Much of the January went unnoticed. My wife and I took a week's vacation and went to Lonavala near Mumbai during the valentine week. It was an okayish vacation as it was "off-season". We did drive to Mumbai and walked on the Marine Drive all the way to chowpaty to eat Pani Puri which did not disappoint. Had I known about Covid back then I wouldn't have dared to visit Mumbai.
In the mid of March we got an email from the HR announcing WFH for all with no end date in sight. It was a surreal email to read and then put in practice. I initially thought this is a 2-3 month thing and we will be back in office in no time. How wrong I was!
The first two weeks of working from home were horrible. There were far too many zoom meetings and we were figuring out how to perform tasks that had huge dependency on us being in a physical set-up together. And to top it there were responsibilities at home that needed our attention and time. I had to find creative ways to motivate myself to wash the utensils. It was time to practice inclusion at home and not just tweet about it. We appreciated the amount of work that went into keeping the house clean.
The novelty of WFH along with the house errands wore out soon as expected. The situation went from grim to dark. Indian Prime Minister was giving us tasks every two weeks. The tasks were meaningless & stupid and yet we participated. I wish I could say I did it to mock others but it was mockery of ourselves that we were indulging in. The PM gave a few speeches which had the right intention but then we preferred to mock them too. What space does impartiality have when you have already chosen sides?
There was a brief window where authorities allowed people to travel between the states. I took the plunge and got all that was necessary to drive to Telangana. On May 15 in the morning my wife, I and 22 litres of Bisleri water cans drove to my parent's place which was 720 KM away from Chennai. It was a 14+ hour drive.
The first 50 KM was painful. We could see hundreds if not thousands of migrants walking from Chennai to their homes. This was the first time I felt bad for the privilege I had. I was lucky that I was born to my parents. It was my mother's car I was driving. I had enough money to pay for the fuel and had the luxury of taking all the permissions online without having to stand in line anywhere. None of this could be done by these migrant workers. All I could do was see them walk with their belongings not knowing when the ordeal would end. I couldn't do anything for them and neither did I offer help to them. Subsequently throughout the year I donated small amounts to organisations that were helping out marginalised societies that there deeply impacted by the Covid. But then is it ever enough?
After spending only a day at my parent's place I started what kept me occupied for most part of the year - medical treatment of my father's diabetic foot ulcers. Though it was during the peak of the Covid scare we had to figure out a way to attend to the condition which was getting worse. Trusting the local doctor's suggestion we went to a hospital that was not known to us and this was a mistake that cost us 1.5 Lakh rupees and considerable mental stress. Doctors at this hospital did not treat my father well and diagnosed him with a heart condition only to scare us more. Instead of having clarity we were confused.
We went back after a few weeks and continued with a few advanced treatments. All this while I was working wherever I could : Guest house, Hospitals, back at home. As there was lot of travel and hospital tourism involved I dropped my wife to her place so that she could stay away from the high risk areas we were travelling to. I toggled between my parent's place and in-laws place a lot this year.
I drove a lot this year. So much so that I was fed up when December arrived. I drove more than 8K KMs and to make it bearable I listened to a few amazing podcasts while driving. I listened to 100+ podcast episodes this year.
The work kept on being hectic. 10-12 hours a day became normal. The zoom fatigue crept in and our company's business was booming! Work was a great distraction this year. Though it was stressful it was a great distraction from all that was happening at family's front.
After a gap of few months we went to a different hospital; a known and renowned hospital. We went through the same drill again and here the recommendation was to first fix the leg and then think about the heart. And to fix the ulcers on both the legs they needed to do a Angioplasty and then a few other plastic surgical treatments. We had to go to the hospital from our house on 4-6 occasions. And each drive would be 300 KM to and fro.
The hospitals wore us down. My mother had no distraction to turn to and was fully engaged with all the frustrations of dealing with the treatment. I took to work and embraced the frustrations that it had to offer. I worked inside hospital rooms, on staircase, inside cars, lobbies, and so many other places there were not work friendly.
The treatment went on until November and we decided that it was enough. We couldn't handle the pressure and stress of it anymore. We were ready to face the consequence of inaction as action wasn't really helping. We resorted to fate and expected it to reward us for our tenacity.
Back at work I no longer had a familiar face I worked with everyday. I did not see the path ahead without this person but then after a week I got used to it. We humans can get used to anything and everything that is thrown at us until we die. I did not take a lot of precautions except for wearing a mask on most occasions and using sanitiser every now and then. I did get red eyes for a few days and I was scared to death that I had got Covid. Thankfully it wasn't.
Amidst all that was happening my mother was also trying to purchase a plot in her hometown Gulbarga. We had to travel to that place multiple times as well. All this attributed to the 8K I clocked this year. And the bank work stalled us a lot. It was taking a toll and required a lot of patience and I gave up a lot earlier. My mother however did not. She lost hopes on countless occasions but she kept on pushing until she had it her way. So much so that we are getting the plot to registered on 31st December. It took us 9 months to take a staff home loan, legal approvals, engineering approval, construction plans and so much more. It is such an ordeal to purchase a plot through a loan.
My wife and I stayed away from each other for most part of six months except on occasions when I would go to in-laws place or when she came to my parent's place. It was tough to stay away but on the bright side the distance helped our relationship as well. Every time we met we could see we wanted our companionship a lot more than we usually did in the past. The net affect of the year on our relationship has been positive and I am grateful for that.
As there was so much to handle and only so much I could control I also started doing two things that helped me dearly; 1) meditation and 2) therapy. The meditation app "Waking up App" by Sam Harris was god send in helping me build the meditation habit. I meditated for 70+ days and it helped me through the tough time. I also went through therapy with a wonderful therapist who heard all that was happening with me and suggested a few solutions that helped me deal with these happenings better.
2020 was tough and Covid made it worse. Looking back I am amused how much travel did I do this year and yet was lucky enough to not get infected.
I ended the year with two weeks in Goa and it felt deserving after such a tumultuous year.