COVID 19- keeping Our Family, A Priority, Sanity And Embracing Mother Nature-
Beginning of the year 2020 comes with a strange challenge. We are facing one of the worst global challenges: ‘Corona Virus Disease of 2019: COVID-19’. It is a very infectious disease and has a severe acute respiratory symptom, very similar to SARS; but more deadly than it. It was detected for the first time last year in December in Wuhan, a capital city of Hubei province of China. Since then it is spread globally. There is hardly any part of the world where human beings are not affected by a coronavirus. The virus is mainly spread by people to people contact, very often by the droplets and aerosol mechanism. The survival of the virus in an inactive medium may last for 5 days on metal surfaces, making it very contagious. The World Health Organization has already declared this as a pandemic. The current WHO records show 1,301,271 active corona cases and more than a lakh dead across the globe. The worst countries affected by this pandemic are the US, Spain, France, and Italy. The alone US accounts for half of the active cases. Seeing the current scenario and lack of any available treatment or vaccine, the whole world is facing serious health crises. Across the globe, all countries are under lock-down, very restricted movement and only critical services are working. A complete lock-down of people-people movement is the only way to slow down this pandemic. India is too under lockdown. Mr Prime minister has declared complete lockdown till April 14th, but I do believe that it may extend by another two-four weeks.
This lockdown brings a new challenge in our lifestyle, specially to young couples with the children. In Delhi, all schools and daycare are closed till the end of April, bringing children to homecare. Homecare is not so easy task, sometimes it is challenging, or I would say most of the time. In this crucial time, it tests our patience specially when social situations are to be avoided. Being myself father of the young boy and recently born daughter, I am facing the same challenge. In a 24-hour day schedule, I must design my experiments, writes blogs and spend time with my family and if time permits then I nap. Though most of you think, work from home is a blessing; I do agree for some extent that indeed it is, but it is not as one think. It is more complicated. All that we do at most is to keep ourselves sane and children well-fed and safe. Lockdown has adversely affected our children specially when they are not allowed to go out for play. This makes very hard for us to make children avoid screen time which is not healthy.
According to WHO, the general guidelines for screen time for children divided into several groups are as follows-
- Under 18 months old: No screen time apart from having a video chat with other family members.
- Toddlers (18 months – 2 years old): No screen time is recommended but could be limited to less than an hour. One could make co- watch an educational program such as World Party available on Netflix. There are some programs available on youtube channel such as littlebabybum etc. The idea here is to very simple educational contents are fine. But if one could encourage toddlers to be more interactive to surroundings and to people that are best.
- Preschoolers aged 3-5 years old: Children could have an interactive session with screen characters and encourage them to apply to the real world. For instance, there are programs where children learn about counting. One could use that trick to make them count flowers in the garden etc. Also, don’t use screen time to calm them down: this will bring addiction to children. Instead of screen time preferably book or toys on the screen character would be better for children.
- Elementary school children aged 6-10 years old: Maximum recommended screen time is 1.5 hours. A parent should encourage children to use the screen time to build upon the technology, for example, there are some kits available on Amazon, for example, Fischer Price tablets or writing tablets from Newyes. There are some Google apps like Bolo, Super why and kiddopia on Google stores which could be used as interactive screen time. Parents should supervise children and make sure children shouldn’t make screen time as a laid- back habit. Still, physical activities are best for children’s mental and physical growth.
- Middle school children aged 6-12 years: Maximum allowed screen time is 2 hours. At this stage, children develop a better understanding of screen time. Parents should help them to understand the value of moderation over screen time. Usually, kids are interested in video games, but it is always advisable that children should be only allowed to use the games on a predetermined time schedule. Again, it is always advisable to encourage kids to do physical activities instead. A parent should encourage then develop valuable skills. These days there are very cheap programmable kits, for instance, Arduino devices are available.
|My son playing a video game on a pre-scheduled time |
It is also advising to have a screen shield on TV or computer and all digital devices should be equipped with screen time control for the kids such as Zfit and parental control on all digital devices. Though, I could see that WHO hardly encourage children for the screen time. In the current situation, the screen time may seem to be the only option to have some personal space from children; but believe me, that’s not the right way to go. I see myself this situation as a boom to utilize it bond with my family. When I was working, it was very hard for me to spend time with my children. Usually, I leave for my office in the early morning after dropping him to school and in the evening when I am home, it is already very late, almost bedtime for my son. Since now I am forced to stay at home. I am balancing time with my family along with working on my research.
