Grounded by the pandemic: The woes of a once-frequent flier
Bhaskar Pal was typically away from home for about 25% of the year. His life was marked by long flights, jet lag, lavish breakfasts and comfortable stays at luxurious hotels.
“We are in the business of providing technology support and training, and I had to travel extensively to interact with studios, broadcast facilities and service providers,” says Pal, 48, a content lead with Dolby Technology. On average, he would make 15 to 20 trips a year, within India and abroad. Since last March, that’s all changed. Work is now a series of video meetings and conference calls.
The plusses are considerable. He can spend quality time with his wife Moushumi, an entrepreneur, and their 15-year-old son. He has taken on more chores at home. Among the minuses, for the first time, he found himself adapting to a balance of work and chores, with work often extending beyond what used to be regular hours too.
“Whether it was washing vessels, sweeping and mopping the floors or buying groceries, each of us would pitch in to get things done, and each one’s roles would vary from time to time,” he says. Nearly a year in, he’s settled into a new routine of fixed chores, work, grocery shopping and occasional long drives with the family on the weekends.
“I do miss exploring scenic new landscapes, meeting new people, experiencing the food, culture and just the excitement of a new destination,” Pal says. “To make up for the lack of travel, and to get away from the stress and monotony, we drive to different locations around Mumbai, like Igatpuri, Khandala and Karjat.”
He misses the hotel breakfasts more than he would have expected, and enjoys being in charge of breakfasts at home so he can bring some of his travel adventures to the table, he adds. “For me the luxurious hotel breakfast used to be the high point of the day. It was a great start to work as you could enjoy a lavish spread that had the best mix of local and international dishes.”
What’s perhaps hardest to contend with is the idea that the life he knew will likely never be restored. “Earlier, companies were reluctant to use technology to interact with clients as they did not have the confidence in the tools available. That has changed. We now have technology that can help us work more efficiently. So companies can get work done, and save on the money and time that would be spent travelling to a client to interact with them.”
Meanwhile, he lives in hope that his travel schedule will fill up again, at least somewhat. “We often need to be on site to assess whether various requirements are being met correctly… room acoustics, monitor calibration etc. So, as the situation normalises we will probably start travelling to our customers again,” he says hopefully.