As the coronavirus lockdown moves from one phase into the next, I realise that I don’t seem to get as agitated or alarmed as I did during its initial days. In fact, in this surreal state of isolation and confinement, my inner zen often surprises me. In the beginning, the cribs were many and varied – the sudden pause in life, the restriction in movement and the rejig of the entire household schedule. I, along with so many others, fretted and fumed as we watched the entire world go into a collective stupor, as it were.

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However, as the days seamlessly slid into weeks and the weeks into months, we found ourselves gradually settling down in this new normal of an altered reality. We struggled to devise ways and means of keeping our heads above the troubled waters of anxiety, uncertainty and depression. When the future seemed so blurred and unpredictable, we chose to fall back on the past and the present and weave a happy, feel-good emotional fabric of moments and memories.

This probably marks the genesis of the various ‘challenges’ that we get to see on social media these days – women posting pictures involving colourful sarees, no make-up look, solo singing or dancing, mom and kids, throwback vacation – the list goes on. Ladies on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, tag other ladies to take the cycle forward. There are some who practise rigorous workouts, some write poetry, many cook and bake tantalising dishes while a few others join online vocational courses. A few try to address pressing social issues. The virtual world is throbbing with activity, in stark contrast to the real physical world which has unwittingly slipped into ennui.

When the future seemed so blurred and unpredictable, we chose to fall back on the past and the present and weave a happy, feel-good emotional fabric of moments and memories.

Surprisingly, it’s not that we women have surplus time in hand – in fact, far from that. With all family members happily lodged at home and no housemaid to share the chores with, we have our hands full, in most cases. So what is it that prompts the ladies to break into such an exuberant mood? It’s their inbred coping mechanism, I say. For centuries, women are known to internalise pain, hardship and suffering and rework them into a positive force. This alchemy is the secret behind their seemingly boundless energy and zeal.

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Studies in psychology reveal that when under duress, the brain releases the hormone Oxytocin in both men and women. Oxytocin is what helps foster the feelings of affection, care and nurture; it drives us to reach out to family, friends and even to secondary contacts. In such situations, women become inclined to “tend and befriend”. ‘Tending’ involves nurturing activities that soothe the soul and distract the mind. It also leads them to love, nourish and care for people close to them.

These past two months have been a litmus test for every woman but dare I say, she’s thrown herself at the deep end and swum her way up.

To ‘befriend’ is to extend and expand one’s social network beyond one’s immediate friends and acquaintances, to exchange emotional succour with each other in our otherwise stratified lives. For example, I’ve had ‘friends of friends’ bonding with me on WhatsApp over one-pot recipes and George Clooney! And for scientifically challenged people like me, suffice it to say that these activities gladden the heart, spice up our lives and help us relive happy moods and moments of the past, naysayers be damned!

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While the pandemic has brought us down to our creaky knees, it is these little gestures and activities that offer us much-needed solace, positivity, and almost a ray of sunshine in these long, relentless, bleak days. The act of doing or creating something new is, in itself, an experiential process. And when we receive appreciation and encouragement for it, it organically becomes a force multiplier. Thus, as women continue to remain hemmed in their houses and work overtime, both on the professional and personal fronts, their learning, sharing and caring index has reached an all-time high. These past two months have been a litmus test for every woman but dare I say, she’s thrown herself at the deep end and swum her way up, eddies and currents notwithstanding. Only to smile, cheer and sparkle, better and brighter than ever before!

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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