Adjusting to the new normal

Devorah Felder, a Lithuanian/South African national who lives in Mumbai, shares her lockdown experience

About two months ago, Steve and I suspected that the situation in India would start escalating, prompting us to cancel our spring trip to Dubai the night before we were due to leave. Instead, we travelled to Goa; at the time, our bizarre priority was that we wanted a spring break holiday and this flu craziness was not going to stop us. Our week in Goa was fabulous – life seemed quite normal at the time. Whilst in Goa, we were notified that the children’s school would not reopen after the spring break and that they would undergo virtual learning instead. I knew at that moment that my kids’ 2019–2020 school year would be completed by virtual learning. We will not be returning to school.

Upon our return to Mumbai, our building management informed us that no part-time staff could enter the building. As we did not have a live-in maid or driver, we had to quickly adjust to life without help. It has been a rude awakening to realise how much our lives have been accustomed to help for so many years.

As my husband is an asthma sufferer and is thus considered high-risk, we decided to isolate ourselves in the building. I had never thought I would actually drive in Mumbai, but I can officially say that it has been enjoyable, in fact a pleasure, to drive around. Besides, I have been able to find parking all the time. Personally, I have been battling with the two worlds I currently live in. On the one hand, I live in a bubble in an apartment block in Mount Mary; food deliveries in Bandra are readily available and we are able to purchase most products. However, on checking in on our staff weekly, we realised that they are certainly not as fortunate. Only certain vegetables are available, that too at a premium, and many staple foods are not delivered on a regular basis. It is heartbreaking to see this and wonder how far the rice and dal I have given will stretch for such families.

After a difficult start, our family is into a fairly good daily routine (I say this with extreme caution!). Our children – aged 4, 8 and 9 – have learnt to do all sorts of chores, such as collecting milk from the reception, making their beds, each child is required to fold and pack away their own laundry, once a week they strip their bed and put the linen in the washing machine, assisting with packing and unpacking the dishwasher and helping with the cooking. I am thoroughly enjoying with all of them.

My daughter’s extracurricular activities have moved over to Zoom sessions. She is now continuing with her gymnastics and yoga classes. They, however, miss interacting with their friends. During their leisure time, they play interactive games with cousins and friends around the world, who are all under lockdown in their respective countries. My husband has set up a home office and spends most of the day on video conferences. He usually travels every week, and it has been a great adjustment for him and for us to have him at home for an extended period.

My brother in Australia is a physiotherapist, and my sister in South Africa is a healthcare worker; therefore, both are considered part of essential services. We miss one another during this challenging period. In keeping with the adage ‘never waste a good crisis’, I have decided to use the time to acquire new skills and broaden my insights, and am keeping myself busy with webinars, exercise classes and online learning. We celebrated Passover, and our friends ensured that we had the necessary provisions for the holiday. We have definitely experienced a step-change in the pace of life, and in spite of the constraints of this unprecedented lockdown, we are finding our way every day. At the moment, our plans are just to live moment by moment, as there is an old Yiddish saying: ‘Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht’, which means ‘man makes plans and God laughs.’

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