Confinement: The view from Australia


How I revived my bucket list during confinement!

By Preeamvada Dookhun

Australia is such a beautiful country. For me and my family, this place is full of adventures and experiences to relish. Such a treat. We love the food, the multicultural diversity, the mystery of the Aborigines, the love for music, the laid-back attitude, the people.

When we came to Australia, the coronavirus was not yet a global concern. We really thought we would be able to pull it off and make the most of our second time here. And then coronavirus hit! Suddenly it was all about adjusting to many things – a deadly unimaginable pandemic, closed international borders, lockdown, and being somehow stuck in a foreign land with not many acquaintances and friends inland.

Preeamvada Dookhun – Family walks during Autumn

My biggest coping weapon became WhatsApp as I connected with families and friends on a daily basis once we understood the difference in hours between Australia and the other places. We even celebrated a live birthday through WhatsApp with dear ones from different locations in a curfewed (back then – mid May) Mauritius, Germany and Canada. It was a bit chaotic but the joy of connecting during those few minutes was fantastic! We chose a safe place to settle down and were lucky to be surrounded by cool forests and singing birds. The first thing that struck me was the amazingly colourful ‘parrots’ and cockatoos, that somehow sing so beautifully. Not being an early riser myself, I simply make the most of the evening show in front of my terrace or when I go for my long walks.

Me-time to self-discovery

The confinement, or lockdown as we call it here, has had a constructive impact on me and my family life, especially after the initial scare of the pandemic. Suddenly I discovered that I had full ‘me-time’ to do all the things that I always wanted to. I did have to adjust my bucket list, cutting down on my dream travel plans – Manasarovar spiritual trip with Sadhguru, Egyptian Neuro-Semantics Trainers Training trip, family trip to Germany and Canada or my crazy dream of being in Machu Pichu, most of which blurring now, somehow vanishing, with the new travel challenges. I keep my fingers crossed though. Coming back to my bucket list, I realized it was an important thing to revive to cope in this unprecedented time of fear, losses and pain, in order to maintain a healthy mental, physical, emotional and spiritual state. The lockdown has turned out to be the beginning of my journey of self-discovery.

Well, firstly, I learnt that cooking could be fun! And the variety of healthy food options available at affordable prices with the big supermarkets promoting their products through their monthly food recipes magazine simply opened doors of possibilities that I never dreamt of, not that I became a Chef. But when my son gives one hundred million over 100 for my oat cookies and my daughter relishes bowls of my ‘dals’ and soups, and my husband asks for more than his usual share, I do feel good – as good as my dear sisters who always make exceptional dishes.

Cooking also connected me to my mother. My siblings and I had the privilege of getting freshly made hot savouries and food whenever we used to come back from school, college and then work… Those were the golden days of ‘lakaz mama’. As a career woman, I did sometimes feel the guilt, as so many working mothers unfortunately do in one way or the other, of not being there for my kids and giving back what I got as a child. So, this time I would ‘whatsapp call’ my mother for her recipes and made sure the kids always had homemade snacks and savouries every other days. We even started a new routine of ‘The Chef of the Day’ and agreed on days when each one of us would do the kitchen. This worked wonders for us all. We got to unleash our culinary spirit, discover our cooking talents, learn about safety in the kitchen, and taste a variety of dishes every week.

My second big discovery was Yoga! Well, it does not make me proud to say this, but I used to think that yoga was for the elderlies and the celebrities like Shilpa Shetty and Jennifer Aniston. I was somehow put off by those tortuous and torturous body postures. Yoga was not for me! Well, I was utterly, completely, and ‘definitely’ wrong! Not that I can do headstands now but I have learnt to appreciate the power of ‘Pranayam’, the breathing techniques, and workout of the ‘Surya Namaskaar’, the Sun Salutation and the benefits of so many postures. I am ever grateful for this, ‘cause you see ‘Yoga is the Journey of the self, through the self, to the self’.

I am very thankful to my mother-in-law who guides me through and the Indian lady from New Delhi for the regular free sessions that she organized through Zoom. It was her way of giving back to the society and contributing to combat coronavirus by boosting physical, emotional and moral strength through Yoga. Since we are here, International Yoga Day was celebrated on Sunday 21 June, and I do invite you to make the most of the numerous YouTube videos on yoga. Why don’t you check for yourself, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says, ‘anyone can embrace yoga – all you need is some time and space’.

What truly matters…

The confinement came with its challenges too. Being far away from parents, friends and colleagues can make one feel helpless and lonely at times. One of the first alarms that was raised after the lockdown here was the need for support to victims of domestic violence, mental health and the lonely elderlies. The untimely death by suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput, brilliant Bollywood actor, left me shocked but pained at the tormented thoughts that one could have in the darkest moments of despair and loneliness.

In this era of social media, where we have virtual connections, I realized that what truly matters are the ones whom we called to speak to (not only just messaged), or the ones we messaged every other day (different from the likes, shares of facebook, LinkedIn or forwarded GIFs). My bucket list allowed me to explore ways of keeping myself and my family busy and healthy – physically, mentally and emotionally.

Another thing that I realized is that we can well live a frugal life, without a hairdresser/barber, cinemas, restaurants and weekly fast foods. My kids even learned to do their beds, and give a helping hand on our ‘Clean up Saturdays’, the day we all deep clean the house together. We also tried our hands at growing seedlings and plants but now have to wait for the freezing winter to pass. For us Mauritians, even 10 degrees can feel freezing.

We learnt to appreciate family moments like our daily meals together at the table, our weekly movie sessions (Thank you Netflix and Amazon Prime) and our latest favourite programme which runs on Sunday and Monday nights, the Australian musical craze – The Voice, where a panel selects budding and established artists to mentor and coach them. It’s fantastic to discover and appreciate music of all genres from opera to rock to country music.

Today, Monday 22 June, it was a little more special as one of the contestants who cleared the second challenge, Roxanne Lebrasse turned out to be a Mauritian-born Australian singer who is none other than the granddaughter of our good old Serge Lebrasse! Nothing feels more patriotic, especially when we are abroad! Yip yip, hooray!

Coping strategies for the new normal

Amidst all my efforts to make my days joyous and fun, I am also painfully aware that the situation is dire. People around us are struggling and like so many other nations, Australia is also learning to cope with Covid-19. The Morrison government has been working hard to review and implement policies and measures to support the people, and businesses, such as the jobseeker and jobkeepers allowances, special Covid packages, especially the one-off package announced this week to support those who do not have paid sick leaves and have to self-isolate. It is estimated that 1 in 3 workers do not have paid sick leaves, forcing casual workers who show symptoms to still report to work as they have bills to pay and families to feed.

Plans to ease restrictions had hardly started to take shape, when now fears of a second wave have begun. Latest news show that Victoria has been reporting two-digit increases in new cases of Covid-19 infections since last week, causing frustrations among business owners, families, and individuals. With school holidays as from next week, domestic tourism, staycations being promoted and the ski season officially kickstarted today, it is understandable. State Premiers and health authorities are clear about it – there is no lockdown but people are warned not to venture to new hot spots, reconsider travel and vacation plans and are encouraged to think and be Covid safe, whenever they decide to go out.

No doubt, the times are unprecedented, and no one can know for sure how things will evolve in the future, what will be the post-Covid new normal. I have learnt to take it one day at a time. I have also learnt to appreciate the little things that bring us happiness and peace within. But above all, I have learnt to take care of myself and my family, physically, and mentally as just like everything else Nothing Lasts Forever, This too shall pass!

* Published in print edition on 26 June 2020

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