Corona Diaries 9: Of Office Beasts, Home Furniture & Harried Wives

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.

Men were not made for home. Before it sparks a feminist outrage, let’s clarify. It’s because they are hopelessly unevolved for a full-time stay at home. They have been, some housewives would testify, basically a nuisance during the lockdown, totally confused and of little help in household chores. Those with fondness for alcohol and cigarettes and without the foresight to have a good stock of both, are a special case when it comes to being obnoxious. They are behaving like caged carnivores — grumpy, restless and ready to pounce. In general, the male of the species has given a poor account of itself during the time of social isolation. At least you glean as much from the memes going around the social media.


The office etches itself in the genetic code of men after they spend years and years doing the same thing. Office doesn’t necessarily mean a place where only specific work is done. Bring in politics, back-biting, faffing around, eyeing up lady colleagues and all such non-core activities into the picture, and office becomes a different state of existence.

Men, according to unconfirmed accounts of some homemakers, have become like fish out of water after being separated from the routine of office gossip, endless rounds of tea and smoke breaks, efforts to impress the office hottie, watching cricket during long washroom trips, planning volleyball matches or a late evening party, dispensing political views to whoever would listen and doing what they are actually paid for in the time still unaccounted. They still do a lot of gossiping about office matters with colleagues, but without fresh salacious input, it is not much fun.

If it comes across as uncharitable to the male among the office-going species, apologies. To bring in balance to the narrative, the fairer among the species is equally adept at these non-core activities too. But it is possible responsibilities at home detoxes them on a regular basis. It shows in their sense of equanimity during the period of isolation. Also, among men there are exceptions, even glorious ones, to this generalisation.

More than 15 days into the lockdown, men are not only proving misfits at home, but also a pain. “He is an extension of living room furniture these days. Watch him stretched out on the sofa all day, with the movement of fingers on the remote the only sign of activity. It is disgusting. They should open offices,” you overhear a friend’s spouse telling your wife. “He eats like a monster,” you overhear another. “I am tired of feeding him.”

The description of friends brings a big smile on you face. Then you hear your wife. “This man here is worse. In the first few days, he poked his nose into everything and made my life hell. Now he has stationed himself before the television permanently and celebrates wickets or boundaries in IPL matches played years ago as if he is watching them live. Yeah, offices should open quickly.” You agree too, the smile no more in place.

Wiseman prepare for contingency, fools live in the moment. Don’t know whether these are words of wisdom from some great ancient, but the line is so good that somebody somewhere in the world must have uttered it at some point in history. To cut to the chase, we are talking about those who cannot do without their daily tipple and who forgot to plan for the lockdown.

Drinkers, usually boastful of their resourcefulness since they can procure their quota on dry days and even dodge prohibition, are in a sullen mood these days. They just miscalculated the whole corona business. They didn’t stock up booze confident that it would be available on the sly anyway. A few extra bucks is fine. What didn’t occur to them is bootleggers would run scared of the virus and stop plying their trade.

Home and dry now, literally, they are jittery, listless and well, at their worst these days. “I had hoped the lockdown would help this guy get off liquor. No such luck. This man will continue to be a pig,” observed a wife wryily, adding,” I am afraid there will be a liquor riot at shops or bars after the lockdown is over. And he will be looting a few.”


Both the species want the lockdown to be over soon. Men want to be out of home and women want to see them out of home. Familiarity, goes the saying, breeds contempt. Before too much familiarity breeds too much contempt, it would be a relief to be back to the pre-corona life.


[The views of the writer are personal]

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