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Covid-19 Self Isolation Chronicles – Work Life Balance

I wake up bone tired at 8:00 am . I finish my morning routine and then rush to make rava dosais for the husband before my meetings can start . I manage two eat two pieces of a dosa < almost a half> from what’s left of his breakfast before heading to my meetings . My lunch is a single Omlette followed by a cup of tea. Dinner is a single raga patty , because I don’t have energy left in me to make anything for myself . My head is pounding and my stomach is cramping.

Monday kicked off the second week that I worked from home . As day bled into night and Monday turned over into Tuesday , I moved from meeting to meeting , constantly on my phone , my thoughts and plans blending into mush and fading away. Today , in particular was harsh. I had a meeting from 9:00-9:30 , 9:30-10:00 , 10:00-11:00, 11:00-11:30 , 11:30-12:00 , 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm followed by a final meeting from 3:00 – 3:30 pm. My brain had half turned into mush by the 1:00 pm meeting but having exerted the remaining half during the 1:00 pm meeting , I was completely fried by 3:30 pm.

But the stories weren’t going to write themselves so I soldiered on , until I closed my laptop and crashed into the dreamless sleep like the dead at 6:00 pm. Still sluggish , I wolfed down what remained of dinner and opened the laptop to write the post on Sofia that I wanted to write , only to find that the words didn’t flow. My brain was fried , finito and wouldn’t take any more fuel , thanks to the PMS exhaustion that tired out my already tired brain.

Wisdom comes with age , but in my case it came with exhaustion. I am not a superwoman and I realized today that I shouldn’t pretend to be one. Working women have to bear additional loads during times like these, as our roles of primary care givers and career professionals intersect more often than not , and therefore its all the more necessary to take well timed breaks and naps as we focus on running a long marathon on two divergent tracks.

I make a resolution to plan my day better and take frequent breaks at home and speak to my husband about contributing a little more towards chores at home. I make a resolution to eat clean and conserve enough energy to make myself some dinner everyday. I get up to make a glass of Glucon D , but sit down , hit the publish button , hoping that tomorrow would be a better day.

99 Songs – Aashiqua

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An A.R Rahman album release is like Diwali , Christmas and Thanksgiving rolled into one. An album with 14 songs is indeed icing on top of the cake. So this weekend , I spent all my time listening to the album and writing a post . Half-way through the post I realized that it would be a gross injustice to cram all my thoughts into a single post and this evening , I had the idea to tackle one song a day.

Indulge me for a minute and imagine that you are sitting on a flight . Your seat belts are fastened and the flight attendants are making a final round around the cockpit. As the pilot announces clearance , the flight starts pushing back from the gate. The movement is tentative , with a lot of starts and stops. The plane pauses for a moment and then starts taxiing towards the run away. The going is smooth and slow , like a toddler walking . Then the movement starts picking up speed and before you can realize , the flight takes off , climbing that steep incline towards a random waypoint 30000 miles up in the sky. The buildings become smaller and smaller and smaller until all you can see are the amoeba shaped clouds of the day time sky. You are taken aback when the flight starts its descent . It is rattling towards land and all of a sudden , the wheels hit the runway , the brakes screech gracefully and the plane taxies towards the gate carrying an exhilarated and excited passenger. There – Are you done Indulging me? Yes , you are Well , thank you for indulging me and waiting on me patiently as I took you through an exhilarating joy ride on a plane through my words. Now , If I were to tell you that there is a song , that makes you feel like a bird , soaring through the skies on a chilly spring morning , would you believe me ? If i were to beseech you to close your eyes , put on your headphones and soar through the skies , would you listen? You would? All right , O Aashiqua is the song you need to listen to.

A Sufi style entreaty to humankind ,O Aashiqua gently chides us for living a life of quid pro quo and expectations and compromises with one’s belief systems and principles. The repeating Oh jiya , Tu Jiya, Tu Jiya , Agar aise toh yaara kya jiya , Oh Jiya , Tu Jiya , Tu Jiya , hisaabon mein yaara kya jiya makes you reflect on your actions and your belief systems even as you are soaring through the vacuum in which the only solid entities are the song and your soul , waltzing through the vacuum making you dizzy with joy.

