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Let this pandemic be the time to introspect

The Geography textbook lay on the table and I looked at it. The diagram of tectonic plates had three little circular damp spots. I was looking at it intensely, though none of it seemed to make any sense. Those damp marks were my tears. I was stressing, for the umpteenth time, over my classes, SAT scores, assignments, so on and so forth. I had nobody close enough, in whom, I could confide.

I was not allowed to go out with my friends. I was not allowed to go on a date. I was not allowed to wear what I wanted to wear. I lived under constant scrutiny. I overthought my every action (or inaction) to the point of depression. My health worsened. But certainly, I was not the only one going through this turmoil. Millions of girls and women, in developing countries like India, are not allowed to venture out of their homes. Families refuse to let their daughters out for too long. The fear of sexual harassment, molestation, and rape is too much. And did I mention the moral policing the neighbours engage in? Although my parents’ actions were borne out of concern for me, I had started to resent them.

The time I spent home was not entirely unproductive however. I spent my time, doing assignments, painting, writing poetry. My paintings were displayed at school exhibitions. In class eleven, I sold a few of them at a gallery, where our art class paintings were displayed. A few of my poems were published in a poetry book named ‘Poetry Cosmos’. I wrote 2 poetry books on Wattpad, containing more than fifty poems.

Coming to Australia has changed my life. I have gotten involved in a host of university activities. From managing Philanthropy Club stall at Orientation-week, to planning a Virtual Pub for events hosted by North Ryde Civic Leaders, I have done and enjoyed it all. At home, I spend my time learning to cook, exercising, or speaking in front of the mirror, to counter my anxiety issues.

Now that I am confined at home, I find it easy to focus on my work. I spend time on my assignments, not out of compulsion, but out of love for my subject. I thank my parents that they allowed me to come to Sydney at the age of seventeen, all alone, to study here, at Macquarie University. And I enjoy every bit of my journey, starting the last day of Orientation, on July 29th 2019.

When I am not planning events for the Philanthropy Club or enjoying a Buddies event, I write. Every now and then, I write non-fiction pieces, like the one below:

The room is not square or rectangle-shaped. It is not symmetrical either. And clearly, it is not spacious. Despite the oppressive air, I prefer the window closed, not only because it softens the harsh noise of the passing trains but also because it reduces the amount of dust that collects around the edges of the window. Somehow, I find it easy to fall asleep to the sound, perhaps because it reminds me of home.

The small table next to my bed is stuffed with notebooks, pens, sticky notes, etc. The lower shelf of the same contains two of my most prized possession- sketch book and my diary containing Rabindra sangeet songs. The shelves visible from the wardrobe are overwhelmed with clothes and cosmetics. Usually, my Opal card gets hidden underneath the vast assortment of garments but I have cared enough to put it inside a card-holder. Even the tiny bin is overflowing with a week’s worth of garbage. The floor, however, is clean.

In the evenings, I sit on the floor cross-legged, and paint the sky in pastel shades the way I see it from the window. This is when I spend some moments of quiet introspection, perhaps the only time of the day when my roommate is not hovering around and I get to enjoy the solitude.

If you feel miserable living a quarantined life, think of all those women who have spent most of their lives indoors, unable to step out of their houses, today, every day before today, and every day afterwards, due to fear of sexual assault and presence of family restrictions. Imagine living most of your life, looking at the walls of your room. Imagine counting the number of tiles on the floor, instead of being able to look up and count the stars.

Long back in school, I had read the poem Leisure. It starts with the following lines:

What is this life, if full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?

-William Henry Davies

We now have all the time-though not devoid of care- in the world. We have the time to sit, squat, or stand. We can complain or we can make something out of it. As a GLP student or otherwise, think of all you can do indoors, instead of all that you cannot. Look within and question yourself.

So, let this pandemic be the time to introspect. Let this pandemic be the time to empathise with women. Let this pandemic be the time to plan all that we can do to help such people, once we are able to step out. Let this pandemic be the time to get away from the rush and do all that we wanted to do and all that we wanted to learn.

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