Key is to seize the moment

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The Covid-19 threw the mankind in throes of uncertainty, cramped inside homes and making peace with expediencies. Shrugging off all despair, people showed exemplary crisis management to tide over and brave it out with smiles, appreciates Aarti Asthana.

If there’s one thing that the year 2020 has taught the world, it’s to live in the moment: Carpe Diem as in to seize the moment. It was the acute uncertainty of the Covid-19 situation that fetched India her first lockdown from March 25 kept millions within her borders home-bound, for days on end. And, it was then that the uncertainty of the days was felt the most.

All plans regarding work and pleasure went for a toss, the whole of 2020 as business suffered, professionals lost livelihoods, and workers lost jobs following an unprecedented job crisis across India. When banker Aditi Sartoskar heard about the lockdown, her heart “skipped a beat or two.” After months of haggling and bargaining, she had managed to procure a fortnight-long deal with a motorcycle company to fund her trip across India for a vlog, she planned to start on Women Health.

“I had left my corporate job in December last and had started writing. I was due to start my first solo motorcycle trip in April 2020, funded and sponsored after days of bargaining and chasing corporates, when this happened,” she recalls. “And, everything took a hit for the worse,” she said. “The sponsors called me up and told me that all projects had been put on the backburners and the payments for the trip were being suspended. “There was nothing I could do about it,” she says, “the contingency of suspending the programme had been laid down in the contract itself.”

So, Aditi put off all outdoor plans and started to work upon a fully virtual platform that could take off on a physical plane soon once the lockdown was called off. She even managed to get funding for the same from a financial institution backing women projects. “It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for but surely covered my losses for the time,” she said.

Breaking new ground

And then, there were thousands who lost their jobs owing to the financial crunch that followed the lockdown. “After 18 years of working for the travel firm that I had joined from its starting days, I was asked to leave office and work from home in the initial period,” recalled Pune-based accountant Arun Joglekar. “But, when the lockdown was extended the second time, my employer asked me to leave, saying that he could not sustain the losses as the travel industry was hit directly,” he added.

So, Arun instead of sitting back at home and doing nothing, decided to start a home-made food ‘tiffin’ service prepared by his wife and distributed to a network of friends and students who would be ‘working from home’. Called ‘Manshakti Dabba’, the service grew from strength to strength over the months and when his employer contacted him in August to resume work albeit from home in the beginning, Arun politely declined the offer.

“Now, I have my own venture to work upon. I have realised the importance of the moment and the need to live fully in it. Come any catastrophe of this nature, I should not be dependent on a job or some other industry. I have learned to be free, the hard way and will never give it up,” he says. And, like Arun and Aditi were thousands of others who managed to break the shackles of jobs and vocations that had been hit adversely by the lockdown.

The most essential of needs, food, turned out to be a savior for millions across India during the lockdown. And, in the days of Covid-19 and the importance of hygiene, it was home-made food cooked by homemakers that mattered the most.

After all, it was clean, healthy and economical too. Little wonder then that most of the city’s students, workers, even locals travelling far to work make a beeline for new-age entrepreneurs, mostly home-makers, who’d sell fresh food from homes for customers to takeaway and consume at their homes, offices or workplaces.

When the national lockdown was announced by PM Modi and restaurants forced to shut business, locals were left with little option but cook at home. If it weren’t for the middle class homemakers, thousands of migrant workers and students – living in basic small rooms with no scope to cook – would have to grapple with hunger. Those days, the fear of hunger was real and palpable.

True to their wont, the residents worked around the lockdown even provided basic amenities like eggs, bread and snacks to ‘outsiders’ while keeping the mandatory ‘safe distance’ and wearing masks throughout. And the slow, opening up following the lockdown, led to a mushrooming of food providers – all home-makers with their husbands pitching in – cooking the choicest of wares – safe and economical to those without kitchens and viable food options.

“When I first saw more stalls opening up in the neighbourhood, I almost jumped with joy. Now, I could buy myself a decent breakfast before rushing to work,” says Shilpa Sawant working as an administrative staff at a hospital at Bombay Central. “I have to work long hours at the hospital which got longer during the lockdown. So, there is no time for me to even make tea at home,” she maintains.

Among the newer food providers, home-maker Lata Koli is, by far, hugely talented. Besides the fact that her cooking prowess is endorsed by all even her own competitors, it’s the rush at her place that speaks volumes of her cuisine. “It’s through word of mouth that my customer base has increased over the days,” she says.

“Sitting idle at home was not agreeing with me. I would give tuition to local school children and later stopped to focus on my son’s and daughter’s education. Now that they’ve grown up, I found myself having a lot of time at hand, especially during the lockdown. So I decided to start this mini-venture of making and selling dosas during the day and personally improvised chicken-based snacks during the evenings,” says an excited Lata.

“Nischal Koli, my husband, spending more time at home during the lockdown makes it a point to help me with the cutting and chopping. It’s a great way for us to get some money rolling,” she maintains.

