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21 ways to tackle the 21-day lockdown

How to find small joys in the kitchen and at home during the covid-19 pandemic

Mustardy Dahi Baingan
Mustardy Dahi Baingan

We are in the midst of a countrywide 21-day lockdown. In this largest lockdown in the history of the world, 1.3 billion people have been asked not to leave their homes for three weeks in a desperate attempt to slow the spread of covid-19.

So here are 21 tips I am following to see myself through this lockdown.

1. Start the day with grateful thoughts. The comfort of home, enough food in the kitchen and being in good health are all things to be immensely grateful for these days.

2. I am seeking comfort in a minimalistic approach to cooking. This includes using fewer resources, being thrifty, cooking just as much as is required, as well as one-pot meals like khichdi or pulao.

3. These days I am seeing a renewed potential in vegetable peels and scraps. What if these can be used to make another dish? For example, peels of ridge gourd made into chutney or peels of oranges made into an instant pickle.

4. Looking out for others, such as the elderly in the community, who could do with every little help in the absence of household help.

5. Be a good neighbour by baking an extra loaf of bread or pick up their groceries and eggs along with yours, like my neighbour did for me, and, of course, practise social distancing while doing so.

6. Make time to do things from scratch even though there are a thousand other things to attend to. Baking bread is helping me slow down and relax.

7. Seek beauty in the little things around you. I plucked some seasonal madhumalti (Rangoon creeper) flowers from the garden and kept them in a mug in the kitchen. Their beauty and fragrance cheer me up each time I see them.

8. Children can help in many ways. My son has learnt to make ginger tea just the way I like it. They can also take on duties like making beds, cleaning rooms, watering plants, fixing their own sandwiches, and so much more.

9. Find some quiet time to relax with a cup of tea and make a mental note of all the good in the day, something like a middle of the day gratitude break.

10. I find that reading and enjoying poetry slows me down and makes me live in the moment.

11. Thanks to the lockdown, many digital services have introduced free memberships. I am especially loving listening to stories on Audible while cooking.

12. There’s nothing that makes one feel better than donating to worthy causes in times like these, especially those that are feeding out-of-work daily wagers.

13. Doing something with the hands, such as craft, embroidery, knitting, etc., can make us forget our worries.

14. Deep-cleaning is a back breaker but also therapeutic. So, scrub floors, sinks, bathrooms and wash floor mats.

15. I read this phrase solitary refinement on the internet and I want to internalize it. Use this time to do something new every day—a poem, a song, a dish, a craft.

16. Don’t feel isolated in the internet age. Have regular video calls with family and friends and talk fun stuff, no coronavirus talk!

17. Use social media effectively to spread positivity. Help people with your expertise. For instance, I am showing people how to cook utterly simple dishes via my Instagram.

18. Organizing your home helps bring some semblance of order. Take one little thing to organize each day, such as a kitchen shelf, a side table, medicine cabinet, etc.

19. Spend some quality time with children. Now that they are around all day, it may seem more like an imposition, but put everything aside for a while and do something you all love.

20. I am slipping into bursts of quiet introspection about life and how this period will end up changing life forever.

21. Humour is the one thing that keeps me going these days, be it memes or clever quarantine jokes. The other day, someone shared this: A pet dog goes for a walk and tells its owner, “Be a good boy, I will be back soon."

Here are two very simple, minimalist recipes that you can try during this period.


Ridge Gourd Moong Dal
Ridge Gourd Moong Dal

Serves 2


1 medium ridge gourd, peeled and cubed

One-fourth cup moong dal (soaked in water for 1 hour)

One-fourth tsp salt

1-2 tbsp grated coconut, optional

1 tsp oil

One-fourth tsp mustard seeds

1 red chilli

1-2 curry leaves


Combine ridge gourd and drained moong dal in a pan with N cup water and salt. Cover and boil on low flame for 5-6 minutes until cooked.

Heat oil in a small pan. Fry mustard seeds and red chilli and curry leaves. Once seeds sputter, transfer over cooked gourd and sprinkle coconut. Serve with rasam and rice.


Serves 3-4


1 large eggplant (bharta variety)

Half tsp salt

1 cup curd

1 tsp black mustard seeds, crushed to a powder

Half tsp red chilli powder

Half tsp cumin powder

2 tsp oil

1 green chilli, sliced

1 sprig curry leaves

One-fourth tsp mustard seeds


Slice the eggplant and chop each slice vertically into juliennes.

In a pan, combine eggplant with K cup water and N tsp salt. Boil for 5-6 minutes until the eggplant is cooked.

In a bowl, whisk the curd with mustard powder, red chilli powder, cumin powder and remaining salt. Mix in the cooked eggplant.

Heat oil in a small pan. Fry green chillies, curry leaves and mustard seeds. Once the seeds splutter, transfer this over the eggplant. The pungency of the crushed mustard gives it a better flavour if you eat it after a couple of hours. Serve with rice and dal.

Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer is the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.

Twitter - @saffrontrail

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