When Vaishali Sharma, 33, began the lockdown in March, among the many things worrying her (the health of her elderly parents, the potential lack of groceries, the COVID-19 pandemic itself), was the lack of daily company implicit in the term ‘social distancing.’ The gregarious Delhi-based public relations and marketing manager, who has a knack for making friends under any circumstances, suddenly found herself isolated in her tiny apartment.
“It was really difficult, especially in the beginning. I’m used to meeting work or personal friends and making new connections with people every day, and suddenly I found myself home alone, unable to step out. It was claustrophobic, and I would look forward to video team meetings from the moment I opened my eyes in the morning, because I felt so starved of company,” says the 34-year-old, who began engaging in long conversations with the food and grocery delivery boys, after essential services were given a green light in what would become the red zone that is the Capital.
“When I wasn’t working, I was constantly sending voice notes to my friends and sister, who works abroad, apart from my parents and other relatives. It was finally my sister, who’s always been the quiet one, who told me I was getting annoying, and that’s when it struck me that maybe I should use this time to become more comfortable with myself,” says Sharma, who, since then has learned to enjoy her own company, finishing off several pending household tasks and finally working her way through her Kindle, which had been gathering dust for almost a year.
Sharma is not alone.
Indeed, newspapers, blogs and websites have been inundated with coping mechanisms for the socially active, while the more introverted of us (this writer included) have been fairly amused by suddenly being the ones at relative ease. The lockdown may have been a barren landscape for the extroverted, but it’s been an oasis of calm for introverts, who’ve been dispensing advice to their more ebullient friends and family.
“It’s been fascinating to see that some people, who are usually reserved and even anxious in company, are now worried about their more socially active friends, and are advising them on how to get by without being surrounded by others,” says Dr Amit Sen, a psychiatrist with Children First.
Ayush Kapoor, 29, has always preferred his own company from a young age. The Noida-based graphic artist, who spent March 24 onwards busy on personal projects as well as his regular day job in animation, jokes, “This quarantine has suddenly made me a sought-after expert on the subject of being alone. My cousins, and more social friends, say they have new respect for me because I’m comfortable being alone. Earlier, they used to keep trying to get me to come out for parties and said it was good for me, but now they are asking how to spend alone time.”
Social media is ablaze with people bemoaning the many extensions to the lockdown, and counting down the days till the 17th, when it will hopefully lift. While people like Sharma may have become more comfortable with solitude over the past two months, there’s no denying they are looking forward to going out and meeting friends and family. It’s been a long time.