It takes a certain degree of energy and will—and a healthy sprinkling of providence—but some are actually managing to use the lockdown to work on long-pending personal projects and ambitions. This, despite the anxiety, the weight of housekeeping and child-rearing 24×7.
One easy way to do it, and stay on track, is of course to set daily challenges — a new dish a day, a page or chapter for your book or diary, one drawing or doodle, one new exercise.
The task doesn’t have to be new; daily practice of a new skill or ambition can leave you feeling newly confident and that’s something too.
Setting a target to get something done or learn something new can be good for your mental health too, points out psychiatrist Dr Sonal Anand.
“This is a time when you can look inwards and figure out your true strengths; ask what you really want to be good at. In a way, it is a chance to reinvent yourself,” she says.
Samrat Basak with his garlic shrimp spaghetti; he cooks a new recipe every alternate day.
Dr Anand points out, however, that one ought to approach these targets with an open mind and be willing to accept failure, and learn from that.
That’s what research scholar Aritra Basu and lecturer Reeswav Chatterjee are doing with their project Quarantine Stories. They pick one short story a week, and upload a dramatised reading of it on Facebook and YouTube.
“We kept learning through the process. Initially, we put out two stories a week, but then we realised that to put out a really well-done reading, we had to limit it to one. We were also doing female voices ourselves but then after feedback from listeners we involved Reeswav’s mother for the female voice and it was better-accepted,” Basu says. They now work with a team of three others and have stories lined up for a month.
Content creator Snehal Khandekar set a target of one poem a day, for a month, and was surprised when she actually did it.
Aritra Basu and a friend do dramatised readings of one short story a week, and learn from viewer feedback.
“The National Poetry Writing Month or NaPoWriMo is something that poets do every year. Quite a few of my friends try it. I had never even thought of trying it, but since I had a considerable amount of time on my hands this year, it seemed like the perfect time to give it a shot,” she says.
Khandekar’s themes ranged from love and society to cats, and she says the exercise gave her both discipline and confidence when it comes to all writing.
Businessman Samrat Basak decided to use the lockdown to learn an entirely new skill, and picked cooking, which he’d never done. He’s now cooking every alternate day, trying out a range of cuisines, from chicken Alfredo lasagna to garlic shrimp spaghetti.
“I decided to take it up to keep my mind involved and my family is both surprised and delighted,” he says.
His latest experiment was a sponge cake (that turned out too hard), but he’s now found something he likes to do that he will continue to use as a creative outlet and stress-buster even after the lockdown ends.
Difficult targets work better for some. Theoretical physicist Sonali Mohapatra set a target of interacting with 100 interesting people, via a podcast she launched during the lockdown. She’s so far interviewed 35, including doctors, LGTBQ activists, actors and entrepreneurs on subjects ranging from internet security to the gendered impacts of the pandemic to the language of government messaging.
Jadavpur University student Ananya Ray’s goal was simpler — to work out every day and she’s learning more about her body. “I went too hard on day one and was in pain for a couple of days. I then slowly built up to a one-hour routine,” she says. Exercise has led to yoga, which has led to a slash in sugar and junk food intake. She says she feels more energetic and fit. Most importantly, it’s what she wanted for herself from the lockdown, and she’s got it.