With the pandemic grinding on, our little family unit, I must confess come evenings, have become couch-potatoes. And me, in the early stages of the lockdown having rolled up my sleeves, tied a bandana over my hair, commenced cleaning out cupboards for creating space, by moving upstairs quite a few pieces of redundant furniture, accommodating miscellaneous, superfluous boxes and bric a brac. (The question of giving them away, not an option with all places shuttered down.) In the process, the room upstairs started resembling an attic but have the eyesore locked—the wobbly shelf, the table that never knew the existence of a coaster, unread books—their quarantining not coming with an expiry date. Lugging downstairs a couch, that by and large, never had anyone parking themselves on it—besides delighting everyone—turned us further into couch-potatoes. Not to mention, I now understand how the term was coined—me sinking deep into it for too many hours to do any good. Sometimes even with a bag of chips to complete the picture. By fashioning a family room—a writing table doubling-up to have tea and biscuits, a cushiony bed, a chair which does not look like a beach seat yet does wonders for the back and yes, with the sofa, the room had become the perfect setting for binge watching. By now my self-driven ‘overworked and unpaid scrub, mop and reorganize zeal’, induced by the outbreak of, what seems as an undying plague had blown over, petered out, setting in an out-of-hand, unmanageable inertia. Most of us, I believe with this unworkable work out of home mantra, are in this sluggish slack state. Thus, this passive way of working away the evenings. A short detour: the other day a cousin telephonically, rather by Google Duo, her face fresh from holidaying, tells me how lovely her vacation to Venice, and wherever else, had been. The wall behind her, a collage of high-definition pictures of all the destinations she had gone to. For a moment, thought my head had tailed off, possibly to a junkyard. Mercifully, I was informed ‘travel from home’, the new jingle. International travel rendered bygone courtesy Corona Virus. Armchair voyaging, the new way to take a trip. Travel programmes, galore on the telly. Pictures taken from the net, and for the real-feel photoshop is there to put you up at a beach resort, languorously taking in the sun, lullabying in a hammock. It all started with the `Mahabharata’, the new one, which we joined in, nearly three months after it was aired. And then, as they say, we were hooked. And yes, after a lifetime of trying to decode Lord Krishna, I finally believe could fathom him—his political side particularly endearing, with him readily breaking rules and with a resplendent sense of calm, eyes twinkling, justifying how the Olympian level of Adharma was thereby dealt with. While we were compulsively in the grip of the Mahabharata wave, the same channel (Tata Sky 115) started promoting, between commercial breaks, a new serial, soon to make its entry. ‘Anupama’, the name. God knows how, but we—my husband, my Mom and myself—got drawn into it as well. Every morning like an addict wanting to break free, I promise myself, that this was the day when I shan’t watch this highly regressive show, shall cut loose, but post-dinner find myself forgetting my morning pledge. Anupama, the protagonist, a 40-something homemaker, who like Durga Mä has 10 hands to do 100 mind-boggling, Herculean undertakings, ‘serving’ her family without coming up for air—rushing with a piping hot mug of coffee to her ever-dismissive eldest son for him to be up and about, then hurrying with her husband’s protein shake while in the same stretch, holding on to his feet, so that he could do his morning stomach crunches, with him hissingly snarling that she might try out exercising, instead of idling her entire dowdy day away. Next stop finds Anupama hiking up, needle hailed out of thin air, her daughter’s school skirt so that she does not look like a ‘behnji’, while placing the girl’s Bournvita milk on a nearby table, only to be ordered to shut the door on her way out. There is more of this morning traffic but for now it shall suffice. Our televisual spree ending not here, so with ‘Anupama’ barely out of the picture, one mercilessly changes gears to feast on ‘Law & Order’. Ah, more to look forward to…with an expression conveying, ‘So happy am I, that all I need is a tail to wag’. In defense, can only say that Covid-19 has not been kind to the mind. But to briefly return to ‘Anupama’—momentarily sweeping aside the continuing side-effects of this epidemic—only a bubble-headed, lame-brained person could have conceived such characters in stark black and white! The very first or was it the second episode, Anupama is being thrown out of the house by her Hitleresque husband, menacing sneer intact, since she had the gall to go out for a couple of hours with school friends that had unexpectedly landed up at her doorstep—the ones that she had last seen on their last day of school. There had been a grave dereliction of duty on account of her frivolous outing—she nodding her assenting head till it would drop. The family having gone hungry, by a good half an hour, not having had their evening tea served with freshly-made dhoklas and chutneys, ground not in a Blender, but by hand, on a Silbatta, to retain the authentic taste. Funny, how Anupama goes on and on, like bonded labour, a slave, believing that her ‘better-half’ and her brood, in actuality loved her…they just having a more ‘up-to-date’ version of showing it. And what can one say about the other female characters—make-up thick as pancake, pouting lips layered with glistening lipstick, hair coloured brown or burgundy to do away with their desi roots?! Chiffon sarees draped revealingly, plunging necklines, backless blouses and what about the dripping diamonds, mirroring that money is everything?! This genre of serials Ektaa Kapoor’s brainbabes, nothing new, only refurbished with the latest mobiles and dolled-up Dadi Mäs holding Kitty Parties via Zoom.

Time to let this sail, ferrying with it the unsettling thought of how Covid-19, is like termites let loose, chomping into our grey matter, and with jobs being slashed left, right and centre, the looming financial insolvency, plunging our heads further down the drain…

Dr Renée Ranchan writes on socio-psychological issues, quasi-political matters and concerns that touch us all.