12th March 2020 was my last outing. Ironically, it is that which started my journey into a total lockdown which, I would’ve been horrified if I knew, would last an entire year. At least. By ‘total’, I mean TOTAL. 400+ days of not even stepping out into the landing of the floor on which I live. And still counting…
To be sure, my lockdown experience, like that of all of you, had its ups and downs as one would imagine. Being confined to our homes with no outside social interactions with fellow humans can be unimaginably tough, going against our basic social instincts as human beings. Acutely so for me, addicted as I am to being socially very active.
However, there was high excitement at the thought that I was about to experience something new, be it negative or positive.
And so it began.
First, with immense anxiety focussed on the uncertainty factor.
Being a kidney transplantee, I am required to be extra cautious and careful.
With constant support from my near & dear ones, I learned to embrace the odds. A course in the Art of Living and Landmark kept me engaged & energetic for the first few months. So much that I started enjoying that phase very much by creating a set routine for myself.
This lockdown phase also got me closer to my 19-year old son, Ayaan who is currently in the US. During this time, we used to have long, hearty conversations daily. Even though we were not physically with each other, we'd converse as if we're in the same room, supporting & guiding each other in our daily activities and just being with each other. A rather unique and stronger bond developed.
I also started cooking my meals, washing bartans and doing household chores again, something I hadn’t done for many years. However, as a person staying alone and considering my physical challenges, it was hard for me to manage the daily household activities all by myself. So using my creativity and to ease the whole process I started devising various ways of doing these chores. And, I realised, what many of you already know well, that it had a therapeutic effect. It also further strengthened my minimalistic outlook.
And fortunately for me, I got a lot of support from my friends, family, neighbours and my well-wishers from across Pune. They all ensured that I was taken care of in terms of my basic needs whenever possible. Even during peak lockdown, friends used to come to my home and bring delicious food and essential items. This situation had truly awakened genuine camaraderie among people.
Professionally speaking, work was quite slow. Consulting, recruitment and other HR activities had come to a near standstill. That was understandably very frustrating. To overcome my feeling of being professionally helpless, I began thinking out of the box.
I thought to try my hand at conducting open-training programmes online. On a voluntary basis. While the aim was to keep myself meaningfully occupied, ironically, consulting and recruitment work started coming in as a result of my training programmes.
Suddenly I was bombarded with assignments. My situation and hence my mood underwent a sea-change. I went from being professionally depressed to being upbeat swiftly and felt revived like I had received an energy booster.
On the social front, I decided to set aside my feeling of being low or anxious and began trying my best to make people whom I spoke with feel pumped up. Since our entire industry was covered in the gloom, I came across many people who were in dismay due to job loss and felt completely lost. Interacting with them made me feel indescribably sad. But, in spite of that, or perhaps because of that, I began having long conversations with them, counselling and guiding them, offering whatever support I could, by even helping them to rewrite their CVs and sharing various job opportunities. I even spoke with the employees of my clients, which was an unusually pleasant experience. I offered them support and reassurance, which gave them strength emotionally and psychologically. Fortunately, several other counsellors and colleagues agreed with my request and started providing their valuable services free of cost.
The desire to make myself useful lead to the lockdown experience becoming a meaningful one. It also boosted my energy levels. When conducting online sessions for students from rural areas, I extended myself beyond just motivational speeches, and helped them make their CVs, gave tips on how to attend interviews, outlined the current situation in the industry, informed them about job prospects, and how to upgrade and develop skills, etc. In the process, they said that they felt empowered about dealing with this unprecedented situation.
The lockdown gave rise to some good work at the National HRD Network, Pune Chapter.
Webinars began happening on a wide range of topics, engaging more than 10,500 people across the country and overseas. (I myself did some online sessions, speaking about my experiences and sharing knowledge.)
It helped that all of us at NHRDN shared the same vision. So, with natural synergy and great vigour, threw ourselves into thinking up and pursuing some worthy initiatives. All these must have created a noticeable impact since we ended up receiving the Best Chapter award. Needless to say, the feeling of pride that this evoked was heartily embraced.
To conclude, I do believe that what began as a coping mechanism, a means to just live out the lockdown without getting mentally or spiritually crippled by it, ended up being an education in how to live meaningfully. The old adage got redefined a bit for me: God helps those who help others! And the precious bonus was the experience of engaging with new people, building deeper connections…
My gratitude for all those who helped & supported me in these crucial times remains eternal.