Dormant talents came to the fore


The lockdown may have pinned people down to their homes but many put their anxiety and restive moments to creative use. Some learnt new craft, some took to art to express themselves and some rediscovered themselves through other pursuits, finds Mamta Gupta.

Glancing out of the balcony of her cosy two-bedroom apartment in Mumbai, 25-year-old management consultant Meenakshi Prabhu nervously paced the breadth of her bedroom. The restlessness clearly visible on her face, countless cups of coffee, dollops of her favourite ice cream, even the company of her six-month old indie pup didn’t seem to comfort ‘Meenu’, as she’s known among her friends. She knew she had to put her mind to “some use”, even if it meant reviving her long lost love for painting.

Even thinking of that time makes Meenakshi depressed. “I just don’t want to go back to that time, ever again. It was probably the lowest day of my life. Two weeks into the lockdown … the silence, the confinement and solitude drove me crazy. I couldn’t handle it anymore and reached out to my brother” who advised her “to engage in something creative”. And, since that day “I haven’t stopped painting. It’s like I am trying to make up for all the time I couldn’t paint sometimes due to my studies, exams or career choices.” Meenakshi still hates that day but is grateful too as it “pushed” her into what she always wanted to do in her life.

The anxiety people experienced, sitting idle, during the lockdown has been ‘nothing short of a pandemic itself’ as an increasing number of individuals complained of panic attacks and insomnia during the period. The trend was particularly common in individuals staying alone, away from their families.

Lockdown affected people psychologically

India’s fight to battle the deadly COVID-19 outbreak is ongoing. While the lockdown restrictions have eased down, the sheer nature of the infection is keeping everyone on tenterhooks. A few months into the lockdown, the debate and confusion over ‘restarting’ the economic machinery in the country was closely watched by members of the public who were now craving for the simplest of things – a cup of coffee in one’s favourite cafeteria, a stroll in the park, a long drive, a late night out with friends.

The lockdown tweaked the ‘normal’ for millions of Indians. Cornered and quarantined, people took to new hobbies and skills to stay occupied, re-invent themselves, build their skillset even distract themselves from the associated stress.

It’s never too late to learn

During the lockdown, many people got a chance to ‘upgrade’ themselves. Learning new languages, exploring culinary skills, learning new crafts, exploring photography, blogging, learning to do make-up and hair-styling, participating in online dance classes, learning computer programming, etc., were some of the myriad options that opened during the lockdown.

“I realised how I had taken my freedom for granted. The most obvious of things such as hopping onto my Activa and driving down to the Sabarmati Riverfront for a kulfi seemed like an event from a past life. I just kept thinking when I will be able to do that again?” feels Ahmedabad-based real-estate agent Jigyasa Trivedi. That’s when she decided to make optimum use of “the time God has granted” to her and enrolled in online foreign language classes. “It’s been a boon in disguise. I am now exploring other career options that may utilise my foreign language skills.”

Noida-based freelance writer Kritika Sharma was at her in-laws’ place in Gurgaon, when the lockdown was announced. During the lockdown, she decided to fine-tune her cooking skills under her mother-in-law.“I have never really cooked a proper meal because of paucity of time owing to my professional commitments. I didn’t know to cook many dishes.” Now, with all the time at hand, Kritika has been learning to cook traditional dishes and is open to exploring “catering as a part-time business.” Not only did she get to spend time with and know her mother-in-law better, she realised her love for cooking too!

Building professional skillset

An increasing number of people used using the home-confinement to enhance their professional and soft skills. “Many of my friends registered for online courses and programmes and are seriously considering changing careers,” says Chennai-based software engineer Anitha S. Millions of users the world over are signing up for free and paid courses in an area of interest.

Panjim-based history teacher Clarinda Dias was always interested in learning music. “My parents never wanted me to pursue music as it was not as respectable as a teaching job. So I settled for a career of their choice but always felt incomplete,” offers Clarinda. She finally got a chance to pursue her hidden desire to learn music during the lockdown. She registered for online music classes and has been excited ever since to show off her talent to her people.

Like Clarinda, millions enrolled for online courses, webinars and seminars to create additional work profiles that opened up new career prospects.

“This is just the right time to upgrade, professionally or academically otherwise with personal and work commitments, it’s almost impossible to think of something new,” feels Mumbai-based law student Alpa Raut, who is undertaking an international human rights course online and wishes to pursue a career in international law.

Many set new goals for life

Many people, sitting idle at home during the lockdown, set creative and fitness goals such as losing weight, building stamina for a marathon, trying out kitchen gardening, exploring yoga and meditation, etc. With everything available online during the lockdown, it became very easy for people to set new goals for their lives and following them through. Some even discovered a knack for things they didn’t even know they possessed.

Hardiwar-based government accounts personnel Geeta Patnaik discovered a new side to her personality. At work, Mamta never got a chance to explore her ‘creative’ side as she dealt with numbers throughout her life. It was peer pressure that led her to discover a new side of her. Geeta started sketching for the first time during the lockdown. “I was sitting idle, not knowing how to spend my time. I started surfing social media sites to understand how people were spending their time and realised many had taken to sketching…that’s when I thought, why not!” feels Geeta showing off her sketches that surprised her too.

Internet became a saviour

For many who undertook new hobbies during the lockdown, internet was probably the most useful tool at hand. People made ample use of the internet, particularly YouTube through its ‘Do It Yourself’ or ‘DIY’ video tutorials explaining the most interesting and creative things you can do ‘on your own’.

Many young mothers learned new things themselves first and then taught their children. “It was unfortunate that children had to stay indoors for so long during the lockdown. As a parent, I knew I had to engage my child creatively,” says Mumbai-based homemaker Lalita Joshi. “My five-year-old son would get restless and crib a lot during the day as days progressed during the lockdown. So, I started surfing YouTube videos for things to do with children. It was probably one of the best decisions I took and the internet really helped. We built blocks, did a lot of craft work, even some kitchen gardening.”

The lockdown drove people to reintroduce old hobbies to the newer self or acquire new ones in the process. It was probably the best utilisation of time during the lockdown that not only helped people keep their sanity intact but also provided an opportunity to diversify their skill set, upgrade professionally, explore their talents and be one with themselves.

Mamta Gupta

Mamta Gupta is a Research Associate with Maverick – A DraftCraft International initiative to further reach, accountability and the law in Pre-Primary, Primary, Intermediary and Secondary Education.