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"I miss the chitter-chatter": Coping with Lockdown

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

In this reflective essay by a 9th grader from Navi Mumbai, she sums up her experiences of coping with the lockdown and the stress it has brought in children's lives. Children's stress, is often invisibilised by adults. Her essay gives us an insight into children's emotional beings. She writes about the ways in which she tried to restore her emotional well-being in this time of crisis.

The Covid-19 virus has affected the world in many ways. It has also affected our daily routines. Before this pandemic, the routine was set especially for school-going children like me. Get up, school, home, study, eat, sleep, and repeat. Sometimes pulling all-nighters before a test or just because submission of homework was the next day. Sometimes, after the end of a term, just lazing around or going to a movie with friends or just simply going to McDonald's with a book in hand. I remember during the January of 2020 when my mother read out a Whatsapp forward about the Coronavirus spreading in China, I refused to believe it, don't we all refuse to believe a piece of certain news started due to Whatsapp but soon as March ended, it became a growing problem in India. I remember when the first lockdown was announced, I was slightly happy thinking about having to stay all day at home but within a week it became taxing and the fact that my best friend was out of town didn't help at all.

Hello! I am Neeyati, currently studying in 9th Grade in Navi Mumbai. I am writing this on how I am feeling in and about this pandemic and what is important to me. As mentioned above, my best friend was out of town, and due to this lockdown, she was stuck there. My mother being a mother didn't allow me to go out of the building alone as if I was a third-grader again. To fight the feeling of isolation some of the people of our building ended up playing badminton every evening. A few evenings, I found myself joining them and a few others; I was sitting in my room curled up in my blanket, a book in one hand and a coffee in another. Studying was the last thing on my mind during March but as April dawned upon and our schools announced online schooling, all the dreams of every student who thought of getting a break were shattered. Due to it being online, our teachers became a tad bit more strict on the completion of notebooks and homework. It took all of April to get used to this new technique for the students and I am pretty sure the teachers felt the same. Stress levels rising ever so slightly because there almost zero to minimal physical activities and staring at the screen all day long. During May, our school still didn't think of giving us a break and kept a class per day. This May would probably have been the first May I didn't go swimming and hopefully the last. Swimming is one activity I enjoyed the most and not being able to do it this year saddened me a little bit.

As June came along, there was a slight rise in my happiness because that's when the flights started and my best friend was back. Living 10 floors apart and not being able to meet is way sadder than the fact that she had been living in another state for the past months. Nevertheless, after 14 days we started meeting up, going downstairs to walk around inside the building, or just meeting up and cooking together. My tuitions also started again and the level of homework piled up and I found myself pulling all-nighters way more than I expected. Around July, our term exams started and to say what I did was hard work was an understatement. As our exams came to an end and I found myself free, I kept thinking about why I have to pull all these all-nighters, and then it hit me- I needed a schedule. During normal school days, my schedule was fixed unbeknownst to myself, my brain had made a routine noting down the exact time my bus would reach home and the exact time I took to get to my house from the bus stop and many more detailed timings but on the other hand during this lockdown due to the amount of stress and the flexibility in doing everything, my brain simply couldn't work up a schedule.

During this online schooling and tuitions, the most important thing to do is work up a schedule which should include enough sleep, study, eating, also physical activities- it may be yoga, cycling or simply walking around your house for thirty minutes at least. I started cycling, one hour daily not much but I made sure to do it daily. Since my brain was not able to work up a schedule, I wrote it down on paper. Each day a different schedule according to my tuition and school timing. One thing that was very important to add to the schedule is time to yourself, whether it be sitting on a balcony with a mug in your hands and headphones in your ears or reading a book or might even writing a book, a blog or it just be sitting with a pet you have if you do, but just to disconnect from the pile of homework, from every human during that time only you and your brain interacting with one another. For me, this time would be half an hour after I wake up, I had a bird so I took him with me in his cage, sat on the balcony simply thinking about something. Some days I would be jotting down all the work I had to do that day in my brain and some days it would be about what my bird was saying while chirping continuously till he got tired went towards its water cup, drank about what 3-4 drops of water and then started chirping again.

I missed school very dearly. Never thought I'd say this but I did miss it. By saying I missed school meaning, not the hour-long studies, that was not what I missed. What I missed was my bus journey to school, it was 5 minutes but memorable every day. I missed the morning basketball practices, the chance to run faster than my friends, and then turning back and sticking out my tongue at the fact that I was faster than them. I missed the conversations by the window sill near our classrooms during the recess. I missed walking into another class as if it was your own just because you were that class teacher's favorite student last year. I missed the chitter-chatter that rang into the hallways right after the bell for recess would ring. I missed us not liking a teacher because she took 3 minutes of our recess. I miss the principle scolding the students by the canteen for not forming a line. I miss the long conversations with my friends after getting out of the school with an ever-present fear in the back of my head that I could've missed the bus.

As September came along, I had learned to follow my timetable and had time for everything, but then my bird flew away. Eventually, I stopped sitting by the balcony missing it's chirping if I did, I never knew what it was chirping about but I loved hearing that voice and the fact that this wasn't the first one to fly away didn't help at all. In due course, school work piled up and I started studying for the exams that would come up. As Mae West has so inspiringly said "You only live once and if you do it right, once is enough". Of course, life will give us a billion reasons to be sad and one reason to be happy and accept everything going on right now. A year ago if someone would have said " The local trains in Mumbai will stop" I would not have believed it but it happened. What we have to do in this situation is to look at that one reason and live our life to its fullest; as full as it can be in lockdown.


Neeyati studies in the 9th grade and is from Navi Mumbai. She loves to eat, cook and write, among other things. She pursues creative writing in the time she gets off from school and has recently finished writing a fantasy fiction novella.

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