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Humor: Lockdown Lament

By Lakshmi Palecanda Email By Lakshmi Palecanda
June 2020
Humor: Lockdown Lament

Smile your quarantine blues away with this humorist’s sly observations.

“Be careful what you wish for—you might just get it,” warned Aesop, the wise Greek.

But did we listen? I, for one, didn’t. I wished and wished with all my heart for a few things, and all of them came true at once, crashing down on my head!

See how ants do their work without complaint, day in and day out. Unless they are tricking us humans by working in shifts, they don’t really take any time off. But we humans aren’t made that way. To live for the weekend has been hardwired into our DNA. Therefore, what does any human want on any given working day? Why, a holiday, of course!

Being just another subaverage human being, I too wished for a day off. Okay, so I wished for a whole lot of days off. I wanted a holiday. As a teacher working feverishly at the end of the school year, I desperately wished for some time off work. I just wanted to sit at home and stare at the wall—I was that tired.

And so I decided to pray. As I prayed, I was careful to hedge my bets. I prayed to the gods of all religious denominations, just to be on the safe side. I didn’t want an all-expenses-paid trip to Aruba, I reminded the gods. All I wanted was to stay home and have some time to myself, to find myself again.

I also wanted some time with my family. Having stared hard for five minutes at my younger daughter’s face one day as I tried to place her, I realized that I’d become a stranger to my own family. I wanted to spend time with my family, especially my daughter, because she would soon be going away to college.

I also wanted to lose weight. Eating at weird hours because of work pressures, I was convinced that the only way to weight loss was to eat special meals, mostly salads, at fixed times. Of course, I’d need time to fix those special meals and chomp my way through bushels of greens.

See where I’m going? Of course, you do. I’m sure this has happened to you too during this lockdown in some way or the other. I wonder how we missed hearing the divine-yet-devilish laughter, when that All-Powerful-One, aka All-Mean-One gave us exactly what we wanted… and then proceeded to destroy us.

In my case, in one stroke, I was granted all that I had wished for—time to find myself, time with family, and time to cook. Only, now I regretted every single one of my wishes.

First of all, let’s take my first wish. I wished to have some time to myself and now I have got it. But I’ve to choose to spend it on household chores. The All-Ironic-One in His powerful wisdom, gave us all time off—including our housemaids. I read somewhere that this lockdown would show me who the most important person in my life is, and it did—it is my housemaid.

I also had the Mother of All Revelations. When the enforced isolation began, I started to introspect in order to find myself. That was when I realized that I already knew myself! I knew that I was bad at sustaining motivation and lousy at time management. That when it came to will power, I had none, and as for procrastination, I was the poster child. Small wonder then that, unable to live with myself, I had actually subconsciously become lost to myself on purpose! In isolation, I am being forced to live with myself, and now actively dislike many aspects of my personality! Now, I ask you: was this entirely demoralizing and soul-destroying exercise necessary? I’d rather have lost myself in senseless society, convinced that there was a hidden depth to my soul instead of facing the fact that my personality was shallow as a pie tin, and having it rubbed in my face.

Next on my wish list was family time. Thanks to COVID-19, I realized just how much I loved my family…and just how much I wanted to get away from them. Don’t mistake me—I think family is the greatest gift given to us but the size of the package matters. It’s actually very simple.

See, the family that stays together, wants to eat—often, though never together—especially if there are children, and more especially if those children are teenagers. That means the repetitive cycle of cooking, eating, and cleaning goes on. You may escape the first and the third items on the list by doling out packaged food, and using disposable dinnerware or a dog to help with the cleaning, but the immutable thing here is the eating. When you cook a large quantity of something, hoping to make it last at least a couple of meals, and come back to find the empty pot and a hungry dog, you wish you could get your original wish reversed.

So, can you ask your nearest and dearest to go out on town and forage for themselves? No, because they will come back under police escort…and you may find yourself having to feed the escort too! Can you order something to throw to the ravenous wolves you’ve raised? No, because deliveries are blocked, and when they do happen, your instinct is to suspect how safe they are to touch, let alone eat. On no account do you want your family sick because—yes, you got it—you’ll have to do all the nursing yourself.

As for spending quality time, each one of us knows that half of it is spent in arguments. If you argue with strangers, you can go home and forget about it. If you argue with family under normal circumstances, you can go out and escape from it. But now, as you are home, unable to leave, and isolated, the argument keeps making the rounds, sometimes disguised as conversation and sometimes not. I’ve read that a medieval method of torture was to tie a man in a sack with a wild cat and a honey badger, and throw him in the river. Now, thanks to the coronavirus, I realize that it was a metaphor for the sense of isolation while being with family.

Finally, my wish for weight loss. What was I thinking when I made that wish? In the present circumstances, it will be a miracle if I step out only 10 kgs heavier after this lockdown. So did I make umpteen salads? Are you kidding? What with the endless washing, chopping, and cleaning for cooking, fancy salads are out the window. Also, with more time on the clock, the only thing to do is to binge watch, which is the gateway drug to binge eating. Here is the all-important question—have you ever seen anyone binge-eating cabbage? I rest my case.

Humorist Lakshmi Palecanda moved from Montana to Mysore and is still adjusting. Besides being a regular contributor at The Deccan Herald, she is a published novelist.

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