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Life Uncategorized

Life In The Time of Corona

Let’s talk about my life and experiences with the coronavirus pandemic today.

Let us begin at the very beginning: my birthday. I turned 21 on March 10, 2020, and my family was in the Corbett National Park, on vacation. There was not much talk of the virus there, except the sanitiser bottles provided at the reception and restaurant. It was business as usual. After all, there were 50 total cases in India, no deaths, some people had already recovered and they were only in cities, not a town like the one we were staying in. We came back to Delhi, where I go to University, and I realised that things were not okay when I saw the kind of panic and flurry of masks everywhere. New Delhi was debating locking down the city and closing all schools and colleges to stop the spread of the virus. In 2 days, my University was shut and I told my parents, who were going to Mumbai, our home, on the 16th, to take me along.

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Together, we came back on the 16th of March, armed with our masks, sanitisers, constant hand-washing and being very very careful. Less than a week after my birthday, things were so drastically different than what I could have ever imagined. I was home and have not left the house since. My University began online classes and I was, if possible, more exhausted by them than regular college. It was hard to learn through just the video because my teachers through no fault of theirs, were struggling with this new medium, the classes were published for longer hours, staring at a screen with earphones in for 8-9 hours a day was physically tiring and sitting with assignments after that made it worse. Though it was a rough time, I was busy. It made it easier to deal with things and major life changes like the whole country being on lockdown, the world suffering at the hands of the COVID-19 virus and being far from friends and loved ones.

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My semester officially ended on April 1st and finishing up all the assignments and stuff I was fully done with it by the 3rd. By this time, the country had 50 times the cases it did on my birthday, we were on a country-wide full lockdown, all flights had been completely stopped and, economy and humanity were both suffering. My college then decided to prepone our Summer Internships and think of the exams we would have ordinarily had when the situation “normalises”(So they hoped.So I hope, to this day.)It was made 4 weeks instead of 8 and was scheduled to begin from the 13th, giving me a 10-day ‘holiday’, in which I somehow had to conjure an internship in an environment where people were losing their jobs of many years. Eventually(and thankfully), I got into a company through my college and had an internship in the nick of time(Got my acceptance literally the day before we were supposed to start.)

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In my 10 day ‘break,’ I took the first day or two to chill, which was great but then I realised how the empty mind really is the devil’s workshop. I now had all the time in the world to stress and worry about the current situation, the fast-spreading disease, the people who were ill, the people who had died and the pandemic’s impact on the future, especially as someone who was supposed to find a job this year and graduate next year. All my internship plans had clearly fallen flat, and offers I was pursuing were withdrawn. It was a horrible time, mental health-wise. This is when I first began to be active with blogging again because it helped me cope and gave me something to do. I also made a bunch of mug cakes, made the viral whipped coffee(and realised I should not have coffee, ever) DIY decor things, did a good amount of housework and read some books. (You know, usual pandemic activities) I was always an introvert and would have gladly chosen to Netflix over going out to socialise pre- corona, but I was beginning to realise the value of social interaction, of my university, of being able to be surrounded by people your age.

After the break, I began my internship and my time was filled with meetings with your guide, meetings with my team, working on our project, reading and watching stuff to work on our project and other things that all come down to the project. I am about to finish with my internship and will then be occupied by writing reports on it, for my University. In these 4 weeks, however, I have watched quite a few shows with my family (like Downton Abbey and The Good Place, both of which I highly recommend), watched the news every night to hear about the current COVID cases count, began rereading the Harry Potter books(which I am documenting on my instagram so if you’re interested to join in!), had many baked goods(Thanks mom!) and wrote more blog posts than I have ever written in a month. Musings of A Whimsical Soul has never in the last 4 years(Except the very beginning where I was publishing posts ever two days like a maniac) had a twice a week posting schedule and blogging have become my escape, my recluse and my coping mechanism, yet again.

That brings us to now,2 months into lockdown, no end in sight, with 74K cases in the country, 4.28 M in the world(At the time of writing this post) and us as a world living through these extraordinary times and our new ‘normal’. Most of us have not lived through a pandemic before, the whole world has been brought to a standstill by one virus and we have all realised the value and delights of the good old ordinary life, the life I for one, so easily criticised before.

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I have to admit that I speak from a place of privilege. I am lucky enough to have a roof over my head, be able to eat and sleep and live with very little major change in my life, have an internet connection, not worry about losing my job, I am with my family, I am not at risk by the virus itself and so much more. I am highly and deeply privileged in these times and I would be remiss to not acknowledge it. My objective with this post was not to flaunt my luck but simply to tell my story, to share my highs and lows, to feel connected with all of you across the world, to pay my respects to the unfortunate loss we are facing, stand with all those who are fighting this terrible illness, to let you know that we are all in this together, even if our stories may be vastly different.

