Self Isolation Capers!

Today is the 10th day of my self isolation after I got back from my trip to Germany. I am not sure what my feelings are. At times I am constrained, only due to lack of exercise and movement , but other wise, I am happy and have not a moment of boredom. I kind of have got used to the me time I am getting now. And, to think about it, I have been enjoying this “being with self” for an extended period now. My stay in Germany was also by and large, self isolation.

People close to me were very happy that I was contained in one place and I could not go out. They were concerned for me as I am those adventurous kinds who would jump into situations without any regard to  pain in the legs, with a walker, or a stick , but will not miss out on any fun activity.  Having said all that , I can also happily be with myself without complaining. I have learnt to do that. When you have an active mind who needs to go out. And your creativity kicks in and you figure out ways to fill in your days with meaningful activity. I had my hands full when I could move out of the house  and yes, even now i continue to keep my days occupied!

On day one the 14 days felt intimidating. Then I realised I was jet lagged and I slept at odd hours woke up late in the afternoon and was up most of the night.The fear of the virus had gripped me and I kept imagining a sore throat, it did not help that my sinus was acting up and the constant back nasal drip kept setting of the alarm with a dry cough. Well, I had Vitamin C  tablet with me that I had picked up off the shelf from a medical shop , and I did not realise was dissolvable, while popping the first one into my mouth, direct! And… it was effervescent, I ran to the bottle of water and took sips to dissolve the extremely sour and pungent tablet. And I could get some relief after a good five to six swigs of water. It made me forget my nasal drip woes and I sat and had a good laugh at my expense. Then I remembered two oranges that I had sneaked in from Germany ( the ones the security officers were bewildered about); I ate them in quick succession. My idea was, incase I was invaded by the virus, I should drown it in Vitamin C so that it does not have the strength to fight my immune system. Being my sole company for a long period made me read each and every WhatsApp message and wise informed  me came up with solutions.

I had just returned from Germany, as you know, and I was still suffering from the OCD of cleanliness and the self help drug was still very active in my blood. So the next day, after I woke up from my jet lagged sleep I felt my house keeping help was doing a shoddy job with cleaning the bathroom. I set out to clean it to teach him a lesson. But soon, I realised he would not be coming to work due the COVID19 as he was asked not to travel by train to reach our apartments. ( Fair enough!) I consoled my self with the fact that  the bathroom did get cleaned well by me.

Amazon was still alive at that time and I quickly sat down and ordered more cleaning material to clean the stubborn water spots left on the glass. My paranoia with disinfectants and OCD for cleaning was a deadly combination and the next day ensured all the surfaces being wiped clean by the freshly arrived disinfectants from Amazon.

Till now we were still having our woman Friday and my evening cook coming in for work. They had strict instructions- sanitise hands as soon as you enter, go straight to the wash basin, wash your hands, don’t come near my room, talk to me from 6 feet distance, so on and so forth. They are well trained and good sincere workers and things were running quite smooth. Hubby dear also stayed back at home as his company policy did not allow anyone to go to work, if any one of his family members had travelled into India, from abroad. And things were smooth. But just on the 3rd day of my isolation we got to know about the Janta curfew and my maids would not be able to make it to work. A sense of panic set in and maids and me collectively decided that they would cook for Saturday and Sunday for us.

But… on Monday we got to know they will not be able to come at-least till March 31st and the  penny dropped!!! We would be without food if my husband dosen’t cook. He is a fantastic man, very good and successful man, highly intelligent, but he had know clue about the kitchen and did not know the C of cooking other than making lime juice and tea for himself.And poor man was saddled with the daunting task of cooking three times , cleaning the kitchen and the vessels all at the same time. None of which he had done much earlier. And I donned my mask , stood without touching anything with a sanitiser ready in my hand to clean surfaces I may accidentally touch, and gave him instructions. Right from how to chop each vegetable, how to set the cooker, how to knead the dough, all the time keeping in mind how to make it simple and easy  for him. Every time he picked up the knife, my heart missed a beat. Not because he might throw it at me, but my fear that he might hurt his finger. I felt like his mother who was looking out for her eight nine year old child learning to cut vegetables for the first time. It took him ages and I just got so tired standing there watching him patiently, curbing the urge to grab the board and do the cutting myself. But not bad, from how we started, we have managed the last few day very well, and he has been following my directions to the T and dishing out tasty dishes. He has been cleaning up the house too on alternate days with my son pitching in with the laundry, watering the plants and filling up the bottles with drinking water.

