Hey guys! How’s it going, mate? The weird flex is cause I was supposed to be in Dublin right now downing a pint of Guinness at Temple Bar, instead, I here I am writing this from my ‘home office’ while still having a Guinness but it’s not so wünderbar. An experimental PhD and work from home can never go in a sentence together, this is as oxymoronic as it gets! But since it is a reality we dwell in currently I figured it would be fun to centre my blogpost on it.
In mid-March, the WHO declared the Coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and by the beginning of April the doors of our labs came down, international borders were sealed, even football was stopped and we were now working from home. I was annoyed already as I had to cancel my tickets to Turkey and squash my dreams of the hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia but now for someone who loves working in the lab working from home was going to be a tragedy, and a tragedy it was (well at least initially).
After recovering from the pain that strikes after cancelling a couple of trips to countries I had never travelled to before, (if you cant relate- it hurts more than a heartbreak) I began home office with analysing some experimental results and my phone buzzed, and when I held the phone I knew a mistake was made and there was no coming back.
The conversation went something like:
Nauman: Bro, don’t you use your PS?
Me: Not very often bro.
Sahil: Use it and get PS+ bro, then we can play together every day.
Me: I don’t know bro, I have work and anyway I don’t have a lot of games.
Nauman: PS+ will give you free games. We can play FIFA and Fortnite too.
Sahil: Get it, bro, it will be a lot of fun.
Me: Ok guys, but I won’t play for too long, I have a schedule to maintain.
That night we ended up playing for seven hours straight.
The next day I started at an hour I am too embarrassed to tell. I sat before my computer analysing some kinetic study graphs and after what seemed like an eternity (sixty minutes) my mind began wandering. It did not make far enough though, it stopped by my fridge and I was reminded about the delicious slice of chocolate cake that lay inside and like my mind, I wandered out to the fridge. I took a bite and the indulgence made me feel that I should balance out this unhealthy act with a healthy one, a few moments later I had a slice of cake and a glass of berry smoothie before me. I was determined to finish my ‘meal’ and get back to work but guess who showed up with season 4? La casa de Papel.I had to know what happens before the memes and spoilers came out on the internet, and I told myself, ‘I can watch half an episode and get back to work.’
Four episodes, a slice of cake, a smoothie, half a can of Pringles and two beers later I heard a knock on my door, it was a flatmate asking me about my dinner plans. In my defence, it was Friday.
Saturday and Sunday plagued me with the one question we often ask ourselves on these days usually while bearing hangovers- ‘Why did I do it?’ except it wasn’t a hangover for me but a guilt trip right from the heart about wasting my time and how I should have rather done things. The irony is that the guilt trip set in after I finished season four (can’t wait for season five) and was respawning in Fortnite at 4 am.
It is difficult to adjust when our schedules get disrupted but this is a new reality we live in and I try to live by the motto of adapt-improvise-overcome. Come Monday, the guilt trip ensured that I drafted a schedule for work- the day time was reserved for data analysis and taking up online courses whereas the evenings were for working out and cooking. I signed up for a variety (from programming to palaeontology) of classes some to sharpen my skills and some to feed my interests. The guilt trip worked not just for me, my flatmates were glad I had it, they were treated to a bunch of recipes, one of them now has a slight belly.
I guess I speak for everyone when I say it would be unfair to talk about our current situation without thanking the medical professionals, supermarket employees, chefs, policemen, food delivery agents, and many others who continue to work to their bones, tirelessly to help us continue with our ‘normal’ lives. ‘Thank you very much, we are grateful for the care we have received. Take a bow.’ It was moving to see how the Italians, Indians and people from other countries poured out their affection by singing, clapping and lighting lamps as a gesture of gratitude to honour the people on the frontline. Philosophically, perhaps, the crisis brought together all of humankind that lay scattered by caste, colour and creed. It got us acquainted with empathy, hope and gratitude.
There are some beautiful silver linings to the dark cloud that haunts us right now, as we humans (and other creatures who read this) stay locked in with less and less interaction with the outside world the environment continues healing itself, we also spent more time at home with our families playing board games, and recreating childhood pictures, some even tried giving themselves haircuts! Dogs were the happiest to see their humans spending more and more time at home. Musicians and bands performed online, some people reconnected with old friends over long video chats, while some took part in social media challenges, countries came out to help each other, the internet is full of these heart-melting stories. Somehow, I feel, amidst work meetings on zoom and daily family dinners we learnt how to draw a line between what is important and what is essential (okay, I should stop, perhaps the philosophical me is kicking in). Well, there were also some toilet paper scrambles!
It has been almost a couple of months since the lockdown began, I have completed a bunch of online courses, I have analysed a fair portion of my experimental data, I was recently told that I look fitter so I guess the working out is working out, I am also respawning less frequently in Fortnite and continuing the cooking spree. And as the lockdown eases and we realize now more than ever that science should never cease, we are back in the labs working in shifts and moving forward in our projects all while washing our hands, wearing a mask and standing a couple meters apart.
And then one day….
By Yash Bogawat, PhD student in the Simmel Lab at TUM