Hello from home. Using social media to keep social distancing physical, but not emotional. Covid-19 Journal: 1

Hello from home

‘How are you keeping calm’, wrote my cousin to me on Facebook last night.

This was in response to my post yesterday on Facebook. It was about an Instagram live that I had just done from @thefinelychopped. A live which had lasted an hour and fifteen minutes. And a Facebook live I did the previous day from @finelychopped, which lasted 45 min. The idea for both, was to help people connect. Corona virus curve flattening, very essential lockdowns, social distancing, janta curfews notwithstanding.

Hopelessness, fear, anxiety are all likely happen at such times. How can I help people tackle that, is what I asked myself. Which is when I hit upon this idea.

I had spent the first half of my professional career as a market researcher after all. I was trained to moderate focus groups by the very best in India. Conducted many too. Later in life, this time as a food writer, I have moderated many panel discussions among people from the world of food

It struck me that this could be a skill that I could use during these times of physical isolation. I could conduct social media live chats to reach out to those who have connected with my pages and blog over the years. My little way of giving something back to the community that has been my bedrock.

I was inspired by the many bloggers, Instagrammers, chefs etc out there from the food ecosystem, who are putting out such useful content on topics such as easy cooking at home, managing pantries, maintaining kitchen hygiene, planning menus, etc. All of which are so critical now, especially when one is confined to home, with work from home becoming a reality. Life needs to go on Even if our world has changed thanks to the Corona virus epidemic.

The following was my reply to my cousin:

I wanted to reach out to people through my chats as I mentioned earlier. Check on them. Friends and strangers both. Get to hear from them about what they are doing differently to take on the challenges of the current situation. How they are coping with being with family all the time? It is not easy as you are not used to it. Or, being alone? Which is much worse. What are they doing for food? How do they keep themselves busy? What are they discovering about themselves in these times of change? How do they feel about this about what is going on? 

Above all, to tell them that they are not alone. That we are in this together!

The Facebook live was a bit limited as I could not get anyone to join on the chat unlike what I had done in the past. I wonder if they have changed the interface. Can anyone tell me how to skirt this issue and get people to come onto the chat (as a split screen)?

Many (including Rashmi Uday Singh!) put in detailed comments in response to my talk which I responded to online and got others in the chat to respond too. That felt great.

Instagram was more fun as I could get people to join in on chat, one by one, once they sent requests to join. The first few people who came onto the chat through video were folks like my young friends and fellow Kolkatans, Diganta (who has gone back to Kolkata from Bengaluru as he can work from home) and Raina (who is at Bengaluru as she cannot) and then my friend from Navi Mumbai, Deepa. each sharing very different stories. Then joined in folks with whom I had not interacted with before such as Ritu from Durgapur, Sakhi from Hyderabad and then Amitesh from Canterbury, UK. 
He began to explain where Canterbury is when I stopped him and told him that I was born there and jokingly asked, "how are things back home."

What happened in both chats is that there were many who joined and asked questions to me and to those commenting (or joining), and this made for a lovely adda and for a while took our mind away from the fear and panic hopefully. Perhaps a few friendships were made in the process. That is what Finely Chopped has always done, even when it was just a blog. Connect people.

It is not that I am always ‘calm’. Last night, as we got ready to sleep, I did begin to feel a bit stressed. I began to worry about the reports I'd been reading on Covid and this despite the fact I that do not read the crazy whatsapp forwards (STOP THOSE GUYS!!!!). 

K had drifted into sleep. I got up from the bed. Went to the kitchen and poured out some bhujia in a bowl (I would not recommend this of course) and watched a light comedy. Yes Prime Minister.

I bumped into Baby Loaf on my way to the kitchen and told him that I was getting out some human dry food. Then poured out some of his cat food for him.I slept after this. Woke up late, but fresh. I did wake up earlier once in the morning when Baby Loaf came to wish us good morning. He looked at me and meowed. I understood what he meant and went to the kitchen and got out his breakfast.

He finished it. Came back to the bedroom. Put his head on a sleeping Kainaz's lap first. Then came to me and nuzzled his cheeks against my feet. That is how he says good morning to us. Then he went back to sleep. As did we. 

K had work calls so woke up earlier than me. Ever since work from home has started for them at the ad agency where she works, I have seen how busy she and her colleagues, clients and associates have all been. I am happy to see this. I know from experience that an idle mind can indeed be the devil's workshop. 

I think that the Covid pandemic is going to change many things in our life, including the way we work, for the better as we eventually win over it. 'Turning poison into medicine', as it is said in Buddhism.

Hello from Baby Loaf 

As I wryly remark to people, I have been in training for this day for the last 7 years. From the time when I moved into freelance food writing after being in full-time service in market research. I have known what fear is. The sense of hopelessness and despair that anxiety can bring.  And, I have beaten it. 

It is my time to stand up and help others. What was the point of it otherwise?

I remember how a doctor at the Yoga Institute at Santa Cruz during the beginner’s orientation had asked me if I was a spiritual person. This was at the start of this journey and I had replied saying no. “Follow some philosophy,” she said. “It does not matter which. Whatever you can relate to. It will act as an anchor.”

I found my answer in Nicherin Buddhism which I began to practise through the Bharat Soka Gakkai. I know the difference which finding faith and subsequently a sense of purpose did to my life. And the difference that the support of family and friends did… and above all that of K, who said that she believed in me, did.

Here is hoping that you find what gives you hope. And remember, 'winter always turns to spring."

Please stay home, snug and safe. That is critical in this global battle against the Corona virus. 

 Note: The phrases 'winter turns to spring' and 'poison turns to medicine' are taken by the Collected Writings of Nicherin Daishonin published by the Soka Gakkai International.

 PS: There are many more people doing fantastic live broadcasts and chats to engage their communities. Some whom I know of are FBAI and Monika Manchanda on Instagram. Today I myself joined one on Instagram by Anindya and Madhushree of Pikturenama as part of the audience and by Luna Chaterjee on Facebook

I saw that Nandita Iyer has begun writing a Covid journal on her blog which is a great idea too. Here is the link.

Here is the link to my mother, Rekha Karmakar's wonderful blog post on how seniors are coping with the corona virus.

Link to my Instagram page and to my Facebook page from where I do my lives. Did one more on FB after writing this post.