Bollywood and Indian television actress Mouni Roy’s self-quarantine diary in Abu Dhabi during the coronavirus outbreak could easily double up as manual for self-care and discipline.
As Gulf News revealed on April 22, Roy — who has acted in hit TV series ‘Naagin’ and Bollywood sports biopic such as ‘Gold’ with actor Akshay Kumar — has been anchored in the UAE capital for more than a month.
The Bengal-born talent, who will soon be seen in director Ayaan Mukherji’s ‘Brahmastra’ with Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, was holidaying in Abu Dhabi when the national sterilisation programme gained momentum and the travel restrictions came into place. It’s now her fifth week in the UAE.
Roy, 34, is living with her childhood friend and her family in a villa in Abu Dhabi.
Gulf News caught up with Roy over the phone to find out how she has been thriving under these circumstances. From meditating religiously to plucking organic cherry tomatoes, Roy is the portrait of Zen during the social-distancing era.
“I have learnt to focus inward now… We live in the scariest times, but I am so grateful that I am so privileged that I have a good shelter, great food and the most loving family around me,” said Roy in an exclusive interview.
If this were her diary journal, it would read something like this…
MY STATE OF MIND:
“I have been missing my family, my mother especially, a lot. But I am very happy staying with Anisha, my childhood friend. Had I been in Mumbai, I would have been so much more lonelier. Anisha, her wonderful kids, uncle and aunt treat me like their own family. This lockdown has cut off all the [expletive] from my life. That garbage is out of my life. I begin my day with meditation for an hour, then I head to their vegetable garden for tomatoes and a bit of gardening. Meditation has become so important for my mental health. It’s so therapeutic.
It’s human nature to rebel against restrictions, but I have realised that this is the time to apply your mind. Even if I feel bored or exasperated, I remind myself that I am so privileged compared to others in this world. I have learnt to focus on what keeps me happy and calm. During these four weeks, I have learn to cut down a lot of noise and focus on what’s truly important to me.”
A DAY IN MY LIFE …
“I was particular that I didn’t want to be a couch potato during this period. I wanted to make sure that I work up in the morning, did my yoga, followed by prayers and meditation for an hour. I have developed a structure for each day. I am now a part of Anisha (Varma)’s household and their daily dynamics. This isolation period has treated people different and it’s become such a personal experience. I want to be as productive as I can during this time.
I have realised that the days I meditate, my day goes much better and I am able to function more smoothly. I have begun reading with a vengeance. I have re-read the book ‘Autobiography Of A Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda’, finished ‘Four Agreements’ and I am now in the third chapter of ‘Ikigai: The Japanese Secret To A Long and Happy Life’. I want to finish more than four books in a month. Every Saturday, I am also reading the Bhagavad Gita [holy text of Hindus].
But it is meditation that has helped me tremendously during this period. There was a point when I could only do five minutes, but gradually I increased my meditation time. I have a lot of injuries due to dancing and there was a time when I used to pop painkillers. I had this mix of anxiety and restlessness, and that’s never the right combination. It’s like having three shots of coffee when you don’t need it.”
IT’S ALL IN MY MIND:
“We keep working on our bodies by doing yoga and feeding it good, healthy food. But do you work on your mind as much? Mind is one of the important elements of our body and it regulates everything in your life. Over the last four weeks, I have realised that it’s important to treat your mind with calm and joy. It’s hard and there’s no shortcuts available, but I have learnt to treat my mind better. If your mind is under control, you are so much more equipped to let things slide. I have my days too. I feel [expletive]. Some days are so bad that I want to jump off the terrace and fly.”
PAINTING YOUR STRESS AWAY:
“I am finding painting so therapeutic… It’s like a balm to my soul. I come from a small town in West Bengal and I grew up taking dancing lessons, pottery, puppetry and making clay idols. But when I moved to Delhi and Mumbai to pursue my acting dreams, I forgot my love for the canvas and colours.
I never needed painting in my profession. But it was Anisha and her kids that re-ignited my passion for painting. I was in charge of her children’s art and story reading. And that got me hooked to painting.”
FEELING SCARED IS NATURAL:
“Just before I fall asleep, my mind wanders into the movie I was finishing before the coronavirus lockdown. At that point, I feel scared and restless. But immediately, I tell myself that this period is not about me. It’s not about actors. The whole world economy has gone for a toss. So I have learnt never to feed that narrative in my head. This is the scariest time of our lives. So I quickly say a prayer of gratitude for having a roof over my head, good food to eat and loving people around me. I am in such a fortunate position in my life compared to others who have no roof over their head. It’s absolute chaos in some people’s lives. There are so many people who are stuck and are dying to go back to their families. I am in a lucky position in my life. So it’s so important to focus on the ‘now’. Today, life is not about your solo performance, you must think that you are part of a larger orchestra. I have learnt not to be an alarmist by discussing the bleak points constantly.”
INSTAGRAM YOUR WOES AWAY?
“I like and enjoy posting on Instagram. I use Twitter for mostly work or putting my point across. But social media is a double-edged sword. It can be exhilarating and horrifying. The hate that comes to you from those who hide behind their laptops can be daunting, but what they write is a reflection of who they are. While I have learnt to ignore the toxic, hateful remarks, I feel blessed about having fans who have loved me unconditionally.”
KEEPING FIT DURING LOCKDOWN:
“I am a true believer of quantity control. Just before our interview, I had three or four aloo-pyaaz parathas [potato-onion flatbread] because I have a robust appetite. I put butter on it too. But I believe in being active all the time. In the book about Ikigai, I read that the Japanese walked a lot during ancient times and that kept them healthy. I follow that too. Yes, I have put on a bit of weight, but that’s OK. The key is to eat only till your stomach is 80 per cent full.”
SAYING A LITTLE PRAYER OF THANK YOU:
“These four weeks of social distancing and cutting off from regular life has taught me to be grateful. I have realised that I love my work and that I love acting and dancing Kathak. I have realised that rejection is a part of the profession that I am a part of. It’s beyond my control. I have learn that life is going to shock and surprise you at every turn. Our life is much bigger than ruling Bombay and the work that you do. I just feel lucky about doing what I love, but I also realise that there is a whole new world that’s waiting to be explored. Everything in my life is organic. We are constantly trying to be on that churning wheel called life. Just be at it.”