A strict COVID lockdown in India started on March 24, 2020. The last day I was at my office was March 21st. Post that, I spent every day at home until the day I admitted amma to the hospital (June 16th) – almost three full months.
I realized something almost immediately after the lockdown started. This was a rare opportunity for many of us to be very close with our families for an extended period – with parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, spouses, children, whoever one is living with.
And for those with aged parents like me, it was without doubt the last opportunity to be very close to them for many days together.
Owing to COVID, we stopped having any help from outside. That meant our maid, who did pretty much everything except cooking (which alone Amma did) would no longer be there.
Given her age and weak heart, there was no way amma could take up all the household activities. My dad was best left alone unless one was ready to do twice the amount of work to clean up the mess he would doubtless create.
Within a few days, under amma’s stern supervision, I was taking care of washing and drying the clothes, sweeping and cleaning the house, buying vegetables and groceries, ensuring proper placements of cooked food on the table, picking up the milk sachets from our gate, depositing the garbage in the corporation bin at the end of the street, washing the front of my house and a few other tasks.
Until then, I had done none of these in my life. Really.
Not only had I to do all these, I had to do every one of these to fairly high standards – amma never stopped looking over my shoulder.
The first few days were chaotic, and tempers flew. She wanted everything done in an organized and timely manner, spic and span, tick-tock. I just wished to complete these chores as quickly as possible. These two objectives were certainly not well aligned.
It took almost a month of repeated tutoring from a stern teacher before I figured out how to do every step of every domestic activity well.
For the first time in my life, I really felt employable.
Fig 45: Domestic value: Getting increasingly domesticated and feeling increasingly employable!
As I write this, we are under yet another new COVID lockdown in our city. With amma gone, with no maid and appa again best left alone, I do all the household chores..
Amma’s teachings have been so effective that I do most activities spic and span, tick-tock – effortlessly.
When I recounted these anecdotes to a friend, she sent me some wonderful lines from Lao Tzu: 139
“Woe to him who willfully innovates
While ignorant of the constant,
But should one act from knowledge of the constant
One’s action will lead to impartiality,
Impartiality to kingliness,
Kingliness to heaven,
Heaven to the way,
The way to perpetuity,
And to the end of one’s days one will meet with no danger.”
A large part of my life has been in pursuit of newness, but in the last few months, I learnt many constants. To me, these are some of the best gifts amma left me with – her wisdom, her dedication to people closest to her, and her undying spirit – constants that will be cherished by humanity forever.
If not for the COVID lockdown and my domestication, I would not have obtained these precious gifts.
139. From the book Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, section XVI
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