In order to personalize my activities with my children, I am using kindle. I have lots of stories for young ones. Either I or my wife spends time in the evening with my children to read them stories. Some of the stories still remind me of my dad. In my young days, we used to have books from Gita Press. My dad used to read some stories from them. Those stories have taught me of our Indian values. I do miss all those collections on kindle but maybe someday I will digitalize some of the stories from Gita press. There is some open source software where one could make customize digital story, for instance, Story Dice, Little Bird Tales and Adobe slate. Probably for my grandchildren; that’s would be another day blog. Reading stories not only teaches them the valuable lesson of life but also engages them to the world to perceive. I noticed that sometimes my daughter engages in complete imaginative role-play, sometimes she turns to a lion ‘Sere Khan’ who is chasing a rabbit or sometimes a police inspector who is asking for driving license; that’s very interesting.
|Temporary reading room design by my daughter |
I noticed that sometimes my daughter engages in complete imaginative role-play, sometimes she turns to a lion ‘Sere Khan’ who is chasing a rabbit or sometimes a police inspector who is asking for driving license; that’s very interesting. I always encourage her by taking part in her games. On other hands with my son who is a bit older and addicted to video games, I am spending time playing some board games, carrom and chess. Sometimes, repeating the same game make them bored so I try to be bit innovative. I made my drawing room as an activity playground. I moved all furniture to the walls, put some pillows and spare mattresses on the floor. Children always find these things very interesting, at least my daughter love to jump over them. She pretends that it is a path in a jungle, and she must follow the path marked on the mattress cover. For my son, the most favourite part is racetrack which I designed from the paper. I designed the track on the computer and print it. I pasted it on my drawing-room. He loved to put his flywheels on the track race it with me or his sister. To make it more interesting, I made some hills, valley or river using cardboards. We are still trying our imagination to make the racetrack wilder. May be forest made of printed papers etc. Some of the other ideas on more active things to do at home could be found on Pinterest. Here is a link to Pinterest
1. Lift design using a hook for the fan on the roof: My daughter uses that for the transporting food to her invisible friend.
2 & 3. Race-track made from colour paper in the living room: My son uses that as a runway for his Jumbo plane and his Rolls Royce.
4. Colour hop pattern design using colour paper: My daughter and son hop over the same colour pattern square without stepping out of the square.
I love painting and it will not appropriate to state that I am a very good artist. I had my moments with my art when I was in my college days. I didn’t have time lately to catch up with my painting; I am using some weekends to paint and trying to teach tits and bits of painting to my kids. I am using vegetable colours to have raw colour on canvas. Sometimes my wife doesn’t like me for using vegetable for painting.
|Oil Pastel Painting by my son on environmental awareness |
Probably she will understand someday,’ why art is all about experimentation’. It is also funny to see how my son is exploring different colour segments with me. On the other hands, my daughter loves to draw a circle using my wife bangles, sometimes she calls it a wheel, and sometimes the moon. We fill the circle too with crayons to make moon green and wheel to shine as yellow; you see its all vivid world of our child which brings colour to the canvas of our life.
|Oil pastel painting by my son on water management |Cooking is another activity which as a family we love to do it together. My son doesn’t like cooking that much, but my daughter loves to cook with us. Sometimes we cook easy stuff. Recently we cook pasta together. My daughter made dough with my wife. She patiently mixes the ghee in the dough. Also, she knows that water should be added carefully such that the texture of the dough should be not lost completely. Here you see she made banana pancake, a favourite dish of her. I sometimes try my hand on cooking along with my wife. I am specialized in making rajma rice. I am improving upon that, probably someday, I will learn how to make chole bhature which I miss a lot because of this close-down.
|Wife and my daughter preparing pancake: Once the pancake is cooked, my daughter is inspecting it. |
My wife loves gardening. I noticed that she misses gardening. Usually, her daily chores take tolls on her. But now we are spending more time together, she finds more time for gardening. It is a kind of luxury to have a big terrace or balcony in a city like Delhi. We are lucky to have rather a moderate size terrace. Last month, I bought soil and natural manure from a nearby nursery. The soil in Delhi has a very fine texture, it is necessary to add some sand to make it coarser. For new and young plants, it is necessary to have this kind of soil. Luckily, we had some sand left from the last repair job. We made soil to the sand mixture in the proportion of 4:1 in a big tub. We had some unused earthen pots and some plastic container which we made it as a plant pot. I noticed that my wife loved teaching gardening to our daughter. She took some old paper glasses and adds some coarse soil. Unfortunately, we didn’t have many seeds left in our cupboard so we use innovative methods to make own garden. For instance, tomatoes have seeds in them. She carefully plucked seeds from tomatoes and put them on toilet paper ( even newspaper will work ). Once and soak the paper with water. She placed the paper on top of the soil. With time paper will dissolve and, seeds will germinate. Once the shoots from seeds look good, one could transfer the plant from glass to the pot. Some of the other gardening tips in the moment of lockdown when all nurseries are closed.
My daughter trying her hand on gardening. Her paper pot where she put sunflower seeds.
1. If you or your neighbour have money plants or rose plants, take a small stem from the plant and place it in water. Place the stem in a partially sunny area. In a week or two, it will start growing some roots. Then place that in soil. After a week placing in soil, place the plant in direct sunlight for some part of the day. Soon they will grow into a big plant.
2. If you happen to get fresh coriander with roots. Cut the root out and place it moist soil. Soon roots will start growing some fresh leaves. Let the plat in the fresh morning sun every day but avoid the direct and intense sun. In two weeks, you will have homegrown fresh coriander.
