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  • Writer's pictureKapil Pund

The Great Pause: Quarantine , lockdowns and WFH

“You can go back home and work from home starting today,” said my then-manager as I was gearing up to start my work day. It was Monday, 16th March 2020. I had just returned to Pune a day ago from my hometown, and WFH was not in sight anywhere because things were yet to get ugly in Pune. We had found the first covid patient by this time, and no one took it seriously. I had never worked from home to date but guess what, none of our chief ministers had ever worked from home too! It was the beginning of new times.

I came home, had my lunch, and started my work day. Most of my friends were leaving Pune for their hometowns. I thought I'd go home over the upcoming weekend. Little did I know that the journey back home was about to be postponed by almost four months.

On 24th March (If I remember correctly) Modiji announced the first lockdown in India and gave green light to what was going to stay with us for the rest of our lives. New covid mandates started rolling in with each passing day. The symptoms of the disease kept changing like anything. Horrific news of deaths, police brutality, and how can we forget - people spitting on doctors, food, and possibly everything under the sun started coming in. Despite all the negative things happening around them, people were finding new ways to keep themselves entertained in the confines of their houses. This involved baking cakes that nobody asked for, the dalgona coffee if you remember it, the Marathi ladies flaunting their nose rings on Facebook, and the men – including me, boasting about their recently acquired culinary skills. Everyone thought things were going to be okay within a month or so. It was all fun and games until the day you woke up and got to know your closest friend and their family was covid positive.

Sanitizers and masks were selling like hotcakes. Companies quickly launched products like specialized sanitizers for vegetables. Only the rich or the stupid bought it. Mask makers started coming up with new ideas. Mask almost became a fashion accessory and a status symbol. Babas started selling herbal decoctions and whatnot. Everyone was on a selling spree to the gullible. But on the brighter side, look at our entrepreneurial spirit. It's just next level. If only we knew that a piece of cloth with a plastic bottle cap attached is not an N95 mask, we would live in a new world.

The country thanked everyone in the most “India way” possible. We all Thaali bajaoed, diya jalaoed, taali bajaoed for the doctors, the sweepers, the food delivery folks, farmers, the maids, and everyone involved in essentials services except the engineers – who kept us all connected, allowed us to work from home and did not seek any attention from anyone. So what if they did not buy a work desk and a chair with the money their employer gave them to set up a home office?

The pandemic changed so many things. Movies starring A-listers started releasing OTT. Stand-up comedy shows are now happening on video calls. We witnessed weddings with just 50-odd guests outside of Pune as well. With the concept of workation, rationing of leaves is a thing of the past. Switching jobs is so easy now because face-en-face interviews are almost non-existent, at least for the IT folks. There was a time when you had to take a day off to attend an interview. Can you believe it?

Three years after the start of WFH now, when everything is back to normal, including Modiji’s beard, the IT person in me, like many others, still refuses to believe that there will be a day when I will have to wake up and go to the office. I have heard from my grandfather about the Spanish flu of the 1920s. It was also equally devastating, if not more. Decades from now, when our next generations will look back into history, I do not know what would strike them the most, but I am sure they will be amused by how we – the people handled it. There was no better way of doing it. The only thing I could have done better was to buy Tata Motors stocks. Alas! You live to die another day. Having said that, tell me, what's the best lockdown memory you have? And most importantly, are you still working from home?

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