As my days of isolation are nearing to an end, I dread getting back into the house and reclaiming my responsibilities of running it full swing. Now, I wake up at whatever time I please and sleep whenever I feel like. Though to be fair to myself, i try to go to bed latest by 11:30 pm , but I lay awake in the dark room with my brain racing with thoughts, ideas, stories , anxiety attacks and many more imaginative things which feel so real. All this with my eyes tightly shut trying to sleep with a prayer chant on my lips. Talk about multi- tasking! I read, lie down whenever I please, just clean my room sparkling clean and the bathroom ofcourse with the new disinfectant wipes if you please. Talk to my friends for hours, attend all the zoom calls from different groups and empathise with all my friends who have suddenly got transformed into a ‘Bai’ due to this rampant spread of the Pandemic.

But them today I realised, its only a matter of four days before I transform into Hemabai and take over the chores of the house, only with the  hope that having experienced it , my boys will help me with my load!


An Ode to Poetry

It’s World Poetry Day today. What a better day than to write an Ode to Poetry!

An Ode to Poetry

By Hema Subramanian

You dig deep into my soul

You understand what I feel

You help me tell the world

In words that can only be poetry

You tell a sad story at times

At time deep revealing truth

Sometimes you make fun of situations too

All bundled in your beautiful form of poetry

Different names you have for different expressions!

A limerick, a haiku, a Ballard a sonnet,

May be a satire, a tanka, a cinquain or Acrostic

But expressions with a play of words that form poetry

Some write you in simple words

Some in complicated puzzles

And yet some showing the power of their words

Any form it may be you give me peace dear poetry!!

Pati the saviour! Hi

Amidst all this Covid 19 scare, I lived in Germany for a month and then travelled from Frankfurt, Germany to Mumbai a couple of days back. I had watched and read innumerable videos and messages about getting infected, protecting yourself and the effects of the virus on humans. So, I was kind of petrified and getting a little paranoid. Literally nani ( pati- grandma) yaad aa gayi!!!

I was mainly at home and hardly had any exposure to the outside world while in Germany. But when I had to step out of our apartment door to go to the laundry room two floors below, I was hit by paranoia. I would carry a wet tissue with me, which I would use press the elevator buttons, open door handles and switching on the lights. keep the  tissue carefully face down, finish my loading or unloading of the laundry, gingerly pick up the wet tissue taking care i do not touch the exposed side and then go back up using the same routine, switch, door, elevator buttons and the apartment door. the tissue used to go straight into the dust bin and my hand under the wash basin for a good scrub with soap. This whole process reminded me of my grand mom and my mother in law, both of whom I considered painfully conventional.  Both these ladies I speak about were classmates and belonged to the same time frame and I will call them “Pati” in my writing ahead. So… Pati will never ever touch any surface outside the house unless totally essential, so most of the times some one had to escort them on their forays outside the house. This trip to the laundry room had to be done alone so my escort was the wet tissue!

The trips to the supermarket ensued, coming back and wiping each packet with a sanitiser tissue, washing all the vegetables and fruits before putting them away. All this with pati screaming in my head, ” wash the milk packets before you put it into the fridge” better still use only fresh milk and boil it as soon as you get it.” ‘Wash all the things washable before keeping it away”

Another main rule I followed was, to remove my slippers as soon as i entered our apartment and wore another pair of house slippers in the house and headed to the wash basin to wash my hands. Pati always said, “remove your slippers outside, wash your hands and feet and then enter the house.” In our eagerness to defy the conventional rules laid by her we always allowed our friends to wear their shoes or sandals into the house. Though we had separate slippers for indoors. Now, under threat of the virus, I just went back to ‘Patiism’! I did cheat though by wearing another pair of house slippers instead of wearing bare feet.