3. Growing chilli is not so tough. One needs to pluck the seeds from chilli and place over the soil. Keep the soil moderately moist. Put the pot in direct sun. It is often said that more sun your chilli plant sees, hotter chilli will be.
4. One could also grow ginger, garlic in the garden. Place one or two cloves of garlic and a small portion of (eye) onion and ginger in a partially sunny area of your kitchen over the moist clothes. Once they start showing green shoots place them in moist soil. Once the plat is out, keep the soil moderately dry to have healthy plants. I usually use the leaves of garlic and onion in cooking.
5. Like tomatoes, one could generate seeds from bitter melon popularly known as karela. They need very sandy soil and dry weather. Make soil coarser for them. Once the plant is out, pot could be put in the sun and water every afternoon. In a month or two, you will have homegrown karela.
An attempt by my wife for having her own homegrown vegetable
Like tomatoes, one could generate seeds from bitter melon popularly known as karela. Here are some ideas to make a home garden with limited resources. On our terrace, we have grown sunflowers, tomatoes, coriander and chilli. I am planning to grow karela and bottle guard (also all Kaddu). Since, last week, I already see that shoots are coming from my sunflower seeds and small green pots from my tomato seeds. I will update pick soon of my homegrown vegetables.
Summer flowers on my terrace. A successful attempt to regrow coriander
from fresh coriander plant roots
In the evening, we are also doing some exercise together. Though gyms are closed we have enough resources in home to perform some workout. Obviously, Yoga is the most common choice. Some of the asanas which we as a family do it together are Trokonasana, Padottanasana, Malasana, Ananda Balasanaand Savasana. In addition to yoga, we do some extreme sports too, for example, skipping and pushup. Me and my son also run over the stairs. Every day we take more than 1000 steps. All these not only, make us fit but also drained energy from my son. This all keeps him sane. The results of these sports give us very sound sleep at night, which I could hear from the snoring of my son and wife. I am not joking: we do have very sound 8 hrs sleep at night.
This is very strange moments; all we need to keep ourselves and our family is healthy and fully sane even though we don’t have social engagement. Though we can’t meet our friends and family members thanks to technologies we could talk to them. Especially, this is very important for us to keep talking to older people. They may be feeling most loners. My mother lives by herself in Patna. Patna is also under lockdown. And looking at her age, she is the maximum risk group for corona exposure. She is staying most of the time at home. She felt lonely a lot. Thankfully, last year I bought a smartphone for my mother. I am using WhatsApp to be in touch with her almost every day. She misses her grandchildren but at least now she could see them via WhatsApp. I am also using the zoom to be in touch with my work colleagues and friends. Zoom is also free software which I could use to video chat for 45 minutes. It is a very good platform to have multiuser chats, much better than WhatsApp where one could use only four users at a time to do video chat.
Though, we all agree that this lock-down is going to have a severe effect on our economy and lifestyles. But what I see the positive part of this lockdown is now we understand the value of life. We understand what a family does mean. I am spending more time with my family on the positive side. Recently, I bonded well with my son and daughter. Also connecting more often with my mother. On a completely different note but also an important part, for the very first time in I have seen the clear morning sky in Delhi for more than a week at a stretch. Air quality is much better due to the sudden drop in NO2. The air quality index dropped from 200 on the day before lockdown to 20 on day of writing this article. One should grab this moment with both hands. We spend quality time in the evening and in the morning on our roof. Sometimes if our schedule permits then we love to have tea and snacks on the roof in the evening.
Though, we all agree that this lock-down is going to have a severe effect on our economy and lifestyles. But what I see the positive part of this lockdown is now we understand the value of life. We understand what a family does mean. On a positive note, I could say that nature is embracing us during this lockdown. On social media, I have seen postings of Yamuna River. I don’t remember when I saw clear water of Yamuna river. There are reports by the Guardian newspaper that froth the river is gone and the water looks clear. Some section of the river also seen the return of small fishes. My friends in Chandigarh has reported sighting of Dhaulagiri mountain range. My brother- in- law sent me a picture of an iconic Ganga Sethu Bridge from his house roof-top. It is good to see that Mother Nature is embracing herself. All these make me feel that nature is trying to teach us a valuable lesson. I hope we will learn from our mistakes and amend our living and pay respect to nature. With this positive note, I will say brace yourself, your family and Mother Nature in this amid a situation of lockdown. Keep yourself safe healthy and sane.
Mother Nature Embracing herself
Updated on Articles- 06.07.2020
Finally the hard work of my wife and daughter fruitful still need to wait a month to get tomatoes and two months for peas. I may able to see sunflower before we win COVID. Below is the home garden updated picture of Pot-flower and Pot-vegetable.😊
Home Garden-Daisy, Basil, Clemantis & Coriander
Home Garden-Peas, Pansy, Sunflower & Tomatoes
Dr. Manohar Kumar- Work as a researcher and explores the wonders of nature if time permits. Currently, he is working from home on his research and trying to be a good father. Link of his research work- https://www.ManoharKumar.org