Unlock Diaries: A measured engagement with the world by Sharif D Rangnekar
It was on March 19, 2020 that I last stepped out of my home in South Delhi. I had planned to spend several hours buying groceries, including a long list of spices, and stocking up on medicines not knowing when we -- my mother and I -- would be out of our home again.
Though my last outing was before the Janata Curfew and the lockdowns that followed, anxiety and fear had, by then, already made its way into my mind. The site of a crowded store in the Defence Colony market was so frightening that I didn’t step in. The otherwise often ignored unkempt nails and surroundings at a juice centre in Lajpat Nagar, glared at me threateningly, leading me to pour the juice into a plant nearby. The medicine store, ironically, was easier to negotiate with just one other customer in a relatively spacious pharmacy.
At that point, I had no vision of what a lockdown would be like. All I knew was that it was unsafe to have people enter home as they could be bringing in the virus with them, putting my 79-year-old mother at risk.
It was only after the house help were sent on paid leave that my levels of anxiety and paranoia dropped, bringing some bliss to life, allowing me a sudden burst of creativity -- a song called ‘See You On The Other Side (Of Corona)’. This was on day two of being at home!
What took over was the new daily grind of cleaning the home, washing clothes, chopping vegetables and fruits and the occasional experiment in the kitchen, where I concocted all kinds of dishes, which I found invigorating. It was a strange kind of reassurance that I could be as independent as I wished to be. I could have my own space, my own time and above all, privacy. One of the most peaceful aspects of this new life was the absence of the doorbell ringing multiple times in the morning.
In short, the limitations of physical space and the lack of movement had its own liberation, freedom and independence, and my mother and I were making ourselves more self sufficient.
While the routine itself contributed to this sufficiency, the acquisition of certain tools underlined it. We bought a new mopping system called the Magic Mop -- something we had not thought of doing when we had domestic help. It saved me from going down on my haunches to reach below beds, sideboards, tables, and sofas. We also invested in a vacuum cleaner that made it easier to clear out cobwebs and clean carpets and rugs. We pulled out old chopping machines and even an air-fryer which had, earlier, remained largely unused.
Our home was now down to just my mother and I -- her plants and tiny kitchen garden on the terrace, creativity in the kitchen, wearing whatever clothes we wanted, listening to ghazals and classical music in the morning and digging out old records of rock, jazz and blues in the evening. In between, there were the delivery boys, none of whom we met or saw, the occasional ‘live’ sessions on social media, and conversations with each other on politics and the post Covid19 world.
As the lockdowns eased, the doorbells started to ring quite often. Our gardener returned to work and so did the cleaning maid, who now looks after the outsides of our home. Every doorbell felt like an intrusion as we really didn’t want to return to the old ways.
We still have the desire to cook, to keep the kitchen as clean as we did, and in an order with which we are comfortable. I want my half hour in the morning on the terrace with my mother’s plants. I want to cook special dishes for her myself, instead of delegating that to the cook. And my mother wants to do the same for me.
So what are we looking forward to?
We wish to meet a few people, mostly relatives; we want to have a few others over, mostly my gang of musicians and really close old friends; we want to make that occasional trip to a cinema hall -- something we did almost every week until the lockdown. I look forward to ‘one-on-one’ time with a young singer-songwriter with whom I’ve been having long conversations.
I’m looking at reconnecting with special people, creating music in a jam pad and continuing my journey to find love, a companion with whom I can share the sanctity of privacy, as well as the measured engagement with the world outside. “It would have been nice if you had a partner by now, someone who was here through this time and for later too,” my mother said over lunch one day.
That one comment summed up what I (and my mother too) look forward to welcoming in an unlocked-down world.
A communications consultant, Sharif D Rangnekar uses every platform — talks, writing, music — to garner support for the LGBTQ community. He is the frontman of Friends of Linger, a band credited with India’s first dedication to the gay community — ‘Head Held High’. He provides counsel in the area of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, specific to the LGBTQ community. He is the director of the Rainbow Literature Festival, the first lit fest for queers in India.