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Date with self

A few young people used the lockdown as an extended period of reflection and introspection followed by personal makeovers

The lockdown lasting nearly three months has been a tumultuous time for many. However, there were some who used this forced break from hectic lifes to introspect, improve, lose weight, pursue old hobbies and hone latent talents. While many of us were struggling to adapt to the ‘new normal’, these young people used the time to transform themselves to present a ‘new self’ to the world. This change is not merely physical but came about by having an extended date with self and extends far beyond.

Srishti Narain, 25, was set to pursue a post-graduate course in design management in a leading American university when the pandemic gripped a good part of the world. As the US has been particularly badly affected by Covid-19, her plans had to be shelved for a year at least. Even her usual routine that includes working with an NGO that provides education to the underprivileged children was disrupted.

Srishti Narain

“The past few months were wonderful. I introspected a lot, helped make sense of things,” says Srishti. She led a busy life multi-tasking, meeting friends in person or online, relieved that she did not have to waste time commuting — which is time-consuming, exhausting and exercising. “Things happening to me had entered a pattern, my mind space was colonised by impressions of the outside world, I was going about my day without much reflection, and time was passing fast. I became a victim of my own habits. I was left with little time for my own self,” she explains.

So when everything came to a grinding halt, initially Srishti was disgruntled and anxious. Boredom was the overriding mood. That also meant that she had the mind space to look inward and not be distracted by the dazzle of the outside world. She has an artistic bend of mind, and according to her, every object can be a work of art if you can add your bit to it, turning a mundane object special and quintessentially personal. That’s her idea of design as well, to personalise by way of artistic intervention.

For example, she embroidered at least 10 pairs of jeans–during the lockdown. “This artistic intervention is an assertion of self in this world that’s flooded with a plethora of apparel,” she puts it succinctly. Her art is inspired by the paintings of Vincent van Gogh, particularly Sunflower, Starry Nights. “I identify with van Gogh’s painting as a realisation of my artistic vision. He’s my favourite painter.”

Akshay Sahay, 25, a graduate from the prestigious National Law University in Jodhpur, is working with a leading criminal lawyer in Delhi. His work schedule: 14 hours a day, six days a week. Working hard often translates into neglected health. He has no regrets because he loves his work. Lockdown meant that he, suddenly, had a lot of time at his disposal. He had put on some weight. The whole family of lawyers decided to use the lockdown period to get back in shape. Akshay pursued the objective with unwavering devotion and lost 10 kg in a month and a half.

Srishti’s art work

In the past, he had tried gymnasium, aerobics, even dancing, with little success. Determined to find a workout regime to suit his needs, he carried out a bit of research. He liked the idea of ‘running in place’ complemented with some dietary restrictions. Initially, he did 20-minutes session and progressively increased the duration to an hour.

He’d be alone in the room, jogging in the same spot, sometimes running from wall to wall, and would remain in this state of frantic motion. His electronic pedometer would indicate 11 km equivalent of running in an hour. To many running in place, alone, confined to a room, might seem boring. Not to Akshay. Initially, he’d have his earphones on, but soon he didn’t feel the need. “I would soon be in sync with the motion, sort of on autopilot,” he observes. His mind focused on oblivion, thoughtlessness. Stillness in motion — a silent symphony of sorts.

Accumulatively he has clocked more than 45 hours running in place and lost 10 kg, Akshay is tall and now slim, epitomising the ectomorph body type. “Running is incorporated in my lifestyle,” he says and promises to continue doing it even when he resumes his 14-hour work routine. He’s open to the idea of running outdoors, though plans to avoid it during the pandemic.

Kshtij N, a 21-year-old engineering student, lost 15 kg of weight. He employed a combination of floor exercises, weights, jogging, and diet control. And the result is almost transformational. He is tall and handsome, an endearing personality. “Getting back in shape was like taking charge of my life, an affirmation of the fact that I take my life seriously.”

Akshay, slim and dapper

Kshitij feels he’s generally more aware of what he eats, says, listens to, watches, and his surroundings. Now that he has a good relationship with himself, he feels empowered to overcome temptations and ward off recklessness in action and thoughts. “It’s important for me to lead a balanced life and is the essential first step towards self-actualisation.”

Describing the experience of working out in his room: “When I’m in sync with motion, I’m invariably daydreaming.” He’s recreating notional scenarios in his mind, often influenced by what he recently read or watched on the television. Like Akshay and Srishti, Kshitij feels exercising is quality time with self.

What’s common amongst the three of them is that they used the free time to introspect, step out of their comfort zone, apply themselves to incorporate the desired changes, break the habit-cycle. The results are there for everyone to see.

(Cover: Kshitij N In his room determined to take charge of his life)