Home is what matters

Published On: April 18, 2020 02:44 PM NPT By: Niraj Shrestha

Now that the working desk is a couple of inches away from my bed, it is harder to dissect the professional and personal hours

The country is in a state of total lockdown to prevent potential community transmission of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Along with millions of Nepalese across the nation, I have chosen to suspend the freedom of free movement and stay home. The transition from social cohesion to social distancing has been brisk, yet we have no option but assimilate with the culture of distancing at the earliest. I find that in our attempt to distance ourselves from other humans we have come closer to our homes. A home is an inanimate object but for once I can feel it breathe and enjoy its privileges.

Warsan Shire, a British Somali poet said, “you only leave home when home won’t let you stay”. Fortunately, in these uncertain times, I can choose to stay home. Moreover, I can also choose to read books, keep myself happily fed, spend quality time with my mother and enjoy the hospitality within the four corners of my home. Importantly, I have the freedom to make those choices which are indeed a privilege, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, for many daily wage workers in Kathmandu, staying at their homes in the city, in these testing times is a tall ask. Therefore, they have opted to cover hundreds of kilometers on foot to get to their loved ones. However difficult it is the migrant workers in the city are heading back home. I have no doubt that the sacredness of the place will not only bless them with its safety and security but will certainly heal a substantial dent in their confidence that must have carried back with them. I hope when things get back to normal, we will have no one to thank but our home.

In the last month, I have welcomed my office into my place. I see myself as a fortunate bunch who can continue to justify the reason for getting paid while being confined in the residence. But I feel the pandemic has crippled the sanctity of my workplace and my home. Now that the working desk is a couple of inches away from my bed, it is harder to dissect the professional and personal hours.

While at home, I have an opportunity to better observe time management skills first-hand. Like all mothers, my mother too is a time-management guru. It’s a skill that is not subject to gender, but I accept that whether it is my wife or mother I see them managing time much better than I do. Before I get to the kitchen to prepare breakfast, my mother has done half the work. It is surprising that most of her morning hours go into watering the flowers, exercising, cleaning the utensils for the morning prayer but by that time she has tidied up her room and calling me to do mine. It is obvious that I did not have to wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to observe such skills at play, but now I have the time to observe and absorb the skill. It is my bad luck that I had not really taken the time to adopt such skills displayed right in front of me. But I find myself amongst the luckiest of people who have a home under which one can continue to learn, complain about things getting mixed up or express frustration about the confinement. There are thousands of people in the city who at this hour are finding it increasingly difficult to ensure a roof above their head. Therefore, I am thankful than ever before towards my home.

Until a few weeks ago, most of the contents that I posted on social media would be about a thing or a place that was unrelated to my home. The need to show that I am enjoying my time was often associated with things outside the perimeter of my house and therefore the posts. But the privilege to stay confined in one place has changed all that. I have started posting a picture of the flowers at my place. The social media is flooded with contents from within our homes. Now that home is the new trend, I believe the home has got its due respect. Technology has enabled me to remotely work from home, connect with my friends and family virtually and express my love in with stickers and emojis. I am glad that my home is one thing that continues to remain real.

Staying at home, I have got to know my neighbors better. Ever since my house was built it had neighbouring houses but for the first time, I am beginning to realize that I too have neighboring people. Especially in the evening hours just before dusk, all my neighbors come up on the terrace and enjoy the conversation. Previously I knew them by their faces now those faces can be assigned a name and a profile such as where they come from, a number of family members, their area of work, the school their kids go to and so on.

Further, the kids who were hooked to their smartphone screens on a normal day pre-lockdown can now be seen engaged in physical activities. I guess it is an instinctive move emerging from the boredom of having to stay indoors all day. I hope that they can continue to engage in such playful activities well past this crisis just as I expect myself to continue to have those evening conversations with my neighbors. Social distancing is not anti-social after all.

Two weeks earlier, there was news from western Nepal where a wife whose husband had died due to tuberculosis wanted to take her husband’s body home so that members of the family could pay their last rites. Neither could she afford to arrange a vehicle to take her dead husband’s body back home nor was administration in a position to quickly arrange a proper means of transport. So, I realize that whether you are a living person distressed by an existing situation or a person whose life has ended there is this desire to go back home to be amongst the loved ones. When the crisis ends, we will have to find our feet again. I don’t think we will have to look elsewhere for confidence, the place called home will certainly inject a dose of confidence to get up and go about our work.

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