Life in Lockdown: Going beyond our Lives

On 24th March 2020, the Government of India ordered a nationwide lock-down as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 pandemic. All schools and colleges were closed and students living in hostels were sent back to their homes. This pandemic has had some serious effect on students, while some students lost their opportunity to work as an intern, some had their jobs revoked, most of us are finding it difficult to do anything productive in our homes, and many are missing their friends. These issues have left us in a state of distress.

Many other problems may not be directly visible, but they persist and have some serious outcomes. This quarantine has affected the mental health of the students, who are now feeling lonelier than ever before.

The names of the characters used in this article have been intentionally changed to respect the privacy of the individuals.

We first start with the story of Ajit, who is a second-year student. He was a very joyful person once, but now he rarely talks to anyone. He joined IITK with dreams above and beyond but he was not satisfied with his first semester’s academic performance and slowly started isolating himself.

Small things matter a lot in life, especially when one is facing difficulties. Even a small gesture of help and support can make a person’s day. One may start over-thinking about minute things like birthday wishes. Sooner than later, these things can take over as central thoughts in one’s life.

He says that he used to share memes with his friends and used to write big birthday wishes but all he got in reply was one-liners like ‘thank you!’ or ‘yes!’. “People are too engrossed in doing something or the other, sab chaapu hain!”, is what he says. He saw people wishing each other a “Happy Birthday” by making a collage of friends holding placards with a letter inscribed on it, but from the abundance of the FB friend’s list, only a handful have wished him on his birthday.

“I have more than 500 friends on Facebook but no one hardly cares for me”. He eventually deactivated his Facebook account. Not being able to meet the only few friends in his city is aggravating his situation.

Many questions come into my mind when we think about Ajit. Is he capable of solving his problem on his own? Is there anyone to be blamed at all? Is it his low self-esteem or is it the people who could not spare time to listen to him? Should he approach his friends and tell them about his problem? Should he seek professional help? These are some unanswered questions that come to my mind, and I keep on thinking about them.

Another fourth-year student Vansh was doing well a few months back, but his good days wouldn’t last long. He lost his job in the recent wave of job withdrawals due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vansh comes from a middle-class family background, his father had great expectations from his son after he joined IITK.

“I was on top of the world when I got this job offer, ‘Papa would be proud’ is what I used to think. Ab kya fayda hua itni mehnat ka!” says Vansh, his voice shaking as he shares his experience with us on a phone call.

“With companies not even giving the income to their staff who would hire a new staff?”.

A third-year student Rakesh wants to pursue research on a topic of his interest. He even got a research internship offer from an esteemed university in Germany but his intern got canceled due to the pandemic. Sharing his experience with us he says that he is very insecure about the future, having done a research internship would have left a good impression on his CV and helped him in securing a Ph.D. He says that his first two summer vacations have not been productive and he wanted to do something productive in his third-year summer but he has missed this opportunity.

“I don’t want to spend another summer in my home watching Netflix and wondering about my insecurities”, he says.

Let us try to think about the difficulties faced by Ajit and Rakesh. We, humans, try to set goals and achieve them but it hurts the most when we put in our hundred percent ,and yet our dreams are not fulfilled. Recently, I’ve been hearing this a lot: “At the end of the day all of human life becomes an act of letting go”, but it is not that easy as it sounds. To let go requires great support from friends, family, and mental strength. I wonder what Ajit, Rakesh, and many other people facing similar problems are going through. With their friends far away in such distressing times, do they have people around, with whom they can share their pain?

Joy is a first-year student, very charming, and a diligent person. Like everybody, he also has some things he wishes if he could see them in better shape and one of them is his parents’ relationship. He described their relationship as “Not Peaceful”. They work for a service-based IT company and are afraid of losing their jobs in these times of uncertainty. On top of this, his father made a wrong investment decision.

Due to all this stress of uncertainty for the future and panic due to coronavirus, his family is falling apart. His parents’ relationship is getting worse, they are always arguing over small things and sometimes even shout at each other. His little sister is the one who is affected most from all this. He has tried to make things better, he talks to his parents about how all this is affecting them but things start all over again and every time, they are where they started. He now feels trapped and helpless and even said:

“I pray for only 2 things: either the world gets over this pandemic soon or my parents get divorced. I can’t stand this anymore”

Hearing from Joy, we learn that this pandemic has brought some of us face to face with problems that we might have wanted to avoid. Living your most fearsome dream every day is not an easy task. It requires a great deal of strength and patience. Many questions come into my mind when I think about Joy. What are relationships? How could one maintain them? Why are they so fragile? How is the quarantine making things worse? What can be done to revive them?

In such times of distress, we should understand that there are many people like Vansh and Rakesh who have lost their job and internship offers. There are also people like Ajit who have no one to talk to and people like Joy who have to face a very difficult challenge in the worst of times. Well, understanding our peers’ situation is the first step, I wonder what more could one do. Should we try to spread our helping hands and work together as a community? We need to understand that these are the people we meet daily in our labs and classrooms. They are us but only facing difficulties!

Can we, as a community, try to understand their pain? Should we be more reachable to our friends in need? Can we borrow some time from our busy lives to lend our ears?

  • It is hard for me to speak for everyone, but we can certainly hope, as Victor Hugo quotes “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise”.