The new coronavirus is undoubtedly the greatest disrupter of our time. That’s very true for me. Never in five decades has anything thrown my life this far out of kilter.
Over the last five weeks, COVID-19 has been making incremental changes to my life. Despite which, I tried to maintain my daily routine. I am a creature of habit. You could say I’ve borderline OCD. (Yes, I arrange things in a logical manner; my wallet, car key, specs, all have appointed places.)
Back to my routine. That changed last week when we started working from home. It drastically altered my routine. I had to push myself to stay on track. The work kept me going, but it also upended my daily rhythm.
I’m not complaining. For I’m cooped up in the comfort of my home. I have enough to eat. I still have a job. There are millions who don’t have any of these.
Typically I wake up early and wait for the 5am alarm to go off. I am then up and off for an hour’s walk. Then my coffee and social media browsing which go hand in hand, followed by a ritual that involves showering, ironing and dressing before I head off to the office.
This routine sets me up for the day. Here’s what has changed. When you work from home, there’s no start or finish line. There’s no need for the morning commute. No need to beat the evening traffic. So you tend to extend your work hours. Because suddenly, there’s always one more thing you could do. Before you know, it’s past 9pm, and you have been working for around 12 hours. (Mind you, I’m not complaining because I know of colleagues who work much longer.).
By then it’s late for dinner, which is wolfed down with little thought or relish. It’s time for some late-night TV - something about WFH invites TV binges. I binge-watched the fourth season of Money Heist, and have moved on to Tiger King. The trouble is you never watch an episode a day. You keep going, episode after episode. By the time I groggily crawl into bed, it is well past midnight. One Malayalam movie (Ayyappanum Koshiyum) kept me awake till 2am.
For someone who used to sleep before 10pm, this is late to say the least. So what happens the next day? The 5am alarm is slapped down quickly. It’s 8am when I open my eyes. Three hours lost. My yoga is shot. Five sun salutations will have to do. (Living room yoga replaced my morning walks at the Al Majaz Waterfront couple of weeks back.)
A world cowering in fear
A quick coffee and a cursory glance through social media are followed by a shower before breakfast. It’s time to get to work. Time to open my desktop. It’s a mad rush. And I hate to be rushed. Remember, I’m a creature of habit. And I prefer to go through a routine before settling down for the day's tasks. Routine calms me. Sets me up for a productive day.
Well, I don’t have a choice. I now inhabit a world that lives in terror. Terrified of a microbe. A microscopic organism that goes by the name of SARS-COV-2. A pathogen that causes the COVID-19 disease. The disease that has changed the world forever. More than 106,000 deaths; around 1.7 million confirmed cases in 185 countries and territories. Enough reason to cower in fear.
I don’t live in fear. The mortality rate of 3.4 per cent is not enough to strike terror in me. But the rapid spread and very high rate of infections are deeply worrying. It has overwhelmed healthcare facilities in countries with the most advanced healthcare systems. When the United States, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom struggle to cope, you know this is no ordinary disease. It’s a pandemic that needs to be treated with abundant caution. Which is why I allowed my life to be disrupted.
Last week, my only trip outdoors had been to the grocery. And I made it early morning so that there will be fewer people in the store. I wore a mask for the first time, although medical opinion is divided on its utility value. I wore latex gloves too. You have to be cautious, right? And I bought more foodstuff than usual to avoid more trips.
Weekends are spent in front of the TV. There’s little else to do. I’m not complaining. For I’m cooped up in the comfort of my home. I have enough to eat. I still have a job. There are millions who don’t have any of these. So I’m fortunate.
My life has changed. That’s the price I willingly pay for battling the virus. Staying home is best I can do in beating the virus. And I will continue to do that, no matter what. Routine be damned.