The past year was all about the 2 Cs – Coronavirus and change. The onset of the pandemic transformed the world in more ways than one could have anticipated. Everyone was forced to accept a lifestyle that gradually became the “new normal” due to the given circumstances. While tons of people suffered unimaginable pain and grief, the lockdown came with its fair share of benefits. Everyone went through emotional and physical turmoil because of the unprecedented situation in our lives and it was no different for me. Here are the lockdown lessons from the year that will go down as a unique one in the history of our generation as well as of mankind as a whole.
Lockdown lesson #1: Cooking
As people were forced to move indoors, there were two things that everyone missed the most – outside food and meeting people. The numerous food bloggers on social media platforms made full use of this opportunity to grow their reach. They shared all kinds of recipes ranging from complicated dishes to even ingredients that went into the making of those dishes.
I had always loved baking but the thought of mainstream cooking scared me. I always felt that I would not be able to cook good food. Initially, it was fun to just watch the bloggers’ posts but a few weeks into the lockdown, the fear of missing out (aka FOMO) took over as everyone I knew was spending countless hours in their kitchens. The unavailability of house help meant we had to divide the housework among all the members of the family. This meant I had to be in the kitchen anyway. Regularly watching my mother cook created a further push and I decided to join her.
I started off small. So small that you wouldn’t even classify what I was doing, as cooking. I used to just pass around the ingredients or utensils my mother needed. However, these small steps turned into bigger steps in no time. I had learnt how to cut vegetables by following my mother’s actions when she was preparing to cook. Soon, I decided to take over the chopping and cutting. It was tough to get consistent shapes and sizes as my knife would slide through the vegetables too easily but this got better with time. I was shocked to see how quickly I was able to take to the stove and prepare dishes right till the end too.
I could not believe how enjoyable it was to see the end results. It felt like a personal achievement every time I looked at the final dish. Success early on encouraged me to try my hand at cuisines that were completely new to me and even tougher than the basic everyday food. The anticipation as my parents got ready to taste the food was crazy. “Will they like it?” “Oh my god, is it too salty?” “Uh oh, is it not salty enough?” “Will they give honest feedback or will they just lie and say the food is good like they show in movies or TV shows?” The adrenaline rush every time made the experience even more fun.
Lockdown lesson #2: Reading Books
A large part of the credit for this habit (yes, I can successfully call this a habit now) goes to my friends and cousins. However, a special mention goes to my friend, Gajendra. I have always been surrounded by avid readers. Since my childhood, I had seen my brother and cousins endlessly read. As a result, they were able to move to advanced books pretty early on. I liked listening to their discussions but I could obviously never relate.
Last year, I was living with my aunt for almost half a year where I came across my cousin’s collection of books. I happened to pick out ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins just to give it a casual read to pass some free time. I was hooked to the novel and ended up completing an entire book after many, many years. It was exhilarating to have read something out of my own choice and not by peer pressure to read the “popular” books, which had been the case throughout my school life.
I did start reading a bit more often after that incident but it didn’t become a habit. This is where Gajendra’s inspiration came into the picture. In 2020, I met him in college while we were organizing an event for the annual fest. Once that was over, a few of us were casually talking when someone initiated a conversation about books. I saw Gajendra’s expressions change and he sat up, narrating endless stories and lessons from his list of books he had read. What’s more? He didn’t just have stories. He picked up his bag and started taking out one book after another. To say that I was shocked would be an understatement.
Someone else, who was also left bewildered by this unexpected act, questioned him why he was carrying books (and that too so many of them) to a fest. He had a ready answer – “I live so far so I like to make the best use of my traveling time. I often carry extra books so that there is no chance I run out of something to learn while I take the same route up and down daily.”
His passion for books left a deep impression on my mind. I thought that if someone can be so obsessed with reading, am I being really ignorant in my habit of barely reading. I made a decision right there to not waste any more time and set a target to complete 12 books in 12 months. The lockdown helped and although I was able to complete only about 54% of my target, I wasn’t too disheartened. I feel it’s good progress for a complete newbie. I’m prouder of the fact that reading is now a habit. That was actually the unplanned goal and the more difficult one to achieve. Once that is done, the numbers will automatically go up in no time.