When Pati had to travel by train the first thing she would do is carry her own water and food packed in a covered bag, which cannot be touched by anyone other than a family member. It used to be a difficult task holding pati’s ageing hands in one and in the other a water cooler( a 5 litre one, mind you!) and a huge unwieldy bag with her homemade food stocked for at least a couple of days. And ofcourse you also need to try and keep pace with the porter who carried the rest of the luggage. Now it feels funny imagining the scene but then it used to be very stressfull.  And… during my travel back from Frankfurt to  Mumbai, I painted an equally funny picture. I had a hand baggage which contained all my belongings needed for a couple of days in case I was quarantined in an unknown destination. I had a huge hand bag that contained my smaller handbag , all the necessary wires for charging my laptop, phone, watch, headphone and a reading lamp along with the aforementioned objects. It also had a bulging pouch that had essentials to be used for a visit to the washroom- few peebuddies, wet tissues, sanitisers, dry tissues etc etc. To add to all this the big hand bag also carried sanitiser wipes and wet wipes. I wasn’t taking any risks!!! In one more short sling bag I had some fruits ( oranges actually) some protein bars, some small eats and a plastic cover to throw the used tissues and waste I would create on my way back. Then I had a walking stick to stabilise my self. I was also swathed in a huge bulky winter coat which would add to the luggage to be carried.

I had to take the buggy to the boarding gate and imagine I would not allow the fellow to touch my bags or any of my belongings. I huffed and puffed got every thing on the buggy ( helped by my son ofcourse) and with great difficutly wore my seat belt and off we went. At the very first turn, my suitcase went wizzing out of the buggy and landed with a thud. I refused to allow the driver to touch it. kept all the floating luggage down, got off , picked up my suitcase,  put it on the buggy, secured it with other bags and was off on my way. So Pati mantra ruled- “don’t allow any one to touch your luggage”.

Once I  boarded the aircraft, I deftly pulled out the wipes and started the cleaning process, wipe the seat, the handles, the food tray, the remote console, and the window. The purser wanted to help me with the bag, ‘No sir,’ I said  and struggled to put up the suitcase and my bulky big handbag into the overhead luggage bin. I was surrounded by quite a young crowd who looked on with a glint of amusement in their eyes but I stuck to my pati avatar and plonked into my seat with a prayer to not have anyone in my next seat. Pati had told me, if you want something badly and you let the universe know, it is usually  granted. I trusted that dictum and prayed hard; not a soul stirred near my seat for the rest of the journey.

My food that I carried with me ( bearing the strange looks the security personal gave me as they could not figure out what the oranges were on the X-ray machines!:)) , was for the journey as well as for the time after I landed, in the eventuality of being quarantined in a weird place. So I had to opt for the dinner they served me on the flight. I still did not trust my surroundings much. All this mistrust resulted  in me eating what ever was served in my plate with a knife, fork and spoon provided in a plastic pouch. The toughest part was eating the bun, cutting it into a bite size pieces, applying butter and then popping it into the mouth, it was a task indeed! Here I cannot draw a comparison to my Pati by a long shot, so I attribute it to my paranoia. But drinking  the juice from a can was totally pati-rule. Never ever touch your lips to the container you are drinking from. Pati had a word for it ” etchai”. If you by mistake touched your lips to the glass then you could not drop it in the kitchen sink. You needed to take it out of the house or to the bathroom incase of an apartment and wash, rinse it throughly over there and then get it to the kitchen. Many a accidents can happen in the process of trying to drink without touching your lips to the container and well when you try it out on  juice packed in a can… well, it was a near disaster. But, I braved it as I finally understood the wisdom behind the Pati- rule of etchai!

While getting off the aircraft,  I kept my distance from all other passengers. When Pati did it, it used to infuriate me and I would land up debating about pati being racist and discriminating people. But the fear, that any one of those people travelling with me, could be carrying the Covid 19 virus forced me to remember my pati. Luckily I had asked for wheel chair service ( due to a surgery on my leg a month and a half  ago), I did not look too obvious trying to avoid other people. I had a smooth temperature testing which was negative and then checking of papers and I was certified to go out of the airport into home quarantine. I was very happy.

When, women of the house had their periods, pati had strict protocols. The woman was actually, what you call in modern days isolated! They called it ‘Dooram’ , which translated literally means, distance! It was for a good reason they did that, to give the woman rest and recuperation time  during the periods. Though I  would  consider it  a sign of weakness if someone felt any less  on those days. Nevertheless , I had experienced it under protest as a young girl and a women with my pati and knew the rules. So, once I got out of the airport and reached the car , the ‘Dooram’ protocol began. All my luggage was wiped clean with disinfectant wipes by my husband. I sat at the back seat, secluded with the things I was carrying in my hand. Once we reached home, we asked the lift man to get out of the lift and my husband loaded the luggage, I stood a little away from the action. We reached home and I went to the assigned room for me with an attached bathroom.

