The heading might surprise you or even hurt your feelings as the pandemic has caused untold miseries around the world affecting every single place and person. We Indians have been at the receiving end of difficulties for more than 9 months now. Our daily routine has been curtailed either due to lock downs or curfews. The senior citizens have been put under house arrest where possible (advised to remain completely indoors) from March 25th itself.

My mother, my wife and I, all being 70 plus used to live in Jammu and would only spend winters with our son in Pune to avoid the shivering cold in Jammu. And that is how we came down to Pune in November 2019. Tickets for our return trip were booked for April 20th but it’s now December 2020 and we are still in Pune and haven’t stepped out of the main door since March 25th. My son has arranged delivery of all our requirements at our doorstep. He has also locked himself in to work from home and give us company. His wife does the same. The main door only opens to collect the supplies that have been ordered.

Gone are the days of early morning walks with my wife. The exuberance that we used to feel in the afternoons while visiting the local market and getting home eatables and savoury delights prohibited to people of our age and how we used to finish those before the youngsters returned in the evening. How I forced my mother to walk the 300 meters path to the local temple in the late afternoon. She would get a little exercise, get tired and sleep soundly afterwards. The weekends were always welcome as it was on these days the whole family would sit together and exchange our experiences, our problems, speak to our distant relatives and friends and the youngsters would cook the meals and feed us and made us feel great, rather up in the seventh sky. Gone are the days when once a month we would go to distant sites for sightseeing, even up to Mumbai and Shirdi. We would be indulged and made to feel very good.

Now here we are, encased in our cage like zoo animals with our PM appearing regularly on the TV advising all senior citizens to remain indoors for a few weeks more. But these few weeks seem to be never ending because of this God forsaken Covid.

However, there is another side of this picture aswell. A beautiful one if one can look past the inconveniences. I have developed a positive attitude during my upbringing towards all developments in life, so I do see a very positive side to this life of lockdown. This pertains to me in person, to my family and to the extended family and friends.

Though curtailment of the morning walks should have increased my body fat and blood sugar level and blood pressure aswell, I find the situation otherwise with Yoga and restricted diet – missing all the savoury intakes. I find myself healthier than I used to be. Same is true of my wife aswell. She had to almost run during our walks to burn extra calories to keep her body weight in check. Now here she is even after no walks for nine months, she has not gained any weight at all. My mother is also fit and fine even after missing the temple visits.

I have also been mentally alert, finding time to write down my reminiscences and getting kudos from people who read these pieces. The disturbance less time would not have been available to me had this lockdown not happened. A tight bonding has also developed within the family during this period. We have never had this opportunity to live with our son and daughter-in-law for such a long period after he left home for higher education. Therefore, this period gave us a chance to study each other emotionally. I did find certain good traits in the characters of both the youngsters, which I had not noticed until now. All three generations blended so remarkably well that I thank God repeatedly for having given us these children. I find both of them taking such special care of my mother that she is overwhelmed emotionally. This improvement in her emotional health must have added years to her life. My wife has developed such a wonderful attachment for our daughter-in-law that is very unusual in our current social setup. As for me, I have grown so close to my son emotionally that I do not find any fault in him.

All of us have become very peaceful souls. My son and my mother love to listen to Bhajans for an hour each day. And I never knew he was so deeply impressed by our sufi poetry, rather it is he who introduced me to the legends like Nyama Sahib; Wahab Khar ; Krishen Joo Razdan; et al. He made me listen to Rashid Jehangir ; Ghulam Ahmad Sofi et al , otherwise I had not gone beyond Shameena Azad and Rashid Farash. His interest in our religious literature has mesmerized me. We have all Vedas, Purans, Chanakya Neetis and many other religious texts at home. And, he is a voracious reader and I feel dwarfed.

Similar is the story about our daughters married and living with their families. The daily calls from US showing concern for our health is mind blowing. The calls from Delhi giving medical advice and my son taking dictation from his sister about this medicine and that makes me feel too small. These must be the good karma of my wide bearing fruit; otherwise, I do not think I deserved it.

The extended family has also come up so well during this period. All my uncles and aunts make it a point to speak to my mother (who is the senior most member in the clan) via video calls to keep her spirits up and making her feel wanted. She dispenses her advice on all issues under the sun. The people receiving the advice react so warmly that she feels highly gratified after the call is over. My friends have not lagged behind. Irrespective of their places of residence, they have kept my spirits very high through their messages and calls that are my weekly dose of tonic for the past year now. My friends in Jammu have taken care of my house, my car and my plants, spending their money when needed. I would never have had a chance to see the goodness in people all around me, would have never become the peaceful soul that I am today had the PM not put me under lock down.

This is true of our environment also. With so little traffic on the road, we have far cleaner air to breathe than in the past. The number of accidents and injuries and deaths caused because of that has gone down drastically. And, roads are much cleaner with less trash being thrown around.

Less amount of junk food is being consumed, more homemade fresh food is preferred resulting in a lot of improvement in overall public health especially that of children. All the mothers have become great chefs impressing their children with innovative recipes. This ofcourse is much appreciated and the youngsters no longer crave the junk food loaded with chemicals. The phone bills have definitely increased as the recipes are exchanged with friends and family. Similarly, all the fathers have become excellent safai wallas and bartan wallas. Since the entry in the house is restricted, there is less cleaning to be done but the fathers stand tall claiming the tidiness is because of them, asking for brownie points.

All said and done, the pandemic has changed our social lifestyle so drastically that it will not be easy to go back to the previous lifestyle once this is all over. Despite bringing the world to a standstill, it has made us pause and reflect on what’s most important in life – family and friends.

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