Lockdown lesson #3: Gratitude
“A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles.”
I learned this lesson because of another cherished friend of mine – Mansi. One fine evening when we were catching up with each other, she started telling me about this course she was doing based on ‘The Magic’ by Rhonda Bryne. I could sense the excitement in her voice as she described how practicing gratitude had started transforming her life. I was intrigued and wished to attend these Magic Book sessions myself. Mansi then informed me that they had a unique ‘charge’ for the course which was a commitment instead of a regular fee.
I wondered why someone would be willing to conduct such a powerful session free of cost. The sole motive could not be making money but to bring about a change. When I had finally made up my mind to attend a few sessions, I got to know that the upcoming ones would be held at 5 am. Now, I am not a morning person but the extent of Mansi’s enthusiasm prompted me to take a chance at waking up early too. Right from the word go, I felt a certain vibe that was unprecedented. I felt a burst of positivity.
Through carefully crafted exercises, The Magic book develops a routine that helps you practice gratitude in the daily course of your life. It makes you realize how complaining takes you away from your dreams and how powerful your thoughts can be. It is definitely very difficult to imbibe this in your nature straightaway but with regular practice, it can be achieved.
The sessions altered my thought process too and now I find it easier to look at the positive side of things. After the year that was, I could feel the strong gratitude in my heart as I stepped out of my house for the first time in 6-7 months. I looked at the greenery around me and felt thankful for it. I was more grateful than I ever was before for the pleasant wind.
The coronavirus showed us the importance of family and friends. It gave us a lot of time to reflect upon ourselves and our lifestyle. Earlier, it was normal for us to have outside food. We never gave it a second thought. After the restrictions imposed last year, we realized what a blessing it actually was to be able to afford food on our plates – be it food cooked at home or consumed outside. The foremost lesson for all of us was adapting to change. As work and education shifted fully online, everyone adopted a new way of living.
Speaking of gratitude, I have a challenge for you. Take about 15-20 minutes out every day and write down a few lines (or as many pages as you’d like) on the topic for the respective day. Try to complete this without repeating an incident unless you absolutely have to.
Lockdown lesson #4: Self-discipline
It was very painful to hear about how the people infected with the dreaded virus were suffering. Those few weeks when a patient was ill took a massive toll not only on the person himself but also on his family members. It was a scary time and the news from around the world just made it worse. Such a year taught us all an immense amount of self-control. Even people who wouldn’t stay at home for a single day were forced to stay inside for months at length. In the initial days of the lockdown, we couldn’t even go out to buy groceries – something none of us could have fathomed before.
Maintaining distance besides the obvious, meant creating new habits for greeting (like doing ‘namaste’ instead of a handshake). We had to refrain from touching any surfaces or any other objects and we all took time to adjust to this ‘new normal.’ It is quite obvious that when social beings like us are confined to a restricted space for long periods of time, it can become slightly maddening.
For me, the hardest thing to do was convincing myself to exercise but I made it a point to get it done at least 5 times a week. If I felt like skipping it on a certain day, I tried to compensate by doing some other physical activity. Sitting in front of the screen for 4 hours daily to attend classes (and not giving in to the social media temptation) every weekday was a tedious task but my self-discipline helped me through it.
Lockdown lesson #5: Slowing down
The lockdown gave us the blessing of time. With our packed schedules, we never felt the importance of taking out time for ourselves or our loved ones. 2020 taught us that self-care is a priority, not a privilege. Finding new recipes to cook, playing games (and even creating some new ones), connecting with our loved ones was a much-needed break for most of us. I started meditating and practicing gratitude. These are 2 lessons that I still haven’t aced but hope to continue to work on. I understand now how important it is to slow down and listen to the requirements of our mind and body. We need to train them while also considering our limits.
Comment below stating your top 3 lockdown lessons! I am eager to know more about how your year went and how it transformed you as a person. If you try the ’30 Day Gratitude Challenge’, let me know how you felt and what your favourite topic was!
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