This is a much harder time for many of us, and the only thing I can say is, please help if you are privileged enough and able to, please understand what other people are going through, please be empathetic and please, be human. These are unprecedented times and it is in times like this that we realise just how fragile the world we have built is and how important it is to support each other. These are hard times, difficult times and we can only get through them together. Support local businesses and practice social distancing, if not for you and your family then do it for the essential workers risking their lives for all of us at the frontlines. Stay strong and be brave. Give yourself credit, and don’t feel the pressure to ‘hustle’ and be productive right now. That’s not to say do nothing, but we must change our definition of ‘productive’ to one that fits the new world we live in rather than the world we were in before.

Good luck, take care and stay safe!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What is your COVID-19 story? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

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Life Travel Uncategorized

Visiting World Wonders: The Leaning Tower Of Pisa

Let’s talk about the Leaning Tower Of Pisa today.

For the previous post in the series click, here.

Hello everyone! Today’s world wonder is a pretty famous one and one I have been excited to write about for so long! A UNESCO World Heritage Site, a staunch member of the 7 World Wonders list, the most curious combination of architectural fault and circumstance and the icon of the town that gave us the genius of Galileo Galilei, it is none other than the Torre pendente di Pisa or the Leaning Tower of Pisa as we recognise it, known worldwide for its famous tilt!

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Now the thing about this post is, I have actually written it before and I completed it with pictures and everything and almost scheduled the post. Then I lost it due to my laptop losing power and it not getting saved to draft and I absolutely lost it. I cried and was generally pretty devastated as it was days of effort and it was a good post. I tried everything but it couldn’t be retrieved. This happened in September 2018 and I am finally getting to this post(and series) now in April 2020, so you can imagine how distraught I was by it.

I would be remiss to not mention that I realise writing travel posts in the middle of a global pandemic when none of us can actually leave our houses is pretty sad and counterproductive but I hope I can take you on some virtual trips with me because I think it is better to travel virtually than not at all. I also express my deepest heartache and dedicate this post to Italy and its wonderful people, who have been devastated by the ravages of COVID-19. It is a proud, beautiful country with a rich heritage that I have had the privilege to visit and I know it will get through this.

I visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the summer of 2017 and had been deathly ill the night before when we had been travelling from Venice to Padova, where we were staying. Like, sick enough to have no memory of that night whatsoever, even to date. Pisa originally seemed like it would be impossible to squeeze into our tight schedule in Italy but I finally managed to convince my family that we couldn’t possibly do an Italian vacation without seeing THE Leaning Tower. It is a landmark and an icon and it would be tragic to miss it. So, now you know, there were trials and tribulations involved in me getting to see the Leaning Tower. (And also in writing this post.)

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We took a green bus from the Pisa Centrale that took us to a bus stand quite close to the entrance of the courtyard where the tower resides. By courtyard, I mean the Piazza de Duomo or Cathedral Square where the tower resides and is actually surprisingly not the first thing you notice when you enter. The Square has the Pisa Cathedral, Pisa Baptistry, the Monumental Cemetary and of course, the star of the show or the bell tower that we know and love as the Leaning Tower, just peeking from behind them.

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The Baptistry upfront, the Cathedral and cemetery in the centre and the bell tower in the back.

The Tower is actually only the third oldest structure in the Square and was constructed between the 12th to 14th century. As for the tilt, it’s quite a funny story. Due to the soft ground, the tower was built on being unable to support its weight, it began to tilt during construction. Its tilt actually worsened so much over the years that by 1990 it was leaning a whopping 5.5 degrees. Then the structure was stabilised through restorative work and the tilt currently stands at about 4 degrees.

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The curious statues right opposite the tower

It was quite surreal to see the tower in person. I had read about this tower for so many years, had always rattled off its name as one of the 7 World Wonders, had a childhood fascination with this monument that was so impossibly tilted and had seen so many photos of it. I imagined it to be more massive and grander than it was but honestly, it is surrounded by much grander buildings. It really is the most amusing sight, seeing these gorgeous, imposing Romanesque buildings and then this ‘little bell tower that is just tilting away cheekily.

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Pisa, which is a city in Tuscany has maintained its architecture and old-world charm and even just sitting in the bus and looking out or the in the little walk to the Piazza it felt like in a way we were travelling through time and just stepping into history. Dont get me wrong, our trip to the leaning tower was absolutely worth the hype. It really is a World Wonder and leaves you full of wonder and I absolutely recommend going to see the tilt live and in action. I would love to go there again and perhaps explore more of the city and its history.

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In conclusion, you can’t help but admire the spirit of this tiny bell tower that has made the city so famous and was clearly not intended to be its defining feature. It became so by what was an architectural fault as well as a twist of fate, and essentially a flaw, which made it so unique that people from all over the world come to Pisa and Italy for it, to this day, even centuries later.

For the next post in the series,click here.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Leaning Tower of Pisa? How was your experience? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Life Uncategorized

The Tale of my “Hermione Complex”

Let’s talk about my “Hermione Complex” today.