I stay here quarantined in self isolation, with my food, water and my requirements kept outside my door. I clean my space, the vessels I use and wash my clothes on my own. All this to keep my family and my community safe from the eventuality of me having caught  the virus in Germany or during my journey.  I will continue to abide by the rules of Patiism for 20 more days or till whenever needed. So, Pati, finally was always right!!!!


Meeting myself!

My life in Mumbai is always filled with action. My concept of a successful day would be if I packed it with a million and more things. Thinking back, I was always like that. Even when I was in school or college, every bit of my free time would be filled up with a music class or a yoga class, and later I would teach kids just to keep myself busy.

So when I got married, I moved to Coimbatore. And the first thing that struck me was the silence. I could literally hear the silence. And it irked me. The first few months  went by adjusting to a new household. Transforming my self from a happy go lucky college going girl into a responsible home maker,  with a pair of orthodox elderly parents in law ( who were close to my grandparents age) to add an occasional and interesting twist, to it. But then me being me, got a system going and a routine quickly set in. And…. anything routine was boring for me. Soon enough i discovered my most interesting arty aunt and there I was learning arts and crafts . Soon started assisting her and teaching a few tricks myself.

The journey through the years with umpteen transfers and house changes has had a similar pattern. Either I was learning something or was teaching something. If nothing running a ladies club or volunteering for the school library events kept me going in between chauffeuring and playing mommy to two active boys . Phew… a lot of action.

The moment we settled in a place and the prospect of staying put in one place, looked a little daunting. And Kaboom! I launched a business and ran it full steam for straight 10 years without a pause.

Well the road runner faces road blocks too, and I did. Corrective surgeries slowed me down considerably. Come to think of it, it was only a physical slow down, mentally I was still racing away. Once I got recovering from the rests and physiotherapy, I started packing up my days again till I got tired in my mind.

At that opportune moment, I got a chance to travel to my son’s place to take care of him. Being just out of yet another surgery, my movement restricted , bound to the house with a cold clammy weather to add to it, I was with myself  most of the day.

From early morning to evening , there is the silence again that I can hear! But I am in a different time and space now!  Luckily being on the ground floor , I do get to see some people walking by, which is a relief. Though my dear friends from Mumbai and elsewhere call to chat with me, there are long stretches of time when I am  with my thoughts. And the thoughts have been taking me on a voyage through my life, the ups the downs , the fun and challenging moments , and…

WHOA!!! I met myself! I thought! I pondered! And started appreciating my self for how I have faced situations. How I have stood by my loved ones through thick and thin. And most of all how I have stood by the principles set by me. And that’s when I fell in love with  my self!

I always thought loving oneself as being pompous and arrogant. One thing that was always badgered into my head, was that your actions should speak more than your words. And you never blow your own trumpet.

Well, I am slowly in the process of changing my view. Now I think, looking out and waiting for others to acknowledge your work is just putting yourself down. You yourself need to appreciate, acknowledge and feel good about what you do, before you expect anyone else to do it for you. I keep wondering how paradoxical I could get? I am a fiercely independent person and still I kept looking for appreciation externally? I still second doubt my self?

So…As a token of love to myself, I write this first blog, appreciating the verve and the energy in me to keep going through different adversities with a brave smile and a confident step forward! Always with my shoulders thrown back! Love to me!


Bubble of life

Screen Shot 2018-06-28 at 12.28.01 pm
Photo Courtesy- Suprio Bose

A lil wee bump

It grows gaining strength

Still attached to the womb

Forming shape it detaches


Independent it flies

Gaining strength and vigor

Flows with the wind

Free in its space


Light shines through

Reflecting colours

Hues of personality reflects

Remember, combination strictly individual


At the peak of life

Flirting and floating

Beaming in the adulation

Confident of never perishing


But then,

In a moment of truth

The dream bursts, kaput

Mingles into nothingness


Not the colours

Not the fame

No nothing remains

Just an empty space.

By Hema Subramanian

Of Thoughts and Feelings