Next month, it will be a year since I last physically met my parents. They visited me from Mumbai during Deepavali. We then went on a short cruise to Port Dickson, and, at the end of their stay, they flew home.
None of this is possible now.
How the world has changed in a year! Everything from travel to birthdays to weddings has seen cutbacks in some form or other.
Sport events are being held in empty stadiums with canned applause for company. Politicians are debating in Parliament from behind plexiglass partitions. Nightclubs are still closed.
The heartening thing is that even with all the changes we have been forced to make to things we took for granted, there are attempts at improvising and innovating so that some of life's constants can go on, albeit with edits and workarounds.
One such effort is the plan for a two-way travel bubble for leisure trips between Singapore and Hong Kong.
Just a day after the plan was announced last Thursday, airfares between the two Asian hubs soared.
People in both places voiced relief at the possibility of being able to visit relatives, friends and favourite spots in the other city. Details on how and when are still to be fixed, but it is a step forward in efforts to revive the aviation industry that has taken a massive hit during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Adjustments and tweaks are also being made in other aspects of our lives, such as the way we socialise and mark important life events.
MRT BREAKDOWN: Thousands of commuters on three MRT lines endured delays and disruption during the evening peak hour last Wednesday. The disruption was the worst of its kind to hit Singapore’s MRT network since 2017.
BYTEDANCE: The Chinese owner of video app TikTok is reportedly moving to a bigger office in Singapore’s financial district. It has signed an agreement to lease three floors at One Raffles Quay, according to sources.
EMILY IN PERLIS: A photoshopped image of Lily Collins, the star of Netflix show Emily In Paris, at malls and food stalls in Perlis, Malaysia, was posted on Twitter by user @IzzRaifHarz on Friday. It got him 22,100 likes. A retweet by Netflix Malaysia had more than 1,000 likes.
Couples have swopped large matrimonial ceremonies for "minimonies" with far fewer guests and less pomp. Some terms such as "latermoon", indicating a delayed honeymoon, which have been around from before the pandemic are now more frequently used than before. Elopement is no longer done in secret - it is an acceptable socially distanced way to get hitched with just the couple there for each other.
Staycations and cruises to nowhere have replaced overseas holidays.
In Canada, some provinces are allowing two families to form a double bubble and socialise exclusively with each other. In the US, a "quaranteam" can be formed with a small group of people who are comfortable with one another and have been following quarantine rules. Some families and like-minded individuals are forming vacation or travel pods to take trips together.
Trust among the participants of these bubbles, teams and pods that a strict set of health and safety protocols will be followed by all is vital for such arrangements to work.
Choosing who to form a bubble with is "a little bit like dating", Ms Carolyn Cannuscio, director of research at the University of Pennsylvania's Centre for Public Health Initiatives, told The Washington Post.
According to a July poll conducted by Virtuoso, a global network of travel agencies, 79 per cent of respondents said they would participate in a travel pod.
A blog for the Harvard Medical School on how to socialise during a pandemic says that for many people, social interactions, meeting friends, physically connecting with loved ones are how they remain mentally and emotionally healthy.
Given that social distancing looks like it is here to stay for some time, a range of low-risk options can provide the necessary environment and support.
People are also improvising. Singaporean IT consultant Koh Beng Liang has developed a programme that allows wedding invitees to play "yam seng" on their phone while safely distancing.
If you touch the button on this website once, it plays "yaaaam"; two fingers on the button will get you "yamyamyam"; and you can release all fingers to get "seng".
At least 1,735 users have played it more than 4,000 times since Oct 1.
While we cannot do a lot of what we could, thanks to the pandemic, new ideas and tweaks are allowing us to move ahead, nevertheless.
Let's try to embrace the changes and not hold back from trying them just because things are not the way they were. If we don't try, we will never know what will work in the new normal.
Perhaps this scene is more likely now: A micro wedding with 50 people, each raising a toast and saying "yam seng" by simply touching a button on their phone.
Keep distance and mask on
Masks have become an intrinsic part of our lives, but ever so often, it still feels unreal to see almost everyone outdoors with one on their face.
The pandemic has brought about many changes to our lives, but it is when we step out and see others with half their face covered that it hits home and feels more real.
Other changes such as staying at home more, washing hands more frequently, using the elbow to call the elevator are not as visible as the mask.
It is important to wear one when outdoors as Covid-19 continues to infect people. As long as the virus is out there, the mask will be part of our lives - a reality that is getting more and more underlined as the months pass and we wind down to the end of the year.
So when a photo of a newborn baby tugging at the mask of the doctor who delivered him made its way on social media with the caption, "We all want sign are we going to take off the mask soon," it went viral.
The Instagram post by Dubai-based doctor Samer Cheaib has more than 60,000 likes since it was posted on Oct 5.
"We hope too this comes true," wrote Instagram user @choezin.7.
"God bless to that child cause of his first action we got a hint that CORONA can end soon," said Instagram user @factcard.4
When asked about the photo, Dr Cheaib told Gulf Today that he was delivering twins and the moment was captured by the father. "I pulled out the girl first and then the boy. Surprisingly, the boy tugged at my mask and was trying to pull it off my face. We all laughed," Dr Cheaib was quoted as saying.
Yes, the day when we can all step out maskless is a good thing to wish for, and all the signs that point to it are welcome.