Quarantine Activities That Have Kept Me Sane

Because we’ve reached more than 100 days in quarantine and I’ve started to think my social contacts consist of the deer and rabbits in my backyard. 🙂

As a disclaimer, I would say one of the most powerful things that has lifted my spirits is talking to friends and family. However, it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. With studying being one of my top priorities, (mental health being the first),  I haven’t really been reaching out to friends as much as I should, and I have definitely reduced my social media presence. But falling off of the face of the earth was all fun and games until I realized it wasn’t sustainable. So in addition to maintaining social contact with real humans and not just the animals in my backyard, here are some things keeping me sane during this lovely time. 

1. Exercising daily

Yeah, you read that right. I never worked out more than maybe two or three times a week, but about 6 days into quarantine I realized that if I didn’t move around for a bit, my homemade bread loaves would catch up to me. I started doing some light exercises on my own and slowly bumped this up to following Youtube videos. Fortunately, my parents also wanted to join in, so we started following some simple 10 – 20 minute videos together. As our stamina increased, we started working out at least 30 min to sometimes 1 hour a day. Over time, I noticed an improvement in my general mood and confidence. We had come back from India in March when quarantine started and so losing the extra weight from eating all the amazing food was definitely a plus. In addition to improvements in mood, I generally just felt more motivated to keep going, and it was a positive feedback loop as I got stronger. I would especially like to shout out the fitness YouTubers Emi Wong and Chloe Ting. They are the reason I see increased muscle tone and some ab lines starting to shyly introduce themselves.

2. Cooking new foods

In addition to our homemade bread recipe, cooking new foods has helped me express my creativity and feel more in control of my health and wellbeing. When I was in college I definitely dabbled in some staple dishes like fishes, pastas, rice dishes, etc., but not as often as now. Now that I am home and school is out, I have some more freedom to try out different things. Some new things that I have tried include homemade bread, english muffins, shakshuka, lasagna, sweet potato toast, risotto, and seared scallops. Some staples that I continue to thrive on include overnight oats, pasta, and salad. It feels nice to take charge of our lunch and/or dinner from time to time, and I am glad I can contribute to our household in some tangible way. I sure know it makes my parents happy. 

3. Listening to some dope music

I do this whether we are in a pandemic or not, but it definitely has a therapeutic effect. Sometimes a solo dance party in your room is all you need. I can’t jam to music at parties right now but I sure can in the shower.

4. Gardening

One day we were using green onion in something and had cut off the roots. My mom had the idea of planting them in our backyard so they would grow more. We also had some pumpkin seeds laying around that we planted as well. Instead of eating the resulting pumpkin fruit as one normally would do, we actually harvest the flowers, coat them in batter, and deep fry them. It tastes so so good. Anyways, in just a week, we saw the pumpkin seeds starting to sprout, and the green onion had already shot upwards. I’m not sure if it was the lawnmower dude or the rabbits, but one day I went out with scissors to use some of the green onions in my cooking, only to find them obliterated. The perpetrator had also gnawed off the start of the pumpkin leaves. So one wild Saturday, my mom and I drove to this small farm place and got some mint, coriander, zucchini, cucumber, roses, lilies, zinnias, and celosias. I read on Twitter that placing flowers around your vegetable plants protect them from creatures, and so far, that has worked! We also had an existing green chili plant and some basil. After buying the new plants, we replaced the soil on both the old and new guys and they have been thriving. 

Pink celosias (top) and zinnias (bottom)!

Overall, I’d say working on something consistently and feeling accomplished as you watch your growth and progress has been super rewarding. In that way, exercising, cooking, and gardening are alike. They have helped me develop a more robust sense of self during this time, and for that I am thankful. 

5 Reasons Why ‘Never Have I Ever’ is Rightfully Number One on Netflix RN

Devi, Kamala, and Nalini at Ganesh Puja

Having recently watched this show on Netflix, it left me feeling so many things that I had to share. So keep reading for 5 reasons why this show is so great. *Spoiler alerts* below.

1. It deals with grief and unresolved trauma.

This is something that was so refreshing to see on a show. Devi’s loss of her dad left her feeling deeply saddened but we see how she chooses to suppress and avoid this. She becomes defensive and aggressive any time her dad is brought up, and tries to suppress her memories and flashbacks by channeling her thoughts into sex and Paxton. Regardless, we get to understand through her eyes why her dad was so important to her and how she is coping with his loss. 

2. Different parenting styles

Mohan is a warm and accepting father while Nalini is a strict and protective mother. Fabiola’s mother wants to connect with her and can be overbearing at times,  but has a good heart. Eleanor’s mom is too selfish to be there for her daughter. Ben’s parents are both away all the time, leaving Ben feeling lonely. No parent is perfect, and we get to see each parent struggle in their own way to understand their kids. 

