CORONA DIARIES 14: At Home, Chaos Steeped In Confusion

What can a person forced to stay at home possibly do? With going to office suddenly turning passé and stepping out becoming hazardous to health, those trying to break the coronavirus chain through social distancing could well revive the old tradition of writing on their diaries. In our special series, Corona Diaries, New Delhi-based senior journalist Akshaya Mishra captures the subtleties of life and the times we are in.

Adjustment is a nice little word. It explains how one copes with situations that don’t fit into our usual template of responses. Some are good at it, some not so good. The lockdown has made family a full-time gathering and it certainly is not usual. It has ruffled equations and fixed patterns at home, driving many into chaos and confusion. The efforts at adjustment has produced several moments of hilarity of the unintended kind.


One who controls the remote wears the pants at home. It is not difficult to explain. The typical Indian home has one television set, which is controlled by one remote, which is usually in the captivity of the family alpha, and its he or she, generally a he, who decides what gets watched by others. More than a month into lockdown, the issue of control remains unresolved in many houses.

Normal days had it all sorted. The office-goer, usually a male, spent limited time at home. So he was allowed a few hours of free run with the remote after he landed, freshened up, got into his shorts and T-shirt and plonked himself on the sofa before the television set. He watched men wrestling crocodiles or lions ambushing zebra or panel discussions where barking anchors outdecibeled panelists in a cacophonous, indecipherable debate. Meanwhile, the spouse cooked dinner and the kids busied themselves with homework. They choose their programmes in the time slots marked for them. It used to be a neat arrangement-no friction, no conflict and all hunky dory.

The lockdown appears to have ruptured that agreeable picture. The primarily visiting family person is a full-time intruder now. He occupies the best corner of the sofa nearly the whole day, and he is, nearly always, the master of the remote. The sleep-awake routine being the same for all, others have to tolerate crocodiles, lions, snakes, barking anchors and whatever he fancies watching. According to friends, a silent war for the browsing instrument has erupted. There are mini rebellions, minor verbal skirmishes, non-cooperation movements and cases of remote-snatching. In short, the moral authority of the intruder to lord over the family’s choice of entertainment is under challenge.

Amid bristling kids, hissing wives and obstinate men, the matter eludes a settlement acceptable to all. The status quo is unlikely to change unless the lockdown goes.


Trust technology to deliver solutions to intractable problems, including the matter of brewing rebellion in families over the remote. Imagine life without data service, charging devices and the smart phone in the time of lockdown! Well, it is not easy to comprehend. They have become so intrinsic to our existence that we take them for granted like we take for granted free air, water and incompetence of politicians. They become conspicuous only in their absence. Half-a-day without charging drains batteries and after that it’s metaphorical darkness all around.

Too many glum faces at home converging to air frustration is sign of impending trouble. Never underestimate the fury of the social media attention-seeker denied his/her ‘like’ count or that of the binge watchers of web series denied their fix of thrill. But thank god the doomsday scenario is more an exception than rule in most homes these days.

Coming back to the role of technology in domestic conflict resolution, the fight for the remote is less intense what with data service making mobile handsets more versatile and entertaining than television. Now that each member of the family has created their own happy, self-contained private space around mobile phones, the scope for a wider conflagration is minimal.

Someone should change the ‘G’ in 3G or 4G to ‘Jee’ as a mark of respect.


“Why don’t you do something more purposeful? Think, write, for God’s sake do something to exercise the brain and give some meaning to life. Do anything.” Wife asks man at the other end of the sofa. They have been watching television for uninterrupted two hours now and she is tired of him switching channels every two minutes, and is ready to explode.

Man grunts. He is unmoved. He keeps watching monkeys snatching bags from people. It irks the wife more. She has already tried subtle and unsubtle ways to make him vacate the seat, nothing works. Then the idea strikes her.

“You have so much grey hair. You are balding in patches too. Look at you. There are wrinkles in the face. Aren’t you aging fast?” She exclaims. He stares at her, confused at her sudden unwelcome attention to his physical beauty.

She is not done yet. “And you have a pot belly too. It looks like an overpacked cotton sack. Surely you don’t look physically fit,” she continues to his utter bafflement. “When you move out at the end of the lockdown, neighbours would wonder what animal is this. You would resemble a….”

“Enough. Don’t name it.” He sprints to treadmill from sofa even before she can think of hippopotamus. She flashes a smile of victory and grabs the remote. Everything is fair in war and entertainment.

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