As COVID-19 has spread across the world, members of the GSA community have faced unprecedented challenges in their professional and personal lives. To stay connected during this socially distant time, GSA invites the scientists in our community to share how they are meeting these challenges, as well as their questions and worries.
If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact Communications Assistant Jacqueline Treboschi.
Guest post by Pinky Kain, PhD
COVID-19 has been an unprecedented challenge that is keeping all of us on our toes, especially here in India. It sometime feels as if we are currently living in a science-fiction horror movie. The gruesome briefings by various scientists around the world and people who have experienced the illness are enough to give anyone goosebumps.
Being high-spirited is not easy when everyone is facing a huge health crisis with many unknown outcomes. We never thought the pandemic could actually last so long, challenging us in unusual ways. The more we learn about the virus and the harm it can do to us, the more anxious we feel. But the trick is not letting this tiny virus win. Such adversity is good at teaching us what we shouldn’t be doing in the future if we are trapped again.
My family, including my son, my husband, and I, left Delhi-NCR (Faridabad) on March 21, in the early morning, to meet my father-in-law. I was looking for a much –needed break, after organizing and finishing my week-long hectic workshop on Neurobiology at the Regional Centre for Biotechnology, in Faridabad, India (my current institute). I am lucky that I had organized this workshop on time, a task which seems impossible now.
I have been a Delhiite all my life, and I had never seen Delhi like this before. There was a deep silence, and hardly anyone on the roads. It took us only 3 hours to cover 155 miles and cross three different states. Finally, we arrived at Roorkee—my husband’s home city. We initially came to Roorkee just for a week, bringing only a handful of clothes, and absolutely nothing else. Since we remained here much longer than expected, we managed with whatever we had. My son sometimes even wore my short sleeve T-shirts to beat the heat during the day time. But honestly, we enjoyed our stay. With a lower pollution level during the lockdown and a couple of heavy rains, we were able to clearly see mountain ranges further north from our terrace for the first time.
A drawing by the author’s son
During quarantine, I learned so much from my five-year-old son. He was never worrying or feeling anxious. He was (and still is) happy studying online, learning new lessons, talking to his friends during the classes, getting enough time to play, and trying something new every day. He was busy with his space lessons, music, building blocks, e-books, and with his vast collection of cars (which he always carries with him). The best part of lockdown for him was that mummy was home full-time and could spend quality time with him. He has always hated the fact that I come home late and am never home when he comes back from school. We get a full Saturday and Sunday every week to spend with each other, and I avoid any lab work at that time in an effort to balance work and personal life. It is amazing to see how resilient kids are.
The lockdown was extended many times with new regulations, and we were not sure if we will be able to go back home since the state borders were sealed. Luckily, we had our laptops and data drives with us to work from home. Honestly, I was never being so busy before. Between cooking (my stress buster) and household chores, sitting with my son for his online classes, managing my lab from afar, writing, and making oil paintings, it was like there is no time to even breathe in between. Life has never been so versatile and challenging, yet organized. After many years of packed schedules, we were all at home for evening tea and snacks, to laugh together and discuss political and scientific issues at length. Sometimes my anxiety levels were high, when I was thinking of the new normal post-lockdown, and the challenges I will face in managing my lab. One of my students was stuck at the institute and staying in a hostel. He couldn’t leave for home on time before lockdown. I was making sure to talk to him every day.
Because of my experiences these past couple of months, I’ve realized we need to try not to think much about how long we will have to face this crisis. Instead, reinvent yourself, exercise, and get involved in stuff that you always want to do without worrying so much. The whole focus should be remaining happy and optimistic. Avoid any clashes with family members when anxiety levels are high. Try to enjoy family time, appreciate the sunrise and sunset, find music in silence, and enjoy fresh air. We all are on a ride on this bumpy road. Remember: nothing in nature blooms all year, so be patient with yourself. Now we are back to labs with people working in shifts and happily adjusting to the new normal with masks and sanitizers.
About the Author
Pinky Kain, PhD, is a Principal Investigator and Group Leader who works in the NCR Biotech Science Cluster, in Haryana, India. She is also a Wellcome Trust DBT Intermediate Fellow.