Sushmita Murthy

Updated: May 25, 2020

A features writer with a penchant for exploring topics related to sustainability and a seasoned procrastinator who ironically makes a living by chasing deadlines.


11th May 2020

It is day 58 of my extended weekend. When my family and I set out for our suburban home in #Mumbai around mid-March, we intended to spend the weekend there before resuming business as usual the following Monday. On Sunday, the government directed all schools to remain shut and all offices to accommodate work-from-home. Seeing it as an opportunity to stretch the weekend and given my rare foresight for carrying my laptop, we decided to extend the stay. Before we knew it, the nation-wide lockdown was announced and shows no signs of being lifted even as I write this. This is the neighborhood I grew up in before we moved to the southern part of the city a few years ago. So in ways, living here for such a long stretch again has been a bit like time travel – to the 90s, if you will. For one, I’m watching re-runs of Ramayan and Mahabharat, the mythological television shows that were all the rage back in the day. The national broadcaster, Doordarshan, thought it was a good time for families locked up together to revisit the greatest Indian tales ever written and they weren’t wrong – about the feasibility of the idea. The show has revived the channel’s ratings and smashed the Game of Thrones record (77 million viewers worldwide, according to the DD National report). The other thing that is reminiscent of the 90s in a less romantic way is the fact that I am living with no wifi. The gasp that this statement evokes will perhaps pale only in comparison to the reaction to ‘I tested positive for Covid’. But let’s not go that way. As the world binges on Netflix, I save my data to work on assignments and indulge in the occasional Zoom call with friends who I’d probably not have seen in the past two months anyway, and will perhaps not see long after the lockdown is lifted. But I’m not complaining. It’s nice to see others dealing with a facial hair situation. Sometimes the men too. Thirdly, I am interacting with the neighbors a lot more during my strolls on the building terrace – like the good old days of yore. We exchange whole sentences as opposed to a fleeting ‘hello’ in the elevator because nobody is in a rush. We have gone from exchanging polite greetings (from six feet away) to sharing food. Almost every evening, the doorbell rings to drop off a culinary experiment by a neighbour. This is suburban camaraderie, rarely on display in the more socially distant (regardless of lockdown) neighbourhoods of South Mumbai. We also celebrated my niece’s 5th birthday by making DIY paper buntings and hosting an intimate party in the living room as opposed to inviting a village that mostly gathers only under very cacophonous circumstances. I haven’t left my building premises in over 6 weeks. To me, that doesn’t spell confinement, but privilege. Not everyone is as lucky. The story of displaced migrant workers is the stuff of nightmares. So is the state of the economy, the insecurity of the job market and of course the looming threat of the virus latching on to a loved one. If the mind veers away from the crisis of the present, there is little solace to seek in the uncertainty of the future. That is perhaps why it is comforting to view this time through a prism of the past.