The Covid Chronicles : non-essentials here I come

8:16 AM

India extended its lockdown...once again, what was supposed to end on May 15th is now due to last until at least May 31st.
At this point, I don't even count days anymore. I am not even sure what day it is, all days pretty much look the same when you can't go anywhere.

At least, there are signs of us going back to something that could maybe, eventually, resemble normal.
No, we can't go out for anything but shopping, but we earned the right to resume shopping for things other than food and medicine, and stand alone shops have been granted the right to reopen if they sell "non-essentials". This also extend to Amazon having the right to sell and ship all non-essentials, even in red zones like Mumbai (as long as you aren't in a containment zone).

For us, going out is not even on the table, our car's ignition broke, and our society has laid some tight as hell rules as to who can come in to do repairs and to us it's not worth the hassle to find a mech and getting him to comply with the bordering on Gestapo interrogation to just be allowed inside our compound, ditto with the electritian, carpenter, or even having our AC units cleaned and serviced. I have friends in other parts of the city who could book Urban Clap guys to do these repairs, but here where I live, I doubt they would be allowed past the gate.

What is making my world a bit better right now is that I can get things delivered from online shopping sprees. And, before some of you grab your self-righteous, holier than thou, Covid pitchforks (I know there are some of you out there), no I didn't order out of this world things that would make no sense in lockdown (like a ball gown)

This week I ordered :

- A new mortar and pestle set, because the wooden one we bought in a handicraft fair in 2006 broke

- Noise cancelling headphones because between hubby using the bluetooth speaker in the office and my daughter watching videos on her iPad I was left working at the dinning table, and not doing anything "noisy" like watching Skillshare videos and learning how to use iMovie (which I really need to learn). I also gave up my pleasure of listening to Podcasts and musics while I draw because my regular phone earphones are broken.

- My beloved Monsoon Harvest muesli, it's still in transit, but I have been without for 2 months, and it might sound stupid, but starting with my favourite, low GI brands of cereals is what makes the rest of my day go round.
Even though these were food and should have been essential, they were not available on Amazon, and I only came to know this week that they have their own website I could order from.

If you ask me, restricting purchase to food and medicine alone was the DUMBEST move the government made.
Not only did it force a lot of small business to stay shut way too long and probably contributed greatly to the migrant exodus crisis we have right now, it also plunged the middle class, the one with the purchase power that could have kept the economy going to an extent, in panic mode.
I, like many others in my area pretty much were riddled with the anxiety of anything breaking in our homes knowing that it would be impossible to get it fixed or replaced until the lockdown ended.
When you are asked to work from home, and minimise your outtings to prevent the virus from spreading, you should make sure that facing a IT emergency isn't sending you in a spiral of never ending stress.

The fear of things breaking was real people! On top of wondering if I would get a delivery slot with Amazon Prime Now or Big Basket, or whether I would find a shop selling soap (yes I am not joking it happened), I lived wondering if my laptop charger would catch fire, destroy my laptop and wondering what to do should that happen.
If you read the comment in my previous post, you must have caught snippets of my MacBook charger issues.
Right at the start of the lockdown, it started misbehaving and having issues connecting to the laptop, to get the two to pair, we had to toggle the charger a little, nudge it, twist it and wait for the light to turn from green to orange.
I cleaned the ports, followed all the troubleshooting possible, but had to resign myself that the charger was on its last leg.
As the week went, it amount of nudging and toggling increased, and so did the temperature of said charger when it finally did connect to the laptop.

Two weeks ago, we reached the ridiculous scenario at which the charger would only charge the laptop if held at a weird angle which had me devise a wedge-like propping device and 10 minutes of near surgical moves to get the charger to was that freaking bad people!
This is when I decided to email Maple (the official Apple distributor in India) and ask them if there was anything they could do.
Their first reply was that all electronics was still deemed non essential and couldn't be shipped from their warehouses. I followed with another email asking them if any shops in Mumbai had it in stock because after May 4th some stand alone shops selling IT equipment had been granted the right to be open. The guy called me back 5 minutes later informing me he checked and one was open near where  I lived, but to prevent people from going out he offered to have someone assist me placing the order online and flag that one as urgent and to be sourced from the store. 24 hours later I had my new charger and the fear of seeing my laptop burst into flame was history. It was followed with a surge of power frying my tea kettle the next day...but that is another story.

The point of this story, is that in 2 months of badly implemented lockdown, shutting down non-essential businesses has managed to hurt everyone and flatline the economy and it was about time the government back pedalled on that idiotic move.

This past week has been kind of amusing though. In my complex, we are all to walk to the main gate of the compound to pick up all deliveries. The security were organising parcels by building name and had a system that worked.
Right now, the poor guys are overwhelmed by hordes of delivery dudes and a mountain of boxes, because in a complex of nearly 800 flats, I let you imagine how many people placed Amazon orders to replace broken appliances, get their kids new books to read, art supplies, and well pretty much all the things you might need that isn't food or cleaning products and which we have been told to do without for 2 months.

For two months, all my neighbourhood WhatsApp groups and Facebook groups were full of queries about where to fix things like a microwave, water purifier, stove, TV, AC or fan (all which could NOT be fixed as per lockdown rules) or where to buy things like baby clothes, maternity wear, or kids toys.  Or even where to buy a new router, or new phone because those broke during lockdown making Work from home impossible.