The guitars , the keys , the percussion and Arjun Chandy’s splendid choral arrangement stun you and as the song breaks into the O Maa stanza , celebrating motherhood and the sacrifices a mother makes , your imaginary flight breaks the sound barriers and you become one with the music, or rather the music absorbs the essence of your soul. The song ends and you land gently , with a smile on your face and a lightness in your thoughts. What a stunning flight indeed.

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Covid-19 Self Isolation Chronicles – Day 3

I wake up as the alarm starts chiming and I am in a rare mood. I am in the throes of a PMS migraine and am cramping severely and suffering from lack of sleep. But I wake up , take bath , make some kickass pasta and consume a ton of filter kaapi. I also make it a point to dress as if I was going to work. By 8:00 am , I am raring to get started.

Morning 9:30 am : My elaboration for the next release is complete with the exception of 1 story and I make it a point to brag about it. People sound cheerful over the Phone . I jump to my 10:00 am meeting followed by another meeting at 11:00 ending at 11:30. I set up follow-ups and send meeting minutes and I am suddenly out of gas and lie down for a small nap.

Afternoon 12:45 pm : I wake up a little refreshed and continue working.

Afternoon 1:30 pm : I jump headlong into calls. First there is an hour long covid-19 update call. We are working from home until we hear otherwise and we are not supposed to be coming into work. I check my twitter notifications as people keep asking covid-19 questions. The conversations make me happy . This is a group of people who are super serious about their cricket and its very refreshing to exchange tweets.

Afternoon 2:30 pm : I am hungry and want to sit this meeting out but they have a question for me and so I join in. 2:30 becomes 3 , 3 becomes 4 and 4 becomes 4:30 . My lunch has gone cold. I heat it and settle down for another call

Evening 6:00 pm : I step out of the house after a week. We take the car out for a spin with the intent to grab some takeout. But the NYmag covid piece that I read before stepping out is scaring me out of my wits and good intent. We drive around the nearly empty Phoenix roads for 20 minutes. It starts raining cats and dogs and the roads start flooding. Its time to drive back home.

Evening 7:30 pm : Bhajji for dinner. The smell of Besan , oil and fried bhajjis is intoxicating. Accompanying the Bhajji is the standard rava kesari . I have fond memories of this combination because in a bout of superstition , I had Amma make this for every single world cup game India played during 2003. It worked for most matches but when it failed , it failed spectacularly .

Night 9:45 pm : I dial in to what is supposed to be a 15 minute scrum call. The call runs much much longer.

Midnight 12:00 am : I start writing this blogpost and exchanging tweets and thoughts about test cricket with a bunch of fellow tragics. It has been a good day.

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Covid-19 Self Isolation Chronicles – Day 2

Google home keeps waking me up and I ask the assistant to cancel the timer and set a timer for five minutes after. All of a sudden , I’m back home in Coimbatore saying “Amma five minutes” or “Appa five minutes” before burrowing back into the blanket.

Morning 8:30 am : The alarm goes off for the nth time. I’ve overslept. I log in urgently and skim through my emails. By the time I go to take a bath and finish my morning routine , it’s time for my scrum calls. It is not as chaotic as yesterday was – It is a long call though. We are all getting used to the asynchronous working patterns. The call is done and I go about scheduling meetings and setting up touchpoint calls. I start listening to my work from home playlist and start typing away stories . All of a sudden , I feel like I am in prison. There is no one in the room , there is music playing and I am working but I can’t shake off a feeling of malaise. I also have a faint headache , but I keep pushing on because I am in the zone.

Morning 11:00 am : I have the first meal of my day. It is Maggi Atta noodles , three pieces of toast and coffee. I get the feeling that the headache will go away. I come back to my desk / bed and keep typing away. The feeling of malaise keeps growing by the minute. In a moment of desperation , I let my husband share our workspaces . Soon enough , there are more typing noises but sadly no human interaction. I decide to listen to podcasts and 81 all out comes to the rescue. The malaise decreases and all of a sudden , I am back home in Coimbatore , in our drawing room. There is a cricket running in the background. Appa and I discuss the game and I am nodding to what Appa says in deference to his age and experience that comes from having played the game.

