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Me during Quarantine. Picture Source: 9GAG (Facebook)

I remember the first day of this year – a year of new beginnings. I was starting as a graduate student, anxious but excited.

Days rolled on. I was attending lectures, learning from labmates and exploring the campus when news about a viral outbreak in a neighbouring country was doing the rounds. It was one province in China thousands of miles away. “That shouldn’t affect me,” I thought – but boy was I wrong!

Japan, South Korea, Iran, Italy – new COVID-19 cases emerged from more countries at an alarming rate. The epidemic was taking the shape of a pandemic. India had limited local transmission then, was a comforting thought.

Things came to a halt when I received an e-mail that directed us to evacuate the hostel in two days. The institute would be shut for two weeks. After cribbing about the overreactive measure, I came to terms with the fact that I had to pack my bags and leave.

The first week was quite productive. I kept myself busy spreading awareness about COVID-19, writing articles and blog posts. Midway through the second week, the energy dwindled.

Staying indoors was never a problem for me. I remember the time when I was at home applying for jobs after my master’s – I stayed home for 20 days straight. So when the nationwide lockdown was announced, it didn’t seem like a big deal.

With the lockdown extended, it is clear that we are in this for the long haul, but staying productive has been the greatest challenge for me. Some days are better than the rest, thanks to my advisor and labmates. The virtual lab meetings and skill development sessions are real refreshers – it’s always great to learn new things. I also have my courses online, which keep me busy for a few hours in the week. At other times, I am writing something (like this blog post), surfing the internet, reading, chatting, or binging on Netflix.

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