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When reality turns into Reality TV ; life in the times of social distancing

How many of you have seen the show Big Boss ? The one where a bunch of strangers are locked up in a house for a stipulated number of days. Well, the international Big Boss has spoken, and this time the game is called Social Distancing. It is the same as Big Boss, except , here instead of complete strangers, you are either stuck all alone in your apartment, or with our family members, and if you thought it was any less entertaining or excrutiating as Big Boss , think again.

If reports are to be believed, divorce rates are rising in China ,as couples are being forced to spend more time with each other, apparently 88 couples who came out of isolation in Wuhan , filed for divorce immediately post the quarantine. But, if you remember the baby boom post  9/11, we might very well have an increase in the population 9 months from now, they have even named these future babies the ‘Coronials’.

What is it, about being stuck in a closed environment that brings our feelings to a boil ? Whether love, hate or love-hate , and everything in between , humans will find themselves grappling with heightened emotions as they are confined to close spaces.Feelings are amplified, and cracks become craters. There is news of increased domestic violence , atlleast that’s what western papers like is to be believed. “we expect rising tension and likely rising violence, which makes everybody more vulnerable including children.” There is also new2s about increase in gun sales across the USA, an ‘unprecedented surge in bullet saleswith a 77%increase in website visit and a 222%increase in transactions’ the news reads. While this might still be Western news, but with talks of India going into lockdown, and Sunday 22 March being called the #janatacurfew ,should we not pre-empt Big boss like situations in our own homes?

So, what can you do to de-escalate any rising tensions at home, while you try to deal with family? Here are a few nifty tips : first , breathe, pause , count to ten, and then backwards, and if that doesn’t work, try working out 75 multiplied by 84, or something equally bizarre to distract your brain into calmness. Next, determine the best medium of communication. You might want to each lock yourselves in two different rooms, or in the bathroom even, and decide to email each other your grievances, or have it out on whatsapp. Face to face confrontations , especially when the other person has been ‘in your face’ for the last 10 days may not be the best mode of communication. Written text, or even handwritten letters shoved under a locked door might be better. Use active listening techniques, like using small encouragements to show you are listening and engaged, and repeating back what you have understood of the issue. Use ‘I ‘ statements to address any reactions or emotions. So, instead of saying things like “You never wash the coffee mugs and never help with the kids.” ,use “ I feel frustrated and overwhelmed with all the housework and working from home.” And lastly, stay silent, don’t take the bait, don’t respond, just like we are all waiting out the storm with Covid 19, know that patience is a virtue all around.

So, is it better to stay alone in this time of social distancing? Apparently that too is fraught with dangers of feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder.
Again , the internet is filled with options, from staying busy, doing something creative, learning a new skill, or just overhauling your house might be options.Be productive, be positive, be present, be patient.  Basically anything that makes you feel in control. As you sort through the cluttered cupboards in your home, you will declutter your mind. As you apply your mind to learning a new skill, your mind is no more caught in a vortex of old memories and old harmful thought patterns.

But, in all of this I wonder – Why is it that we aren’t Ok with ourselves, and our immediate surroundings; that there is a rise in anxiety , depression and divorce; but we are better able to communicate as a community? We have group live meditation sessions by lifestyle gurus where we can collectively be mindful, we have group cooking sessions held forth by celebrity chefs stranded in their homes, we have families dining in the Balcony in Italy, and Chinese people raising a toast of ‘JAIWOO WUHAN’ from their skyscrapers, and Spanish streets resonating with claps as people celebrate their doctors, and India too has it’s Junta curfew and claps at five. And the need to connect with people afar , is heightened , which I would like to attribute to the Romeo and Juliet effect. When circumstances and situations don’t allow two people to meet, ( herein social distancing) the need to meet is craved . This need to connect with the distant is shown with Tinder making their passport feature free for users. According to the CEO this technology allows them to swipe around the world , making quarantine buddy, and share and listen to people stuck in similar situations in different geographies in these times of unprecedented isolation. At times when we are stuck with ourselves, and with our immediate families, the need to connect across borders and seas is heightened?
I think what worked for me was realising, we are the most un-isolated in these moments of isolation. For the first time We and this is the collective We around the world are in it together. We are not social distancing for ourselves, we are doing it for all of HUMANITY, we are joining hands even as we vow not to shake hands. If you are feeling disheartened at losing wages, know that there are many more who are daily wage earners too, vendors, and hawkers, and even big budget Hollywood films are also losing money. Everyone is suffering, does it make your suffering less, maybe not, but know that you are not alone.

The earth now asks for compassion, and if that is too difficult then it asks for discipline. It is about following the rules, and even if the math confounds you, and you feel like a rebel without a cause wanting to step out of line, know that, ‘Big Boss’ is watching.

Hold yourself to a higher standard. Think you are on camera, and that everytime you hoard on essentials, try to sneak out of home, or mis-treat your fellow home bounds, or even mistreat yourself , think that you are on this world camera, where 5-10 years from now, these very days will be reminisced by an entire generation; we shall all be the Viral survivors, and what you did during these few days, will play on a big giant TV across the world. Smile , and bear it, because we are all in this Big Boss/Big brother . when reality is as strange and as filled with twists as reality TV.


Aloka said…
Wow! WAS a great read!would love to write what I did during Lockdown so that my grandkids see!

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