Mohan comforting Devi while she wonders if she’s ugly. (Of COURSE NOT)

3. Loneliness and Insecurity

The two boys in Devi’s life, Ben and Paxton, respectively show us how loneliness and insecurity are common and human.  Ben never gets to see his parents and doesn’t feel noticed by them, making him feel lonely and resulting in him often spending nights with his housekeeper, playing basketball, or hanging out on Reddit. It even leads to him being catfished! But it reinforces how loneliness is common and can be something we all feel. Paxton’s sister has Down’s syndrome, and we see him get defensive and upset at Devi for hanging out with her. He’s protective of his sister, and doesn’t want anyone to hurt her. 

4. Kamala and Devi’s relationship

Of course, Devi’s friendship with Fabiola and Eleanor is awesome to see, but I really enjoyed seeing Kamala and Devi’s relationship. It reminded me of my cousin, who like Kamala, has come from India to get her PhD. Watching them bond over keeping secrets and overall just having each other’s back was very heart-warming to see. 

5. Prashanth

I left this one for the end, but it definitely is not the lowest priority. When he came at the Ramakrishnan’s door looking like THAT, I was so surprised. My approval intensified when he came with a gift for Kamala, and peaked when he was emotionally aware enough to recognize that Devi did not necessarily want to play the harp. It really makes you reconsider an arranged marriage. Also, the part they mentioned about Indian guys wanting a girl who will be his mom. The stereotype is that these boys are treated like kings at home to such an extent that they are coddled, and can end up growing up to be entitled. Prashanth so far does not meet that stereotype, and he reminds me that not all men are like that. 

And so, my girl Mindy Kaling really did it again. She covered a lot of ground with this show, and I hope it continues to get the recognition it deserves. Well done!

Life Happens, ft. Corona

3.13.20. It’s honestly crazy how life can change. On Thursday 3/5, the week before spring break, I was excitedly lugging my suitcase on the 28X airport shuttle, on my way home to Boston. We were going to be attending my cousin’s wedding in India for the week of spring break. When my dad picked me up from Logan Airport, he was kind of quiet, but I didn’t think anything of it. I was too busy planning my basic brown girl Instagram post in my head. I envisioned what outfits I would wear, and which ones would photograph the best. The post would have been all about me, even though it was not my wedding.

When we get home from the airport, I can tell something is off with my mom too. She sits me down, and tells me the news: my boro jetu (uncle) has passed away. His son was the one who was supposed to get married. We are still going to India, but the wedding is postponed. We anticipate attending the shraddho (last rites ceremony) held after about 12 days after death, instead. And so, I leave my kurtis and simple tops in the suitcase, but take out the lehenga and fancier salwar kameez. My mom takes out the jewellery and wedding gifts.

On Friday morning (3/6), I am snoozing my alarm every few minutes. Usually, I don’t need more than two to wake up, but today perhaps my subconscious knows I am not looking forward to break. I still go to my interview that afternoon. The simple acts of taking the glamorous orange line into the city, walking on the familiar brick-adorned streets, and listening to my ‘S20 Greatest Hits’ playlist, are calming. When one of my interviewers innocently asks my plans for break, I can feel my face get flushed and tears welling up. I’m not sure if he notices this, but he gracefully changes the topic after I answer. Besides that one small moment, everything goes smoothly and I head back home. By 9pm that evening, my parents and I are at Logan again, suitcases in hand, this time at Terminal E.

Views from Bos -> Doha (i think? i took a bunch of these and there were many hours of flying; just enjoy the views ok)

Today 3.13.20, it’s almost a week later, and we are in Kolkata. In a few days we will go to the shraddho for boro jetu. Although the reason we are here is sour, we have managed to make our lemonade, so to speak, by celebrating Holi, going shopping, and doing some sightseeing. My mejo mashi (aunt), mejo jeti (aunt), and choto maima dida (i want to say great aunt), are all bringing us the absolute best Bengali vegetarian food (no meat, maach, eggs, onions, garlic until the shraddho day). But today at 5:30 am, I wake up and can’t go back to sleep, so I decide to connect to Wifi and check my phone. I learn that CMU has decided to make classes online, and is encouraging students to complete their semester remotely. Carnival is canceled. My lab tech has texted me asking if he can pull the plug on my current cell plates. I consent, which breaks my heart as both a scientist and cell mom.

Me and my daughter cells, circa Feb 2020

Life doesn’t always wait until you are ready. Sometimes, it just happens. Although I was having a great time the first half of the semester, I was looking forward to goofing off even more. It is important to remember that things could be a lot worse, and that we are not alone. I pray that this measure does a great job at preventing further spread. We are blessed. Perhaps yes, I did not need a third PDT formal to realize I am not the dance master I claim to be. Also, if you have seen the meme, yes, “Corona” does indeed sound like something a Bengali girl in the mood would say. It loosely translates to “Please, do it”. When I told this to my parents, they couldn’t help but laugh.

To whoever is reading this, you are not alone. We shall overcome, and this too, shall pass.

Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

Albus Dumblebore

3 Things I’ve Learned Senior Spring of College

1. Be Selfish

It’s senior spring. It’s the last semester of college. The thing about the last semester is, it’s exactly that, the last semester. As basic as it sounds, it really is the time to make it count. While it can be stressful to think about what the future holds, remember to truly live in the present. The friends, professors, and classmates we have right now, are here with us, right now. While it is important to plan for what we will be doing next, it is also important to make sure you are having fun everyday. That’s right, everyday! And I’m not saying you have to party on a weekday, although that can definitely happen, but make sure you are taking the time outside of class to really laugh and enjoy yourself. That could look like getting lunch with a friend, or something as simple as listening to your favorite music.