Lessons learnt

In a lot of areas across Mumbai as in Kolkata and Ahmedabad, there emerged a multitude of options for residents, passers-by, and the general working population. Locals began preparing and selling dosas, idli, wada, sambhar, chutney, puri-bhaji, keema-pav, sandwich, ‘Frankie’, etc., in a direct demonstration of Carpe Diem even in the midst of a crisis as menacing as the Covid-19 situation.

Why, most even worked shoulder to shoulder, dumping difference of religion and community, helping each other bide over the crisis that, they learnt, could only be fought together. The differences, they learnt, were only as imaginary as their fears of the future. They had to live for the moment, and they did.

There’re lessons to be learnt in every crisis. Covid-19 ensured that everyone got fit, literally and figuratively, to survive and succeed. Seizing the moment was the best way to go ahead. So, dumping complacency and despondency, Indians worked on their innate skills and emerged successful in 2020. Yes, there were losses to be borne and hurdles to be overcome, but they did all of it with a smile and the grit that is unique to all Indians.

So, Arun instead of sitting back at home and doing nothing, decided to start a home-made food ‘tiffin’ service prepared by his wife and distributed to a network of friends and students who would be ‘working from home’. Called ‘Manshakti Dabba’, the service grew from strength to strength over the months and when his employer contacted him in August to resume work albeit from home in the beginning, Arun politely declined the offer.

“Now, I have my own venture to work upon. I have realised the importance of the moment and the need to live fully in it. Come any catastrophe of this nature, I should not be dependent on a job or some other industry. I have learned to be free, the hard way and will never give it up,” he says. And, like Arun and Aditi were thousands of others who managed to break the shackles of jobs and vocations that had been hit adversely by the lockdown.

The most essential of needs, food, turned out to be a savior for millions across India during the lockdown. And, in the days of Covid-19 and the importance of hygiene, it was home-made food cooked by homemakers that mattered the most. After all, it was clean, healthy and economical too. Little wonder then that most of the city’s students, workers, even locals travelling far to work make a beeline for new-age entrepreneurs, mostly home-makers, who’d sell fresh food from homes for customers to takeaway and consume at their homes, offices or workplaces.

When the national lockdown was announced by PM Modi and restaurants forced to shut business, locals were left with little option but cook at home. If it weren’t for the middle class homemakers, thousands of migrant workers and students – living in basic small rooms with no scope to cook – would have to grapple with hunger. Those days, the fear of hunger was real and palpable.

True to their wont, the residents worked around the lockdown even provided basic amenities like eggs, bread and snacks to ‘outsiders’ while keeping the mandatory ‘safe distance’ and wearing masks throughout. And the slow, opening up following the lockdown, led to a mushrooming of food providers – all home-makers with their husbands pitching in – cooking the choicest of wares – safe and economical to those without kitchens and viable food options.

“When I first saw more stalls opening up in the neighbourhood, I almost jumped with joy. Now, I could buy myself a decent breakfast before rushing to work,” says Shilpa Sawant working as an administrative staff at a hospital at Bombay Central. “I have to work long hours at the hospital which got longer during the lockdown. So, there is no time for me to even make tea at home,” she maintains.

Among the newer food providers, home-maker Lata Koli is, by far, hugely talented. Besides the fact that her cooking prowess is endorsed by all even her own competitors, it’s the rush at her place that speaks volumes of her cuisine. “It’s through word of mouth that my customer base has increased over the days,” she says.

“Sitting idle at home was not agreeing with me. I would give tuition to local school children and later stopped to focus on my son’s and daughter’s education. Now that they’ve grown up, I found myself having a lot of time at hand, especially during the lockdown. So I decided to start this mini-venture of making and selling dosas during the day and personally improvised chicken-based snacks during the evenings,” says an excited Lata.

“Nischal Koli, my husband, spending more time at home during the lockdown makes it a point to help me with the cutting and chopping. It’s a great way for us to get some money rolling,” she maintains.

Lessons learnt

In a lot of areas across Mumbai as in Kolkata and Ahmedabad, there emerged a multitude of options for residents, passers-by, and the general working population. Locals began preparing and selling dosas, idli, wada, sambhar, chutney, puri-bhaji, keema-pav, sandwich, ‘Frankie’, etc., in a direct demonstration of Carpe Diem even in the midst of a crisis as menacing as the Covid-19 situation.

Why, most even worked shoulder to shoulder, dumping difference of religion and community, helping each other bide over the crisis that, they learnt, could only be fought together. The differences, they learnt, were only as imaginary as their fears of the future. They had to live for the moment, and they did.

There’re lessons to be learnt in every crisis. Covid-19 ensured that everyone got fit, literally and figuratively, to survive and succeed. Seizing the moment was the best way to go ahead. So, dumping complacency and despondency, Indians worked on their innate skills and emerged successful in 2020. Yes, there were losses to be borne and hurdles to be overcome, but they did all of it with a smile and the grit that is unique to all Indians.


Aarti Asthana

Aarti Asthana is a media researcher volunteering with www.HealthAndTheLaw.com – A DraftCraft International Initiative to spread awareness among patients of legal rights and position in law, boost medico-legal awareness, initiate legislative change and enforce accountability among healthcare players

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