introverts excel at one on one conversations. Never ever in my life have I survived an Uber ride without conversing with the driver, for instance. It’s true that common, working class people set off something in me. I want to connect in deeply spiritual ways that only life connects all human beings irrespective of class, caste or religion. But that day, I couldn’t bear what I had just lived through – being inside an enrollment centre throbbing with people but all I did was to keep looking at my watch to count the minutes, making sure I didn’t spend too long inside the air-conditioned enclosure. Someone like me, who has given days to long conversations with strangers even at the risk of not meeting writing deadlines, was fearful, observing frantically the six-feet distance and constantly adjusting the face mask. At the moment this happened, I didn’t realise the tragic turn our human lives have taken. In the solitude of the steering, it hit me hard. I cried and cried and cried. Perhaps, I needed to vent, let it all out and at that very moment, it felt like a dam had broken inside me, oceans heaving in my heart and tearing me up like the rivers they swallow.

I had feared on some days that Covid-19 will turn us into socially reclusive human beings. I write about this today because I want to put it away, like a small note submitted towards building human memories on the pandemic. But what I am becoming is more than just my grief melting into tears in moments of emotional weakness. I am doing socially awkward things, just the way extremely recluse humans do. In recent weeks, I have kept cancelling important work calls. Often, I tell them that I am unwell or someone I know is. Often, I just want to postpone everything to the week that never comes. I read a message and respond to it hours or days later. I shy away from taking calls unless it’s the courier guy with my ear pods or stationary. I have set my phone to two call and app block schedules, which offer strictly limited scope for conversations. I have deleted Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp from my phone, as if I were winding down for a long hibernation. I feel like a giant, fatigued panda, who just have started a war with spoken words and no fellow humans without a valid reason to back it up.

I once told a friend going through a divorce, my dear, do not postpone joy. Even as I recollect this here, I remain on the hurting, sorrowful trip of delaying it for myself. I feel inertia, anger and stoic stubbornness about self-isolation that I have never felt before. The quarantine may have gotten to me, you might say. I would merely say that I still wake up everyday and try to shun all of this distress by writing. Just trying these days, like today, is an act of courage.

Millennials are gutted but some companies are trying to uplift them

Millennails are truly gutted. I remember I had barely started my career as a journalist when the 2008 financial crisis plunged the global economy and it seems, my generation has not recovered from it yet. Blame it on economic crises after crises, and this year, we are staring into a recession even as we lose jobs, savings, and even lives. In the middle of all this mayhem, some companies may be finding it important to cancel out fun for us. Airbnb will now restrict bookings for under-25s in the UK, Spain and France as part of an effort to stop unauthorised house parties. Work from home has already led to serious psychological issues for us, and now some of us can’t even house-party! It may be alright, given that the pandemic isn’t over yet but the threshold of patience with quarantine and social distancing may be crashing now for many of us. We are social animals and we need people. I can totally imagine what this year is turning out to be for college freshers and younger folks. My heart for you, folks, carry on and perhaps take heart in this beautiful write-up, which argues that it’s not just the millennials who have never recovered, but also the Gen-X! I just love the way it ends and I cheer you on with this below:

Without inheritances or family savings to keep us afloat, we have recreated stability in a world that is unstable. We turned friends into family. We have accepted debt as a part of our lives. We have made peace with possibly never being homeowners. We have no expectations of being able to retire. ….
It would be nice if other generations noticed our resiliency. Our creative endeavors. Our platforms and social media and art and multiple jobs as evidence of our perseverance. But even if it’s never seen that way, we will know we are doing the best we can to create lives we can love.

Love, love, love! These sentences are beautiful, they are making me all teary, and ever so ready to take on the world. We are the infamous cohort of people born between 1981 and 1996 and we will survive.

Before I forget, financial literacy is equally important and often, we have no one to go to for financial advice! I think this survey says a lot about this – ”Although 37% of Americans said their main source of financial advice comes from friends and family, Gen Zers cited social media as a go-to source. And 31% of those surveyed said they got no financial advice at all.

Meanwhile, even as you badger on, some companies may be trying to brighten up the lives of singles out there. German software company SAP has been hosting virtual wine tastings and barbeques for its single employees and even designed a Tinder-like app for lunch dates!

Alright world, I need to bow out with this. What do you think? How are you coping? What has your workplace done for your mental health? Write to me.