It is difficult to put it into words what Irrfan’s loss means to me. I was not very close to him or his family but Irrfan is an actor I envied. Not everybody is aware of how long and arduous a struggle an actor like Irrfan had. He has played umpteen walk-on parts and small roles in television serials and movies before he gained any kind of recognition. What was truly inspiring about a person like him is that all those years of rejections did not embitter him or make him lose faith in himself.
When I meet actors who move to Mumbai and say, ‘I’m going to try for two years and if it does not work out, I’ll go home”, I tell them they should go back and not waste these two years. In two years, nothing is going to happen. Irrfan didn’t give himself any such deadline. He knew that this was his life’s vocation. He decided to do whatever it took to stay afloat. He barely stayed afloat for many years until films like The Warrior (2001) came along. That itself should be an inspiration for young actors who are not getting immediate recognition.
Change will be the only constant in the post-COVID-19 world
After coronavirus, many eternal verities are expected to change. The most unexpected news concerns the drug trade in the US. Washington waged a war on it. Hollywood made popular movies and streamed a series glamourising its unstoppable energy. And, now, the business is power-diving faster than oil futures. Not because no one is selling, but because no one has the guts to buy from a street pusher with no obvious concern for health or hygiene. Imagine a nation the size of America going cold turkey from coast to coast. It’s breathtaking.
How cooking for herself changed one home cook’s outlook on food
Ever since the coronavirus cleared the streets, holding us up in our homes, social media feeds have been flooded with workout videos, recipe ideas and online courses. Many of us who have the privilege of turning mundane tasks into enjoyment while self-quarantined have turned to cook. Food experts and chefs have been dishing out tips and tricks for what has come to be known as “quarantine cooking”, and popular food publications such as The New York Times Cooking section, Bon Appétit or Eater, among a host of others, have curated lists of recipes that can be rustled up in these extraordinary times.
How does the mind change when subjected to extreme solitude?
When the nationwide lockdown was announced to contain the spread of COVID-19, I was aware that even if the logistics of providing for 1.3 billion people in their homes could be managed, there would still remain the problem of mental health — many were wading into unfamiliar territory. Not so for me, nor for my colleagues in the Indian Navy, who are regularly sequestered in metal ships and submarines for weeks. Perhaps, there are lessons to be learnt in how we deal with isolation.
In February 2010, I landed on an island of 20 sq km, with a population of two, no roads and a topography so ravaged by winds that trees refused to take root. A signboard announced its name in red — Bleaker Island — making me wonder if it had anything to do with the isolation suffered by its inhabitants. A year later, I was to spend 25 days in a sail boat, cloistered with another soul as we made our way from Rio de Janeiro to Cape Town. I had a firsthand experience of the peculiar loneliness that one feels in the company of another, that comes from running out of things to talk about.
How will we tell the story of COVID-19?
Every disease is a story. It has a beginning, middle and, hopefully, an end. Some illnesses are little more than anecdotes or riddles. Others are parables and allegories. A few grow into epics, containing a multitude of episodic tales, one leading on to another.
The novel coronavirus, which is responsible for COVID-19, sounds like something out of science fiction. It is still in the process of being deciphered, a mystery told in a language that has yet to be translated. Nevertheless, it spreads among us with very real and immediate results. In early January, my wife, Ameeta, and I both got sick with pneumonia in Denver, Colorado. When we were tested for the flu, the results were negative. Our symptoms — fever, cough, shortness of breath, inability to taste food, etc. — seem to match everything I’ve read about COVID-19. The worst of it lasted two weeks and for half of that time, I needed supplemental oxygen to breathe. The doctors who treated us offered no diagnosis beyond pneumonia and prescribed drugs that had little or no effect.
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