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Saptarshi Kar

April 2021 is probably going to stand out as the watershed moment of my life. The second wave finally crept into my house, landing a lethal blow on my dad. After an uneven, 19 day battle, he passed away in the wee hours of the 24th. And once the dust and the suddenness settled to give me some moments to catch on my profound grief, I was confronted by my sickness and subsequent inevitable diagnosis. Fourteen days in isolation, I battled not only physical pain and discomfort but also my inner demons, which overwhelmed me time and again with the most negative and unsettling thoughts. I fought depression, anxiety, loneliness and the terror of what could be inevitable, bought about by my previous experience of living through it, for dad.

I pulled through and am back to near-complete recovery today. In hindsight, it was an uneven battle fought not with swords but through determination, steady medical advice and a positive mindset. Today when I look back after two months of what finally bought me through that period, I can think of some points which I assume now were game-changers in that period.

  1. Once the initial shock wore down, and I had passed through the entire physical spectrum of COVID-19 symptoms, I understood that more than relying on gadgets (Oximeters, Thermometers etc., which are nonetheless very important), it is essential to listen to one’s intuition and body. It always tells us what it needs and how we should respond to it. If it asks for sleep or rest out of fatigue, it is not always a cause for panic, we should JUST SLEEP. The rejuvenation and healing it brings about is a revelation. When I felt restless, I walked on my small garden terrace, adjoining my room. The feel of the brief and not so strenuous exercise had a magical impact on the body and mind.
  2. It is always important to realise that this disease impacts your mind as much it does your body. I had already developed a deep interest in spiritualism during the lockdown, and now it came to my rescue. Whenever negative thoughts crowded my mind, I would undertake brief periods of pranayama and meditation, interspersed by deep breathing exercises. It cleared the fog in my mind besides being a highly recommended lung exercise. Meditation, even in irregular periods declutters your brain of all negative thoughts and acts as a major immunity booster.
  3. As much as media must play an important role in this pandemic, I soon realised that the internet and social media were filled with depressing news which could only cause further panic and trepidation in your mind. Given as I was in a state of depression, it was important not to aggravate it further. I went for a web detox, wherein I kept away from social media for the entire quarantine period (following and posting included ). I scarcely followed the news (except the occasional sports and entertainment sections) and my interactions with my friends were limited with a strict “NO COVID UPDATE” rider.
  4. I realised the magic that a close family can weave during this period. My mom, who was probably, the worst hit by the tragedy, kept smiling throughout and would constantly badger me on video calls with what I would like to eat. My family would insist on routine video calls to crack jokes over tea or do pranayama and breathing exercises jointly, just so none of it becomes mundane and I do not feel detached. The positive vibes that they emanated through their smiles, laughter and evident confidence aided my quick recovery more than all the medication did, I firmly believe. (But serious gratitude to my doctor who scolded me like a school kid for every panic attack that I had during that period 

So, what were the long- term takeaways from this experience?

I mean seriously, there is nothing that I would like to remember about this period, much as we may want to glamorize this entire episode in hindsight. But it did change the way I look at some things in perspective. Before I even share it, I must highlight that these are strictly my personal thoughts and my opinion only.

  1. Your health is MOST important, PERIOD! And there is a difference between a muscled body and a healthy body, which means a body that can fight such serious viruses. It means balancing everything in proportion. Eat everything in limitation, because a lot of things that we may want to sacrifice, instead of a beautiful exterior, has great potential in boosting our immunity. And exercise regularly within your limits and with caution. I have now learnt to listen to my body and follow what it wants me to do rather than the other way round. So yes, I do take an occasional afternoon nap even on weekdays (I hope my boss does not see this :D) when I feel that fatigued.
  2. Exercise the mind and soul as much as the body. Small things like my terrace garden, flowers in bloom, the disappearing sparrows etc., kept me fighting when I was overwhelmed. This connection back to basic things and nature was something that we had probably long forgotten in the pace of our lives. Do whatever makes you happy, we are never sure how much time we may have in future to pursue it. Gardening, walking in the rain, learning the guitar or tarot (like me), all stimulates positive feelings which in turn makes you a fighter in life. A recently found interest in meditation and spiritualism (mark it, spiritualism should not be confused with religion), has helped rejuvenate my overall being and outlook towards life. I feel and express gratitude for everything that life has granted me yet, my health, family, a stable job and a filled plate at all times, something which is a rarity in today’s world. This is the complete opposite of the constant cribbing about my unfulfilled dreams in the past.
  3. LIVE IN THE MOMENT. I know a lot of us may roll our eyes at this cliched statement, but the uncertainty of life has never been more exposed than in the last year. And while planning for the future is necessary, we need to step back and enjoy the immediate present thoroughly. I have now immersed in living life every day like it’s my last, enjoying the smallest moments of happiness, finding joy in simple things, without overthinking the inevitable complexities of life. And frankly, I believe the biggest takeaway from this pandemic is how little we need to be happy. The baby steps I took towards recovery, post testing negative, gave me way more joy than the new iPhone model that I was saving up for. I mean, it is important to have ambitions and career goals and desires that fuel them, but is it worth sacrificing your peace of mind and your health, filial bonds and happiness in trying to achieve them, when they cannot guarantee that you would be able to walk without gasping for breath tomorrow? Philosophical, but food for thought, and guess what, a lot more people would believe in that maxim today than they probably would a couple of years back.
  4. FAMILY is FAMILY. This entire experience has taught me the difference between bonds real and fake and also to rediscover lost bonds. I now strive to nurture each of those filial bonds and manage time out to keep in touch with cousins, aunts and friends who truly care. The circle of love that these people create can help repel the most depressing thoughts which in my mind is an incomparable immunity booster. As they always say, diseases fear a sunny mind more than the best antibiotics and cure. I discovered 27 of my batchmates from school on a WhatsApp group, whom I am now speaking to after thirty years!! And guess what we have no selfies or photos on our phones to recall those days and times, our memories are good enough. It’s another matter of course that when we graduated High School, mobile phones did not exist as a life-saving device in our pockets .

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