Every day, Anzar Nawaz spends an hour in his balcony looking after the tomato and chilli plants he started nurturing six weeks ago. A few weeks into the lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Nawaz, who lives alone in an apartment in Visakhapatnam began to feel like the routine of work, cooking and cleaning his apartment was exhausting. He missed people and wanted to do something that didn’t feel like a chore. So, one day, he picked up castaway clay pots and planted tomato and chilli seeds in them.
“I still do all the daily tasks, but one hour every morning is just for me and my garden. I spend time in my balcony garden, drink coffee and disconnect from everything. I need it because my family doesn’t live here," says Nawaz, 26, who bought more plants after the lockdown was eased a little.
For many people who stay alone, the nationwide lockdown is proving to be harder. With work pressure increasing and no family member to spend time with, they are looking for ways to divert their minds from negative news and take care of themselves.
When people stay alone, it’s easy to get caught up in the what-if loop, says clinical psychologist Priyanka Varma. “Engaging in something you enjoy helps fight it. That’s why a lot of people in the lockdown have started baking, or taking up workout challenges. It keeps them busy and engages their mind."
Mainodi Nunisa, 36, for instance, who lives alone, had initially turned to baking in the lockdown. After a few days, when she realized it was becoming too time-consuming, she found another way to relax. “I’m fostering three puppies for the past few weeks," says Nunisa, a senior marketing manager at SpiceJet airline.
It started when a stray had puppies and she fed them once in a while. During the lockdown, the puppies started coming to her door.
“I am a bit scared of allergies so they don’t stay with me overnight, but they do come into the house, play around and even follow me when I go out to buy groceries. It feels nice, in a way, to be responsible for them and I am very grateful to have some company," says Nunisa. “It keeps me occupied so that I don’t end up over-thinking things."
Ankit Gupta, who has been living alone for nine years, turned to exercising regularly. “I’m a morning person, but during the lockdown, I started waking up around 10-11am. I did not have the motivation to work out alone in the beginning," admits Gupta, 31, founder of health-tech startup Endure. But the lack of face to face interaction was getting to him. Matters became worse when he had to let go of some employees to cut costs.
About 10 days ago, he decided to change things. Starting with waking up at 6am, he now goes for a run inside his society and is considering therapy.
Staying positive becomes harder when you are living alone for the first time. In March, Durba Sarkar had just moved to Assam from West Bengal. She knew no one in the city. The paying guest accommodation she had chosen for herself was new so she had no one to share the place with. “It’s very stressful. I hardly sleep now, and when I do it is usually in the day time," says Sarkar, 32, a field coordinator with Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
“It’s very important to do something you like when you are away from family. It can get stressful if you are doing something you don’t enjoy," explains Varma. “Find a purpose for whatever you have decided to do, be it cleaning or working out. The most basic thing you can do is to take care of yourself."