Afternoon 3:00 pm : I take a second break – It has been a long working day. I settle credit card bills , get on twitter and rhapsodize about cricket. I was actively calling for the game to cancelled because of covid-19 but I am also missing the game or any sport for the matter. I read my emails and realize that people are calling for suppression until July. I WhatsApp a colleague who lives in the same community and we exchange notes on supplies. The apartment management sends an email requesting people to not flush wipes and other toilet paper replacements down the pipes as it may clog the ground floor toilet. We live on the ground floor and this is one more thing that I have to worry about.The faint headache is now a full blown migraine. I look at the period tracker app and realize that this is my regular PMS migraine. I know I have to take my pills but I don’t and I keep working on.

Evening 6:00 pm : There is an argument at home that makes me lose my temper. I don’t react and walk away and that is making me even more upset . Then there is the migraine. I shut down my laptop despite not reaching my work target and stretch. I have to finish dinner prep. I have some tea and make Chole with the intent to have Chole and Patties for dinner. I check my emails , make some Amazon orders and get into the shower. I crash on the bed , close my eyes and get back to sleep lulled by that amazing bath.

Night 10:30 pm : I end up taking the painkillers and have to stay awake , waiting for it to kick in. I collect laundry from the dryer , plan the next day and update the blog post. I’m lined up for meetings tomorrow and I am actually excited to talk to people over the phone for an extended period of time.

Covid-19 Self Isolation Chronicles – Day 1

I am a self confessed lazy bum and home bird. I don’t get out of bed if I don’t have to . I don’t step outside home if I don’t have to . Therefore , I thought that this self isolation thing was easy. This was on Friday , when the work from home routine started.

Morning 6:00 am : Google home keeps screaming . I wake up , thinking that I’ve overslept but I have not. I check work emails , take inventory of the refrigerator and log onto Amazon Fresh. They have the items I need in stock but no delivery window for the next three days. I try a multitude of websites before giving up my search and placing an insta-cart order , keeping my fingers crossed that the store I ordered from would have inventory. I look at the clock and it is 7:30.

Morning 9:00 am : I complete my morning routine of bath , prayers and filter coffee. My husband and I chart out our work territories. I work from the bedroom and he works from the living room , at-least for now. I connect to spotify from google home and start replying to emails and queries.

Morning 9:30 am : Scrum Call . My network is patchy , but I make a concentrated effort to listen carefully and give precise updates. The VPN keeps logging me out because Cox Internet keeps throttling my service. Frustrated with this , I tether internet from my mobile device thankful to my privilege and pay check that allows me to have this functionality.

Morning 10:00 am : Insta-cart notification – Of the 18 items I requested , only 3 are available. I am defeated and somewhat angry. The rational part of my mind reassures me that I did the right thing by not hoarding supplies and that I would have to address this on a day by day basis.However the emotional part of my mind chides me for not hoarding supplies and anticipating this day. I shut my emotional voice up , chalk it down to anxiety and continue working.

Morning 11:30 am : I’ve been on phone with Cox trying to get my wi-fi back and ready to tear my hear out. My father in law comes back from a morning excursion that I was not aware of. He has been to three grocery stores and has been able to gather some essentials . We finally have enough Milk to last the week and some veggies. I’m extremely grateful that he did this and extremely angry at the same time. He is in the 70+ age bracket and has underlying health conditions. I ask him to stay at home and he brushes away my concerns , gently. I send out an angry tweet at Cox and continue working

Afternoon 12:30 pm : No music , patchy internet and stalled progress makes me a grumpy girl. I run a load of laundry and notice that we are running out of Laundry Detergent , Soap , Shampoo and Conditioner. I start looking online for supplies . Cox offers to send technicians home but I politely refuse , stating that I have senior citizens living with me. I keep writing user stories. The internet comes back and so does the TV . We keep hearing news about restaurant closures , shop closures etc . The leasing office sends an email and drops a notification that all amenities are being shut and requests that we only raise emergency requests and that if we are sick and have an emergency maintenance , they would have to work with Department of Health to determine how to address the same. Non emergency requests are put on hold. If you have one working bathroom , you are lower on priority they say. I completely understand and am appreciative that they are taking these measures. But thanks to the numerous dystopian and disaster fictions I have read , I feel dread creeping in . The husband starts watching Contagion and I munch on salad and keep writing them stories.