If those had been allowed all along, it would have probably run a lot more smoothly. Right now, I kid you not, I don't even really care if the authorities want me to stay home another month. As long as I can get things like art supplies, IT equipment and not live in fear of anything breaking I am more than fine staying put at home a bit longer and avoid any crowded place for the foreseeable future, I'm also one of the few who never feared ordering take-out food, so I can even forego restaurant outings  until this Covid mess gets sorted out.

Right now I am on a mission to favour smaller brands whenever I can, even if I have to buy them on Amazon. I am thinking of running a blog post series on small brands and businesses made in India, because right now, they need our help more than ever before.
At the beginning of the lockdown, when finding even basic food staples was a challenge, I was pissed  to not have any choice but put money into big groups like Nestle, Unilever and other big brands like Kellogs, Coke and Pepsi instead of continuing my patronage of smaller Indian brands. I vowed to stop buying as much from those big brands the instant I could. 

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  1. I know you might feel as if your lockdown would have made more sense if it had included non-essential items all along (and it should have), but from what I’ve seen here you can never make people happy. Here we have had non-essentials available through online delivery this whole time. However, people complain even about our lockdown (with the freedom to exercise outdoors, go on hikes, to beaches, etc). The fact is that while it kept some businesses thriving, most of the small/midsize businesses suffered without in-person shopping, while a few big brand retailers continued to ship online orders, and the economy still crashed. Also our online retailers and deliveries were able to scale (people bored at home shop a lot), but this may not be possible in every country/location. Then it becomes a question of what counts as essential and what doesn’t, which is a slippery slope.

    Anyway, I hope that with the new phase of lockdown your life becomes more comfortable. Getting your dietary needs met would be a huge step in that direction. I hope you get a breather from the incessant social media. A neighborhood WhatsApp group for an 800 home complex sounds miserable - I can imagine the number of annoying messages and forwards that come through! And, why don’t you use your office for your work and have your hubby take the dining table? I feel like jobs that involve a lot of creativity really need that conducive work environment, whereas perhaps your hubby could make it work to attend meetings and get his work done anywhere; employers understand that everyone is WFH. I’m also working on reclaiming my office space since I am often the one to leave the room if we both have calls at the same time. We both have our desks against different walls in the room but are trying to reconfigure that into a T shape setup or keep the desks in the center with our own corners so we are not in each others’ space constantly.

    1. You are right, I think it's in human nature to never be satisfied.

      As an introvert who love staying home, I don't mind staying put a bit longer as long as my diet and work supplies are sorted out, so lifting the restrictions on deliveries was what I needed. The very fact I don't have to freak out at anything breaking in my home anymore is a huge weight off.

      Hubby and I actually have found a home office sharing arrangement. I need it for creative stuff because that space is important, so I do most of that work in the morning when hubby is still sleeping.
      Hubby's work really start around 10am these days as most of his colleagues work from home and all have families and obligations. They all take the less urgent and important calls in the morning and they all usually do it on phones, so that let me be in the office until noon or so. They usually have all their big zoom meetings in the afternoon, at which point he needs the office to reduce background noise from life at home.

      I usually work from the dinning table because by then I have moved to less creative stuff and I can do it from anywhere. Yesterday I did it in bed because if I have to listen to "Fuller House" once more I am going to nut, and that is the show my daughter can't get enough of these days.

      As for social medias and WhatsApp group, I have reached the point at which everything is on mute, I don't even read the WA messages anymore because it is the expected overflow of forwards, once in a while there is a useful message, and my building has a group just for out building that is moderated and in which we only share useful infos such as when the vegetable vendor is coming to our enclave.

      If this lockdown continues the idea of getting a smaller desk to tuck in a corner of the office is something I might consider, That room is small and doubles as a guest room, we have a sofa cum bed in there, with a small laptop table I could even make it work from the sofa and it might give us the incentive to not use said sofa as a dumping ground for all the clean laundry we don't quite feel like folding and ironing :-)

    2. That's nice that you have your office sharing figured out, and also that you seem to be better positioned with all the stuff you need to stay at home. I also prefer staying at home during this time with just a walk everyday. Yes having your own space to organize just the way you like and come back to the next day is great. While I have my own desk, we are currently trying to work it out so we're not in each others' space when our cameras are on. It's definitely a work in progress!

    3. I believe working from home is going to become a lot more mainstream even after this whole pandemic mess is over.
      Lots of people and companies are discovering it is a viable model and we could see a lot of changes in home setups in the near future as a result.

      In my compound people are now starting to get over the panicky fear and are venturing out with cautions. The lockdown 4.0 isn't really giving people a free roaming pass, but then section 144 means no group of more than 4 people and nobody out after 7pm. It doesn't say stay indoors all the time, so people are giving a try to walking around the compound with masks, talking to neighbours and friends at a safe distance, and this is something that we all need to slowly move toward as the new normal for the next few months.

      Yesterday I took my daughter down with me because her friend was going down with her dad. We all kept the 6ft distance, and it was really good for the girls to just see each other in the flesh and play together and for me to talk to another adult other than my husband. There were a lot of other people going out for a walk or jog and chatting with one another around, I see it as a good sign. At the beginning of the lockdown we had crazy aunties snapping pictures of anybody being out and shaming them in WhatsApp groups, some even called the cops on people for being out at all.

      I think mental health is an important part of building a strong immune system, and that the longer we go preventing people to even go out for a walk we are hurting ourselves more than we are helping anything.


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