Zareen Anika Islam talks about her quarantine days during the COVID-19, how she is reinventing the childhood hobbies, getting time for the things she used to love and giving the effort that she deserves for herself
THE government declared a 10-day general holiday on March 22, 2020, effective from March 26 to April 4. When I first heard the news, I was in the middle of a class, planning on how to tackle the storm of assignments that was headed my way amidst the midterm week. So, hearing the announcement of all the educational institution getting closed for an indefinite period of time, which might be extended till September given the situation, passed a wave of relief over me.
Do not get me wrong. I was just as scared for my loved ones and myself as the next person. But being the introvert who loves staying in her bubble, some social distancing combined with staying home all day did not seem so bad of an idea.
One thing that worried me about this shutdown was lagging behind of my semester. Having only one semester left to complete the degree, no one wants to wait on for another four months. Thankfully, our university had prepped for online classes and had everything planned to help end the semester on time. I will admit that these assignments really helped me keep my sanity during the past two weeks. It kept my mind distracted from all the negativity everywhere and actually helped the time pass faster.
I knew we would be heading towards online classes in the near future where going to classes physically would be a thing of the past. However, I never thought I would be able to experience it so soon. Watching the teachers give lectures from the comfort of my house made me realise how much easier it is. I do not have to dress up and travel for a lecture anymore!
Most classes were taken in social sites such as zoom, google classroom while some were done through Facebook live. I was only a click away from my lectures regardless of where I was. On days, I felt anxious, I did not have to put on a brave face and force myself to go to class. I could do my class sitting in my safe space. The incorporation of technology also helped me to overcome the dread I feel when I have to use something new technologically. It really shows, when you do not have any other option, us, humans, will adapt to almost anything.
When I was not busy doing assignments, I was busy picking up hobbies that I had left years ago. It is funny how a few weeks ago I had this sudden urge to paint again when I came across a painting which won me the first prize in an art competition during my school days. But assignments happened and that urge died quite instantly. This lockdown awoke that urge again.
As I held the paint brush for the first time in years, my quarantined self who had not been out in days, went straight back to the open field at the Charukala where I learnt painting for the first time. Even after so many years, the strokes from my paint brush came effortlessly. I firmly believe in the idea that everything happens for a reason. This lockdown might just help me find my true calling.
Back when I was in school, on the last day of my final exam, my father would take me to Neelkheth to buy me books of my choice. I would buy enough books to last me through the entire vacation but would end up being done with my stock within the first week or so. Last year I asked my father why he stopped taking me to Neelkheth. He said, ‘When do you have the time now for that?’ It was true. I did not have that time.
We still did go to Neelkheth and I bought a bunch of books by one of my favourites, Haruki Murakami. It is now 2020. I have not finished the first book I started back then. This was the perfect time to get to the brilliant books that have been gathering dust on my shelves. I have once again started reading regularly again and have set a goal for the number of books I want to finish in this time period. I felt a mixture of emotions as I went back to doing things I once did on the regular. Nostalgia, happiness and a dismay are some of the prominent feelings why I let this train of a life get to me.
Another mean of passing time was observing people and their coping mechanisms with the current situation. Some dived into the mania created by news articles with false and true claims and ranted out in status updates. Some did challenges based on the number of comments on their posts and some followed a viral coffee trend. Some mocked the Facebook lives of an infamous new Facebook ‘celebrity’ while some enjoyed it. So many different coping mechanisms.
People who I had never imagined to have a knack for singing or cooking actually turning out to be experts in the fields which pleasantly surprised me. This shutdown gave so many people the space and time to restart again. While going to the rooftop to catch some fresh air, I noticed something unusual on other rooftops of my neighboring houses.
For the first time in years, I found families spending time together on their roof tops. Having their evening tea with snacks, playing carom or just sitting in a circle talking to each other. What a sight to watch! As heavily as we were using technology during this time, it also brought back traditions before technology happened.
It truly is one of the most tragic times for humankind and we can only hope we survive this without losing any more than we have already. But if there is one thing we need to take away from this time of struggle, it is our long-forgotten habits and hobbies which found their ways back to us again. Technology or life should not be reasons to bury things which brought us joy once.
Zareen Anika Islam is a student of the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.
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