Afternoon 3:00 pm : Dial into a meeting. We make jokes about foraging supplies. We disconnect from the meeting and I make plans with the husband to go for a walk and get some air.

Evening 5:00 pm : Mother-in-law works in retail and Father-in-law picks her up. They make a target run and bring back tide. I order shower gel , shampoo and conditioner online. Husband is still watching Contagion. I still need tide and toilet bowl cleaner , but suddenly I am bone tired. I go to sleep , knocked out only to wake up much later.

Late Night 10:00 pm : Dial into offshore scrum . We discuss status . I share a pic of empty store shelves. A friend of mine has doodled Hermione Granger today. I seek her permission and update display pictures. I settle down to hunt for Dishwasher liquid and toilet bowl cleaner . The former I find on amazon and the latter on target. They will be delivered on 03/27. I order them anyway , hoping that my existing supply would hold good until then. I chide myself for not buying one of all supplies when the whole world was in frenzy but the rational part of my mind says that I did the right thing then. Its okay I’ll be good.

I write a stream of consciousness blog post , even as the husband starts watching yet another virus disaster movie , this time , the outbreak.

I hit the post button and move to make myself some coffee so that I can get some work done. Day bleeds into night and night bleeds into day as I settle into self isolation like Dravid used to construct an innings on a vicious pitch. It ain’t easy but with grafting it would become comfortable. I vow to write everyday and I sigh.

Oru Maalai Neram

So , life has been difficult off late .

I’ve been fighting the fight , weaving in and out of that imaginary line to avoid punches , keeping my head down , waiting for the eye of the storm to pass .

Today , as I walked out of my work cocoon , mentally prepping myself to walk that imaginary line dodging punches , I stopped and stared because the world was aglow with this otherworldly light .

I sat in my car , played a song and waited for the sun to sink beyond the horizon . The skies continued to glow silent and peaceful . Then came the blinding brightness , followed by the stealthy and silent night . The skies were no longer pink , but my horizon was and as I turned the ignition on , I thanked Mother Nature for lending some warmth and light . I drove on as the fire in my heart glowed and glowed bright.

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A Random Friday Evening…

The sun is still shining bright as I finally exit the building. The parking lot is empty and I wave to a colleague and start walking towards the car . Five minutes later , I roll down my window , tap my feet in rhythm with the song playing on the stereo and take the salty summer breeze in , which melds together with the AC still warming up to concoct a heady mix that reminds me of peak coimbatore summer with the whiny symphony air cooler.

Madison is a small college town but a minute later , I get hit by the Friday evening Traffic Jam. It takes me two signals and two loops of O Kalala to finally hit the beltline and then it is the weekend officially. Mom and Dad < in-laws> are chatting in the great room, sipping their coffees and ruminating about the days gone past and the days to come. A couple of parathas and paneer bhurji helpings later , the husband comes home and it is evident that he’s had a super draining day. I pour white chocolate liquor into the blender , add ice cubes and vanilla ice-cream and blend it all into a feel good cocktail that we sip as we go about opening mails , paying bills and activating cards . We make plans for the evening and the in-laws settle down to their TV.

The drive downtown is not super bad ,may be because its a Friday. We reach our friend’s apartment , make our cursory greetings to the parents and crowd around the baby , the newest arrival to our gang of work colleagues and significant others . Our phones and laptops lay forgotten , as we play with the little one , breathing in that new born smell and vying to change her diaper. Our bubble bursts when the little one needs to take a nap, and we get back to our laptops , phones , emails and timesheets . The TV drones on , with Jyothika preaching to teachers and students alike . Jokes and jibes are traded and I suddenly feel that this random Friday evening is not that random after all. I smile , close my emails and start writing.