Saadia's Side: Coronavirus Has Made the Isolated Life the New Normal
Think Pieces

Saadia's Side: Coronavirus Has Made the Isolated Life the New Normal

COVID-19 Outbreak has resulted in changing the world in a way no one had ever imagined.

It is not easy mustering the courage and will to get up from the couch and write after a gap of six days. Everything has changed since the global pandemic which has engulfed our world like a dark mist. My regular day job which kept me busy all day (and sometimes even involved research at night) is there no more. Everything has changed in a jiffy. Nothing is the same anymore. Gone are the mornings when I woke up thinking about my work, the stories that had emerged a few hours ago. Since I worked from home and the work hours were not defined, I had blurred boundaries between work and life.

There were no fixed hours. In fact, the work would stretch like elastic. My folks always complained of me being busy most of the time with work. As much as I enjoyed my strenuous work, there were times when I also got tired. I needed a break but there was no rest for the wicked, as they say.

In the meanwhile, I also took care of the house. While a story was uploading, I could go and load the laundry. Mutton could cook on low heat while I wrote an article. In fact, by then I had developed an interesting sense of timing. I knew how many words it took for mutton to tenderize completely. It sounds strange, I know. But when the going gets tough the tough get going.

In my lunch break, I preferred catching a Pilates class in the nearby gym instead of putting my feet up and have some food and tea. The evenings were dedicated to domestic chores; cooking and cleaning. I wanted to balance everything probably killing myself in the process.

The only time I got to speak to my mum was when I was walking to the gym. The class started at 12 pm and since I was in a time zone three hours ahead of Pakistan, mum was up and waiting for my call. Both of us looked forward to this walk to and back from the gym.

Life worked around the clock. I was mostly exhausted but kept going with a smile on my face and eyeliner on my eyes.

On March 14th 2020, I had my first storytelling session in Australia. It was one of the most beautiful days of my life. The moment I entered the premises of the venue, I knew this was where I belonged. I felt at home, instantly. Never having lived in one city for long in my life, I have always sought my home in people. To me, the home had never been about the walls. These people and their vibe felt like mine. I belonged to them. I wanted never to leave. But I had to.

When we want to come back, we have to leave. I wanted to come back so I had to leave.

But life changed right after. Didn’t it?

The panic and fear surrounding COVID-19 had reached its greatest heights. I went in quarantine probably not to come out for Darwin knows when.

The first week of quarantine was not easy. Every morning I woke up anxious thinking of what could possibly go wrong with my family living in Pakistan. To be honest, I had never really feared for my own life. I did not mind losing my own life but I never wanted to live a day without my family who meant the world to me. I was constantly worried for my father who went to the local mosque to pray. My mum was a diabetic. My sister had immune issues. My nephew was little and had not even learned to say phupho.

When you come from troubled zones, you do manage to get yourself out of the danger that surrounds the life there but you leave a part of yourself back home; always worried and anxious for the ones you left behind.

I also fell unwell because of keeping myself confined in an apartment. If I ever had to leave for some inevitable errand, the sight of my once-bustling city made my heart sink in the stomach. The streets that were once alive with music and laughter were now silent, smelling of the fear of death that hovered in the air.

I had lost my job. What had kept me on my toes till a few days ago was there no more.

I needed support. Hence, I resorted to my folks whom I could probably not see again. The virtual world became the new reality. Since everyone was in this together, I could relate to everyone around the world. I had more time to think and reflect on who I really was. The story of my life gone by was now back to me in full swing. I was settling in. Times were still turbulent but bearable.

Humans are probably the most adaptable species in the world. No wonder why we have survived thousands of years on this planet while many diminished into oblivion. I guess I am adapting. I can probably not speak for everyone else around but for myself. I am finally coping.

This isolated life has become the new normal. We all know that the curve might flatten but life would not be the same anymore. We will have to live with this new world and its own sensibilities. Handshakes and hugs might not be as frequent as before. First dates might not end up in a goodbye kiss promising to return and meet again. Relationships will be more virtual than physical now. But we will continue falling in love which will bring a twinkle to eyes and romancing the sunshine on a winter morning but from a distance.

It will not be the same. Humans are nostalgic by nature and always cherish the time gone by. But those who accept their present as the only reality are the ones who survive and thrive. We can either remain in a pit of sadness and sulk about the days gone by for the days to come or embrace the reality (it’s safe) with open arms, adapting ourselves to this new life. It is up to us now.

Before you make any choices, remember it is about the survival of the fittest who embrace evolution. This is the only way out. Let social distancing be the new normal.

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By Saadia Ahmed
Saadia Ahmed is a Bollywood and cheesecake fanatic with no obvious interest in space travel. She tweets @khwamkhwah day in and out