Five days into lockdown, Swati Jain (named changed) had had it with web shows and social media. The Delhi-based PR consultant-turned-homemaker wanted to do something useful with all the time she suddenly had on her hands. Jain had got married in January, and wanted to take a sabbatical to enjoy some downtime. “When we were told to stay indoors, I thought it was ideal for me, because I was looking to relax anyway, and with my husband at home, I thought we would get to catch up on movies and new shows every night after he is done with work. But his never-ending calls and meetings kept him occupied, and I suddenly didn’t know what to do with my time,” she says.
Jain then decided to become skilled at something online, and has since been learning how to bake. “By the time the lockdown ends, I will become quite proficient, and maybe start my own little bakery,” she says.
And she is not alone. In the course of the lockdown, many people have turned to online courses and classes to either learn new skills, polish existing ones, or to simply stay fit and healthy.
Twenty-eight-year-old Varnica Kanoo, a Noida-based fashion designer, has been working on her designing skills of late. She is picking up on newer versions of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. “Now is the time when I can learn new software so that when the lockdown ends, I can work more resourcefully. We are not in college anymore, and in office, there’s hardly any time to learn anything new,” she says.
Learning a new language is always exciting. It can make you present yourself better when you cross borders and find yourself in a new country. Many people harbour a genuine interest to learn to speak in a foreign tongue, but are not able to, given their more pressing engagements.
But now, with this lockdown in place, a lot many people are rekindling their interest.
Twenty-four-year-old Aashish Jain from Coimbatore, for instance, has been learning Spanish. “I started some 10-12 days ago. This was not a part of my plan, but the lockdown has given me more time. I realised I could learn something new while being home with my mother for so many days. This kind of opportunity will not present itself again. Has learning a new language made it slightly easier for me to pass my time? Certainly, yes. I just feel I have used the available time suitably,” says the management trainee.
Lucknow-based 23-year-old business development associate, Saquib Siddique, meanwhile, has been learning Japanese. “I started from the first week of April. I had been planning to learn the language for quite some time now, but was not able to balance my time between job and academics,” he says.
When the lockdown was put in place, Siddique had not planned on it. “But after a few days, the entire thing started to bother me a lot. I was bored of watching new shows and playing games online. That is when I decided to join this online course for basic Japanese. Slowly, I found myself inclined towards new skills,” he says, adding that he now has become more confident and less paranoid about the pandemic, spending his quarantine time in the “most productive way”.
For 27-year-old Smita Kumar (named changed), a Chennai-based teacher, quarantine has been quite an experience. Kumar, who is slated to get married to a Europe-based engineer late this year, says learning a new language has never been more befitting. “I am starting with learning Italian, because after the wedding, we may have to travel a lot. My fiancé’s command over the Hindi language isn’t very good, and so far we have only interacted in English. So, I never felt the need to learn a new language. But, when I found out the infection has spread to other continents, I knew we would be stuck for a long time, so might as well make it useful,” she says.
Online as good as offline?
Unlike language takers, people who have signed up for fitness classes, however, are finding it tad difficult to keep up. Sneha Saha, a Noida-based journalist is one of them. Saha, who has been learning tabata — a high-intensity workout — says online classes cannot match up with actual ones.
“I have been learning tabata for a while now, but there is no motivation as such. Not that the trainers can do a lot about it — they are pretty good, though, trying out new music to motivate people. But, I miss doing the classes with people around me. That somewhere boosts your energy. The setup at home is also not quite apt, which is why I am dragging myself to the class, just to involve some physical activity in the routine,” she says.
What trainers/course instructors think…
Mumbai-based Spanish language teacher Kirti Arora says the lockdown has made schools and parents realise that education does not necessarily have to happen in schools, it can also be imparted online. “I have certainly seen a surge in the last few days. Not just with young students trying to learn the language, but even working professionals and CEOs of companies,” she says, adding that working professionals are really trying to upgrade their skills.
Sushanthh Raikar, a yoga instructor from Goa, however, says that with his classes now completely online, more people from outside the country are seeing the need to engage in yoga. “From a practical point of view, it has been a little difficult, but then clients get the comfort of their home while working on their stance. My old clients — who already know my style — have shifted online, and I am trying to reach out to newer people via social media platforms and word-of-mouth,” he says.
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