2. Spend time with people who make YOU happy.

I thought of this one from my experience talking to guys. Just because they like you, doesn’t mean you have to like them. What I mean by this is, just because a guy is pursuing you and wants to spend time with you, doesn’t mean you have to give it to them. Sometimes this is obvious, but sometimes there is a guy that you’re not sure of quite yet how you feel about them. Just make sure you like them for their character, and not just because they like you. Really make sure you feel the same way first. Time is so precious, and it isn’t worth spending it in areas that don’t make you happy. This goes for friends too: if you feel like you’ve grown out of someone, or no longer feel like you guys connect, there is nothing wrong with spending less time with them. As long as you are mature about it, it’s perfectly fine. 

3. Choose people who choose you

Conversely, don’t invest time in people who aren’t investing their time in you. And I don’t mean for this to sound like a business transaction, but if you feel that you are putting in more effort than someone else, it’s okay to snip snip. Don’t pour yourself into someone who isn’t ready to accept it. Spend time with your truest and closest friends, with whom you feel like yourself, and with whom you feel free. Whenever you spend time with a person, (romantic or platonic) always always ask, does this person add value to my life or take away from it? You are in control. Of your emotions, your time, your heart. All of it. It’s in your hands. You have the power to create a great path for yourself. So why not chase it with all your strength?

Little Women- the women and their respective men

After recently watching Little Women in theaters, I am so inspired by the story. I’ve already checked around to see where I can get a reasonably priced copy of the book. I really saw myself in some of the characters. Turns out that even though the story was written way long ago, the way the women deal with dating and love is surprisingly similar to modern day dating. If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, *spoiler alerts* ahead.

The story has love triangles for sure, but the most integral conflict that each woman faces is balancing her own happiness with her responsibilities to the family. From a young age, the women are taught to be selfless and always serving. The family often visits the homeless, and gives what they can to the less fortunate. The women are faced with pressure from their Aunt to marry rich and support their family, but see how happy their Mom and Dad are as well. Mr. and Mrs. March however never pressure their children to marry rich or anything, and encourage them to pursue what they are passionate about. The family is seen putting on plays together, and each girl has her own hobby and passion. Jo is an avid writer, Amy a striking artist, Beth an incredible piano player, and Meg a rising actress. The men that Jo, Meg, and Amy each end up with speaks a lot to each of their characters, and how they treat their male suitors reflects their own characters as well.

A closer look at the sisters

Meg- the oldest sister, a good girl, follows social norms. She falls in love with the neighbor tutor. They love each other and sometimes struggle with money, but are always on the same team. She really enjoys acting, but wants to get married and be a good wife as well. As the oldest, Meg is never one to break rules, but when she does, she is super hard on herself. She is a good girl inside out.

Amy- the second-to- youngest. She gets angry when she doesn’t get attention (same), and has had a crush on Laurie forever. She’s not afraid to make the first move when she likes someone. Throwback to when she makes a mold of her foot to remind Laurie that she has nice feet. You go, girl. She’s also tired of being second to Jo all the time. Goes to Paris to foster her interest in painting and meet a nice rich man. (A good economic move). Fearless, assertive, and bold. Eventually, Laurie and her get married and are happy together.

Jo- Strong, ambitious, and passionate. Loves writing. She is comfortable in her own skin and is not afraid to go after what she wants. Very independent and free. Runs away from boys and pushes them away. The closer they try to get to her, the more she distances herself (same, yikes). Even if she loves them. She is never one to chase a man, and does not want to get married. But also, is super lonely. The french dude is super into her, but when he tells her that her writing is not good (how dare he), she gets mad and leaves. The dude is so into her that he shows up to Concord, MA and ends up meeting the entire family. He tells everyone that he is going to California for work. Besides, it’s not like he has a reason to stay *hint hint* @Jo. Eventually, with the help of her entire family she musters the courage to tell the french dude she is into him.  

Beth- Rest in peace, dear Beth. The youngest daughter. Super sweet, wholesome, and shy. Befriends Mr. Lawrence next door because of her fire piano skills. She is always encouraging of her sisters to pursue their passions. Although we don’t get to see her when she is older, I would hope that she meets a super sweet dude. The type of guy who, when no one hears what she said in the convo, would take the time to acknowledge what she said. We love those men.

Overall, loved this movie. Definitely recommend it. Which character do you most resonate with? Are we all a little combination of all these women?

Intro Post!

My name is Puja, and welcome to my blog! I’m a current college student, studying biology and pre-med, and love writing. I also love going out with friends, cooking, and connecting with people. I want this blog to be pretty open ended, and have it be a peek into my life and what I’m about. Although I journal as well, I wanted to start blogging publicly as well in the hopes that someone out there can relate to my writing, feel inspired, or even just have a laugh. Thanks for visiting!! 🙂

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