Lethbridge is nestled in southern part of the province of Alberta, Canada, with just over one lakh population. I live here with my wife. We were excited about the prospect of visiting Odisha in April, 2020, to meet our family, including my 93-year-old father-in-law, and friends. But COVID-19 had other plans.
Like most other parts of the world, there was complete lockdown in the country, although our area is sparsely populated and has registered only a few infected people (17 till May 3). Needless to mention, Canada’s population (3.7 crore) is less than that of Odisha (4.6 crore) despite being the second largest country in the world behind Russia in terms of total area.
This kind of a situation had never happened before. So everyone, including us, was apprehensive about life during the lockdown. The biggest adjustment for us has been staying at home for about 23 hours a day without taking time off from work and being unable to visit our grandchildren who live only two hours away. The Alberta government has not barred inter-city travel but we, like many other Albertans, are practising it.
I feel I am not very efficient working from home in spite of being equipped with 24×7 fast internet facility, phone, facsimile and all kinds of computer-related gadgets. Consequently, the tasks a research scientist needs to perform on a daily basis are not proceeding satisfactorily. Laboratory, greenhouse, growth cabinet and field plot work have come to a halt. Our centre is managing only the essential services, such as watering the plants growing indoors, feeding animals and insects involved in research, with skeleton staff.
The second most difficult adjustment has been buying the necessities of life while following restrictions like maintaining physical distance put on shoppers and coming across empty shelves, which one had never seen before. Although most stores are open, items such as toilet papers and hand sanitizers are either not available or are being rationed. Countless requests from leaders and administrators to avoid hoarding have largely fallen on deaf ears and non-perishable items have at times been scarce.
The last but not the least adjustment for us has been dealing with too much contact between us and proximity to snacks. Both of us are now working from home; only one did in the past. Simple things such as what temperature the room should be set at and who would go where for conference or video calls have to be negotiated constantly. Proximity to snacks is a problem for people who can gain weight just by looking at food! Little wonder, both of us have gained some serious weight and
will now need new clothing!
(The writer is a Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and an alumnus of OUAT, Bhubaneswar)