Love in the Time of COVID-19

The journal of an agency couple living-in through the lockdown and managing to survive

Words by Pooja Manek, Associate Creative Director; Art by Tanya Paul, Group Head ‐ Art.

Monday no motivation

Day 6, 9:55 am: Night owls would have had a better reputation if early birds didn’t catch the worm punctually, every damn day. Despite the office commute now being from the bed to the couch and having no traffic excuses to my rescue, I would still turn to snooze the alarm for the 6th time. He, a cheerful morning person until it was time to wake me up, would account for 5 minutes in all, for me to get up, chug coffee, have my morning cigarette and attend the 10 am call, with the camera off, of course.

Three-seater for one

Day 14, 02:22 pm: Our home wouldn’t have been a pragmatic person’s choice for two. We chose it for the balcony. Okay, I chose it for the balcony. Would I have still picked it had I predicted a pandemic? No. Do I despise being locked down in a 1000 sq. ft. feels like 700, with another living, working, hustling human? YES. With no desks or chairs, your choices of where to work from do get icy. On days he would have his couch turn (a three-seater can only seat one if you’re constantly on calls), I would retire to the balcony, a soft floor couch under, copious amounts of regret over.

Dirty talk

Day 18, 01:18 am: An hour past midnight. He just got done with his calls for the day. The floor lay unmopped for four days now. And the trash hill was gazing at us in utter dismay. Yes, you have no idea how many top-tier award ideas were being pitched amidst stained floors and uncleared trash. But it was his turn. With couch days come trash cleaning days. That’s what fair deals are made of. Plus, I had cooked both the meals that day. Surprising? Was for me too.

Breaks are better than breakups

Day 22, 4:20 pm: I really wasn’t lying about the balcony. Except for the dragonflies. Ctrl + H with mosquitos. But we do have a comfortable floor couch. And plants that he waters daily and talks to, often. He even plays music for them sometimes. I like calling it ‘our hours’. His time to do his things — read, think, think nothing at all, smile at the plants, smile with the plants, stare at the sky, stare at nothingness. I do almost the same, just not with him. Next to him, but not with. We don’t overly romanticise ‘we time’. Especially after being the only two humans within the confines of four walls, for 25 days straight.

Bloody bad day

Day 28, 8:43 am: Getting your period doubles up as good and bad news. Good news for both. Bad, for him. The bloodbath was my wild card to not participate in any home chores until day 3 and… it was unarguably comforting. My pelvic floor and his sanity were breaking at the same velocity. But he was quick at making hot chocolate and that felt like getting a hug through a cup. And this is precisely why I treasure him. No, not for the hot chocolate. For being an almost-mythical, genuinely good human being — annoyingly altruistic and alarmingly nice.
And maybe also because of the hot chocolate.

The way to each other’s hearts is through separate masala jars

Day 37, 2:22 pm: When asked, “Does he cook?” I usually respond with a scoff, “He likes leisure cooking.” On Sunday afternoons, our quaint home unmistakably smells of slow-cooked chicken ghee roast, while Peter Cat plays in the background, the sound usually coming from the balcony.
“Where is the chicken masala? Why do we have rajma masala? Oh, can you not keep the chhole masala with the mutton masala?”, he asks without waiting for me to answer. If kitchen politics is the price of living-in with a South Indian, I am unable to pay. So the next minute, we took a radical step. Turns out labelling isn’t just a form of organisation, it doubles up as a sign of truce. Our shelf now features two jars standing tall amidst a crowd, each with the respective label — ‘North Indian Masalas’ and ‘South Indian Masalas’. I scribbled a squiggly heart under mine.

India’s favourite creative agency. Estd. 1999.