My Quarantine Experience: Discovering the “Undiscovered” in Myself

These days of quarantine are an opportunity to connect with oneself all over again, and discover the voice that gets suppressed in the noise of a hectic, urban lifestyle.

I work in an insurance company based in Bangalore . I am  in quarantine with my family in a small flat in the city. We have appropriate amounts of food and daily essentials stocked up well in advance to keep ourselves comfortable in these difficult times. In the beginning it was really difficult for me to not go outside or confine myself indoors endlessly. I was stressed and impatient. It has been a long time since I had spent the whole day indoors with my family, without any external source of entertainment such as a movie at the theatre or a dinner in a neighbourhood restaurant. Even if I think hard enough, I cant recall spending the whole day indoors with my family. I reach my office at 8am and get back home by 9 pm and on Sundays I sleep for the larger part of the day because I am terribly exhausted from the whole day’s work and in the evening I usually take my family for an outing at the mall for some shopping or a movie. It is my routine for the last 15 years. I started my job at the age of 25 and now I am 40 years old. Now I can safely say that I have met all the expectations of  the society and of my parents. I have had a successful career with a great pay package, a good apartment and a comfortable lifestyle and a family.

My quarantine routine started quite stressfully but as the days are passing I am noticing a few changes in myself. I may call it a kind of self realisation, a kind of occasion to strike an intimate conversation with myself. It is these moments of quarantine that have compelled me to reach back my own inner self and at least to confront the person that I really am. I also realise that in our busy, urban routines we have been running all the time in search of ambitions, money and fame but we have become very empty from inside. Let me take this opportunity and share  my experience with you all. These days I am spending a lot of my time lying down on my couch and looking at the blue sky for hours through the window: I feel amused looking at how clear and clean it has become, I begin to lose myself in its infinite horizons. When I look at the sky these days, I recall some moments from my childhood days, when lying on my khat ( indigenous wooden bed) in my ancestral house I would constantly keep looking at the sky in wonder and amusement. The sky looks similar even as I look at it from the tiny window of my apartment these days, nothing has changed. I realise that the sky was always beautiful and infinite, but in the rush of the city life I had forgotten all about it and my eyes had forgotten to turn towards it. My eyes have begun to search for the infinite sky once again. 

Meanwhile I am also finding a deep sense of peace as the constant churning of  birds reaches my ears in this city space, perhaps the loud and destructive discourse of hyper development has still not been completely successful in suppressing the voice of nature. We all must have experienced similar moments in our childhoods. I recall the times, especially in the summer days when while lying down with my mother in hot afternoons, I would hear similar sounds, as if they were tempting us to come outside and play. Many years later, these sounds seem to be reaching my ears once again.

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The infinite sky and chirping of the birds gives me peace, an eternal sense of calmness and a moment of deep meditativeness. Has the addiction of the hyper modern and aggressive urban life, made us deaf and blind to the language of nature?For me these moments are eternal but at the same time they also look unbearable. 

I call them difficult and unbearable because they asks me too many questions – the question that I have not been allowed to think about or even imagine.  Who am I? Am I just a professional, a husband, a father or just a citizen of a country? What else am I? Society has never allowed me any chance to explore myself.  I have never found the time to talk to myself or do what I want to do beyond any loss and profit. It is a hard truth, but today I end my calling myself irrelevant and cowardly. I am someone who never dared to look beyond the social structure, beyond the boundaries that society has set and the expectations that the world has had from us. Our whole lives are spent in running in the rat race of material fulfilment.

 And what kind of relationship do I have with my wife and child? My existence for them is just a matter of financial security and society has decorated this ornamental and utilitarian relationship with words like parent and husband. Do we really help ourselves create these relationships meaningfully? Do we relate to others on our terms and not artificially or out of compulsion and societal obligation?  Do we know the essence of togetherness or celebration of moments beyond any material gifts? 

This quarantine is very precious to me. In the coming days we all will return to our normal lives –  our daily routines, anxiety ridden moments at work, tiresome moments in the endless traffic jams. All this would once again start but something would have drastically changed, atleast for me. The next time I am caught in a traffic jam I will not forget to look out of the window of my car towards the infinite sky and hope that it continues to remain beautiful, deep and blue forever.

Rohit Biswas works at an insurance firm in Bangalore.

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