COVID-19 SPECIAL

19 during Covid-19: Small actions have big impact on others

Five interns at The Sunday Times reflect on how the pandemic has affected their lives and what they have learnt during this period of enforced isolation

Every morning, I wake up to the blinding image of my 24-year-old sister throwing open the curtains of our temporarily shared bedroom window. Armed with a huge cup of chai, she is ready to tackle her work e-mails before I can even process which day of the week it is.

Every time I tip-toe into the kitchen to make lemonade for myself, some mysterious force alerts my family members and four voices arise from different parts of the house, asking me to make a glass for each of them.

Every meal involves my father serenading us with new statistics about the virus, my grandmother chiming in with dubious news from India, delivered express through WhatsApp.

Of course, these small inconveniences are insignificant. I am thankful for having a roof over my head, a loving family to spend time with and an internship to keep my brain well-oiled.

But it is easy to get under one another's skins when you are cooped up together for more than a month.

A couple of weeks ago, the house was teeming with tension and outbursts simmered on the horizon. We were not used to spending so much time with one another, and four working adults suddenly having to adapt to working from home was challenging, to say the least.

Two weeks on, however, a sense of calm prevails. We have learnt to respect one another's space and make small sacrifices, such as taking turns to do the cooking and cleaning.

My father has reluctantly agreed to ban discussions of the virus from the dinner table and my mother has taken to gathering the family for a round of carrom and the occasional karaoke.

One thing I will take away from this experience, other than my freshly minted expertise in making round rotis, is the realisation that having a friendly and supportive family helps me stay sane. This circuit breaker period has forced us together in a way no family vacation ever has and, for that, I am grateful.

The writer, 19, is using the circuit breaker period to learn to make rotis from her grandmother, Mrs Neela Phatale (both above).
The writer, 19, is using the circuit breaker period to learn to make rotis from her grandmother, Mrs Neela Phatale (both above). PHOTO: SWATI BHARADE

Living with my 75-year-old grandmother has also taught me that my actions can have negative consequences on others. Contracting the virus may not harm me, a 19-year-old, but the thought of potentially infecting my grandmother, who may have severe symptoms, gives me the shivers.

So even before the circuit breaker period, I cancelled lunch and dinner plans to avoid public transport during peak hours. Instead of taking my grandmother to crowded malls, we frequented East Coast Park and Bedok Reservoir whenever the urge to step outside got too strong.

While I want this virus banished as much as the next Singaporean craving bubble tea, I cannot deny that this circuit breaker has changed me for the better.

I hope the lessons I learnt will put things into perspective and I will be able to see how small actions of carelessness can affect less fortunate members of our society. I regret only that it took a pandemic for me to truly understand this.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 10, 2020, with the headline 19 during Covid-19: Small actions have big impact on others . Subscribe