"Once upon a time in an ever-changing metro city was a girl" is the kind of effect that one tends to get when they think about life before the coronavirus. I would have never imagined that I would be ranting about missing my routine, the monotony, and the life that I once referred to as a rat race. Who would have thought that the mundane things that we had taken for granted wouldn't last forever? That the changing phases of life would happen over a call on Zoom, a platform unheard of until the recent past?
Jitters were at their peak in the 10th and final semester of the 5-year long architecture course and demanded being alert and on our toes all the time. It was a 06:00 am to 06:00 pm deal - to go to college and come back. It was the time of our final-year thesis, and multiple deadlines and submissions had all of us running in and out of the library and labs, meeting our guides and having discussions at every corner. It was the time when news about a virus affecting China was an article in the corner of the world news section and Instagram and Facebook had posts about the most happening events all around. Meanwhile, I was going through numerous sleepless nights as the third stage of the thesis had gone by and I hadn't yet hit it right with my design idea. I was craving for a break, a day at the least; a week would have been good, and a month would have been great - I could backpack with my friends to all the places we were hoping to go to go once we were done with our final reviews. Reality gave us only a day and my friends and I decided to bunk classes on the 17th of March. We had left our stationery, drawing sheets, discussions, and plans at the college, hoping to get back to it the next day, after getting some proper sleep and recharging our energy levels.
The next day, I woke up around 09:00 am - which would have generally been midday given that I get on my college bus at 06:15 am every day - watched a movie, had lunch, and was just about to start working when I got a call from my friend informing me that we would be having holidays for a week. I was jumping with joy, proud of myself for taking off that extra day. I could now schedule the week and work properly as the final exams were nearing. I planned my work and entertainment for a week and made notes in my journal. Alas, to add to an already twisted schedule was the announcement made by the government about a 21-day complete lockdown. The prospect of getting a partial break made me excited, happy, and anxious, all at the same time. By the end of the first lockdown phase, we were just understanding and learning the virus' consequences and the new way of operating.
In the middle of the second lockdown, around the third week of April, was when the numb feeling of just vacationing and not doing anything productive seeped in. I began to schedule more time for my thesis and college work and adhere to the online submissions. My schedule had now altered from planning task by task to setting goals for the day and accomplishing them. I was trying hard to adjust to being stuck within four walls, having family around all the time, meeting people whom I have met in person for almost five years over a Zoom call, calling and checking up on old friends and even distant relatives, and still not having gotten done with my architecture course. The days had now become the time for catching up on sleep and the nights were scheduled for finish drawings and presentations. Meanwhile, we were informed by our faculty that the review dates had been postponed. The course that was supposed to end in 5 years, was now extending month by month.
The lockdown restrictions changed, months flew by and each of us had progressed in our own ways but none of us still had a clue as to when our review was going to happen and how it was going to happen. It was no longer an unexpected break and the panic and anxiety of not getting done with my undergraduate course started kicking in. Added to this was the inability of being able to go out to meet people, the news channels, and newspaper headlines. The multiple phases of lockdown had seen me evolve from ignoring plans before the pandemic to making plans to meet people post-lockdown. By the time it was mid-May, I had made a list of things I wanted to do in the city, with the people I wanted to go out with and all the places I wanted to revisit. It was during this phase that I had applied for my job, got hired, and started doing something I loved.
In no time I had gone from being a student of an undergraduate course which was now being conducted on a virtual platform to an employee at a new office where I had a virtual first day. The days when I had team meetings, as well as internal reviews for my thesis, are the days I was grateful for technology, as on a regular day the task of going to college in one end of the city and also getting to work in the other end would have been impossible. Since then I have been reading a lot about the city, understanding and exploring it through different perspectives, learning how things have evolved, and talked to people about history and heritage. After what felt like hundreds of internal meetings and reviews, I had my final thesis review in October over Google Meet, as opposed to the one that was supposed to have happened in April in person. With no drawing sheets printed, its accompanying set of issues, and none of us struggling to pin our sheets up, the fear of the jury was restricted to making sure the internet worked properly and ensuring there were no technical glitches.
Over these past few months and lockdowns, things have changed from black to white, from finishing a five-year practical course to finishing it in five and half years over a digital platform, from having joined a job to attend the first day in virtual medium and from the virus affecting people I was not aware of to my friends and relatives getting affected and being admitted in the hospital. My student life came to an abrupt but stretched out the end, with no farewell. Having rehearsed the idea of meetups and plans post-lockdown in my mind, day in and day out, the craving to go out, breathe the fresh air, meet friends and family, travel around and have a life that was once referred to as 'rat race' is growing day by day.