Hi, before we get into the post itself, here’s an update from the last post(The Dance of Hobbies Lost.) If you follow me on Instagram you already know but for the blog-only followers here we go. The update on my re-learning Odissi i promised you. I am pleased to report that Manglacharan is coming along nicely and I am actually done with re-memorising the steps of the whole thing and am now cleaning and polishing it! It was surprising how much came back to me when I started to try to learn it. If that doesn’t inspire you to pick up your lost hobbies, I don’t know what will! Now, let’s hop out of the old one and back into this post.

Since I have been a kid, I’ve been a very curious child. I would ask A LOT of questions about everything(Think everything ranging from why the sky is blue to why can’t cars run on nitrogen) and in hindsight I might have been a very annoying child. I was also obsessed with knowing little tidbits or facts about EVERYTHING and could not be stopped from announcing said facts if the topic arose, which again seems to be making me a very annoying kid. My parents bless them, mostly encouraged my behaviour, which I really appreciate now, it must have been hard.

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The blue sky due to scattering of different wavelengths of sunlight, of course!

To fulfil my apparently bottomless thirst for facts, I used the many encyclopedias I hoarded and was absolutely besotten with, other people’s encyclopedias that I borrowed, eventually, the internet and in a move that was probably not appreciated a lot, adults around me. I also had a loyal subscription to many magazines that were essentially mini encyclopedias or factbooks, like Manorama’s Tell Me Why. I still have some of my encyclopaedias with me which I sometimes glance through, although tragically my younger sister never quite learned to love facts the way I did.

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In fact, this habit of mine was bad enough that I got a reputation in our friends and family of being a know-it-all. If something has come up, Arushi definitely already knows something about it. If we went to a vacation, I seemed to announce facts right off the bat, often from what I read on the little info boards no one bothers to read, if we were eating something new I announced facts about its country of origin or whatnot, if we were looking at the sky I announced facts about stars and as I am writing this I realise I haven’t changed that much, and so I should probably take this moment to say sorry to everyone who has had to suffer through my fact-telling. All that has changed is that I’ve learnt to tell my facts to people who actually love me or truthfully can’t escape them, that is, my closest friends and immediate family.

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A gorgeous shot of the Milky Way which, did you know, is never still and is always rotating?

At first, I was quite affronted with this reputation I didn’t want to be treated differently because I knew stuff about stuff. Eventually, I embraced it and realised that all my role models like Matilda from Matilda and Hermione from the Harry Potter series were huge know-it-alls, I loved them for it and should be happy to join this club. However, embracing it meant that as I grew older and lived and loved the “Matilda” life I also got really good at knowing very little about something and being able to convince people I knew much more, which is you know, bad. But my fact-knowing self loved being the go-to person for knowing stuff and wanted to be the most knowledgable person at all times which is, obviously not possible.

This habit of mine extended everywhere but as I grew into a teenager surrounded by the pressure to fit in and be on top of all the latest trends, it applied most notoriously to pop culture. I was effectively toeing the line between what was true and untrue(Not properly lying because I never said I knew a lot about that thing or that I had watched that entire show or movie) but I was faking it and honestly, although it isn’t something to be proud of, I was also getting away with it. Only my best friend has ever really caught me on this but getting caught triggered me realising that I had a problem and had developed, as I called it, a “Hermione Complex”.

Realisation is the first step in recovery and I knew it. I needed to get better. Over the years, as I have grown out of(thankfully)the joys of my insecure teens and into a more confident adult, I have actively checked myself and tried to stop pretending I know things I know very little about. I can admit to Pop culture blanks of knowledge or even regular blanks of knowledge. I still have a Hermione Complex, a much calmer, tamer version of the same. I don’t think I will be outgrowing it and honestly, I hope not. I want to have random knowledge about British royalty and the production process of Gouda cheese. I am still the person who knows a lot about everything, is your girl for trivia quizzes, is some of my friends’ pop culture dictionary, will knock down Buzzfeed quizzes about random knowledge and am still a lot of people’s go-to person when they want facts on something new or random.

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Told ya!

I still spout facts about vacation spots, but in a good way, leading to fun experiences, like when our tour guide at the Vatican loved me because I knew so much about the art and the sculptures that we ended up chatting away and bonding. She really was the sweetest soul and told me I would grow up to be a very wise person, the best kind of person and that I reminded her of her dad, who I suspect was another “Hermione complex” affected individual. That is something I really appreciated hearing and value, from a complete stranger. Lastly, the important thing to note about the Hermione complex is that while it is named for one of our favourite female know-it-alls, it is gender-neutral. Anyone can have it and it is not something to be scared of if you have it or if someone around you does because, as annoyed as we pretend to be, we all need people in our lives who will tell us about how moon dust tastes, on-demand. (like, gunpowder, according to the astronauts on Apollo 17)

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THIS POST’S QUESTION: Do you have the “Hermione Complex” or know someone who has it? Did you out-grow it? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!