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How we changed in 2020

From Kindle and kebabs to towering achievements in the cooking department, snapshots of how the Lounge team navigated the year

It was a year of small and big shifts for the Lounge team. (Photo credits: iStock)
It was a year of small and big shifts for the Lounge team. (Photo credits: iStock)

My dreams often ring with sounds of “mute yourself, children”. If work deadlines weren’t enough, now there are ones of scanned homework and weekend assignments. This has been the year when online classes took over my entire life. On most days, we are swimming in printouts on the water cycle, mixed math problems and bird feathers. You have to hear it to believe the power of that loud “MUMMMMAAAAA, my network is disconnected”, which makes one drop everything to pray to the Wi-Fi gods. On some days, you almost wish the networks would disappear for a day. 2021, do you hear me? — Avantika Bhuyan

It has been a year of horror. Quite literally. The sheer number of horror novels and short stories I have read this year is some kind of a personal record. I have realised there’s a particular subgenre of horror that really appeals to me; it’s called “pastoral horror”. The Brits do it the best. Mostly this involves pretty English (or Scandinavian) countrysides peopled with characters exuding bucolic bonhomie. But underneath the idyll lurk millennia-old blood rites, madness-inducing voices bubbling out of cracks in the earth. The juxtaposition is chilling. Through 2020, I have basically worked, read horror, and mostly conversed with cats. It has been a good year. — Bibek Bhattacharya

Every year, I want to be leaner, meaner and shed all frills. This year, I managed to accomplish it with my fridge. During the lockdown, like miners with headlamps, we scanned it for every last bit of chocolate and sundry edible items. Even forlorn jars with a spoon or two of peanut butter/jam got wiped clean. And since I cook for the day—not days—the katora population with leftovers has declined. The fridge is humming again—it has socially distanced containers. That’s not all. I have stripped it clean of travel magnets. It has stopped looking like an X’mas tree. — Nipa Charagi

Did working from home turn you into a lazy slob? Did you long for a quick smoke with colleagues and the banter of office politics? Did you stare at your meal and think of that co-worker who offered you delicious beef fry to liven up the salad in your lunch box? I did all three but still wouldn’t want to swap work from home for the hellish commute of Bengaluru. If you don’t drive or speak enough Kannada to bargain with autorickshaw drivers, and must rely on moody transport apps to appear at 10am meetings, you would be weeping tears of relief too. — Somak Ghoshal

For years, I have tried to cheat my way out of making chapatis. When abroad, I would buy tortillas or frozen ones; when home, our house-help, Dipika didi, would do it. When the lockdown began, I decided to face my fears. At my request, mum sent me a video of how to roll the dough, flatten it into circles and get fluffy phulkas out of it. It took weeks to get them right. Sometimes the water was too much, sometimes the oil too little. But I persisted. Today, I can roll a chapati into a shape and consistency that would make a mother-in-law proud. My mum already is. — Omkar Khandekar

The biggest distraction is not Instagram, it’s a brand new Kindle. At the height of covid-19, I stopped buying books since they can’t be disinfected. I turned to my husband’s Kindle. So much so, he told me one day, “Your birthday gift will be a Kindle.” When my gift arrived, I didn’t waste a minute, even on disinfecting it, and downloaded Stephen King’s On Writing, Dharini Bhaskar’s These, Our Bodies, Possessed By Light and Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning. Now, I am hooked, forsaking doom-scrolling for the lesser of two evils, Kindle addiction. It can be hard when a deadline is at hand. If there are productive Kindle habits, I want to practise those in 2021. Who am I kidding? — Jahnabee Borah

During the lockdown months, I finally gave in and ordered my first e-book. Having read an interesting review by the Lounge books editor, I had no doubts about purchasing a soft copy of The End Of October by Lawrence Wright. I am not a Kindle person, but I found myself engrossed in the book on my laptop and smartphone. The shift seems to be here to stay—I am now into my second e-book of the year, Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep. — Nitin Sreedhar

Whether I was happy or sad, or just stressed, I would shop. Every week, I would indulge in something unnecessary, drowning in a lifestyle of excess. In 2020, I stopped—well, almost. During the lockdown, shopping was off-limits. Soon enough, though, I was scrolling through apps and depositing items in the shopping cart. One day, when I was about to hit Buy, I asked myself—as clichéd as it sounds—whether I really needed another white shirt, just because it had an embroidered collar. I didn’t. That has been my strategy since. — Pooja Singh

I never imagined I could feel at home in any city other than Mumbai. It took a pandemic for me to review my relationship with the city. As in any relationship, there were problems: I would complain about the city, but never think of leaving. Over the last few months, however, I found myself attracted to smaller cities. Initially, I was in denial. Now, I have come to accept my newfound appreciation for a non-metropolitan city’s slow pace, and the freedom and space—physical and mental—it offers. I am now shortlisting potential candidates to call home. — Rashmi Menon

The pandemic gave me a chance to live with my parents as an earning member of the family, not just as the youngest child. It was the big shift that allowed me to become the parent to them every once in a while, and splurge on the small and big things they wanted. Their smiles were priceless. —Samiksha Bhardwaj

At the start of the year, my cooking skills didn’t extend much beyond breakfast. Once the lockdown started, I finally addressed this embarrassing gap. With the help of recipes sent over WhatsApp from home, I could put together a meal that was good enough to eat, if not Instagram. My towering achievement was perfectly browned aloo tikki, my biggest failure a night of undercooked dal and a bean-like vegetable that refused to soften. — Uday Bhatia

No foodie, I am usually quite content with dal-subzi-roti, enlivened by the occasional chicken dish. This year, a few months into the pandemic, I found myself suddenly craving mutton. One more meal of dal-subzi-roti seemed one too many as I digested the unfamiliar sensation. I started with a few kebabs, thinking the moment would soon pass. I haven’t tired of it yet. — Chandrika Mago

2020 was the year I “discovered” two cupboards full of handloom saris, bought during work trips. Each time, I would pick up one with traditional local work, my small way of supporting the artisans. But I hardly wore them. During the lockdown, I decided they deserved attention, and started wearing them at home. I have also made a promise to myself: Instead of T-shirts and pants, I will wear saris to office, whenever it reopens. — Priyanka Parashar

I hate phone calls. But this year, I learnt first hand of the inadequacies of reporting over a call—a much bigger problem than the awkwardness of perfunctory small talk. The last story I reported from the ground was on the violence in north-east Delhi in March. To me, it has always been important to hear testimonies face to face. There is an intimacy and trust that can’t quite be replicated with a faceless voice, not with mere words, no matter how friendly. The limitations of the phone, however, are also a limitation on whose voices are eventually amplified. The smart phone is a symbol of glaring of inequality. Who has a phone? Mostly men. Which areas get connectivity? Certainly not those where the most important stories remain buried. Still, another thing I did this year was to move to out of the city. The phone network may not be remarkable, but the mountain air certainly is.— Asmita Bakshi

It was a year of small shifts for me: from the bed to the table, then to the sofa, sometimes to the dining table, and in an adventurous mood, to a chair on the balcony. And then, back to the bed. — Shrabonti Bagchi

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