COVID-19 Diaries: Jugaad


I am in the bedroom browsing through my phone when I hear Laddu’s voice.

“Mommy, my glasses broke.”

It takes a minute to register.

“What do you mean broke? Broke?”

The questions swirled. How? When? Who?

In the end, I inspected the glasses, pronounced it dead. The lack of emotion, the lack of panic. The staid acceptance of the fact stood out in stark contrast to how I would have reacted in normal times.

I logged in, ordered a pair of glasses to be delivered in a week or two. I tried taping the old glasses. It did not work. I hunted for glue, did not find it, and calmly explained to Laddu she had to make do without glasses for the next few days. She seemed to understand.

An hour later, she and her sister Pattu came down the stairs excited. Pattu managed to secure the broken side of the glasses using an old hairband. Laddu seemed immensely proud of her sister.

‘Jugaad,’ I said.

We call this jugaad in India. This resigned acceptance. This way of figuring to make do. This attitude of adjusting, making the best of a given situation.

The kids ran off. I played pop music on the tiny Bluetooth speaker in the kitchen as I made aval upma. The fragrance of the green peppers sautéing in coconut oil, the heady scent of limes as I squeezed it over the just mixed one-pot dish lingered in my hands.

Everything should have been upbeat. It was not.

There is a sense of resignation about everything. The day ahead. The week, the month, the year ahead feels shrouded in uncertainty. I desperately crave my routine. The distinction between work hours and home hours. The demarcation between the weekend and the weekdays. The ability to wave the kids off to their teachers so I can focus on the things I want to do.

I think about the month that should have been, touring the middle school, sitting in a packed auditorium listening to the new Principal wax eloquent about the sixth grade. The course selections, the building walkthrough, the fifth-grade finale, the walkout. The sense of loss is huge.

I put myself in the shoes of the school administrator(s) and come up short when I think of safe ways to be back in school for the next academic year. The idea that this routine, this false sense of safety can stretch years into the future is depressing.

The impact of what we are going through as a nation, as people inhabiting the only world we know is immense. I try to frame it as a reset, a return to gentler ways of being. All I can see are shattered lives, broken economies, starving people, and death in large numbers.

This gloom is all-pervasive. The uncertainty is numbing. I am afraid of the apathy that will descend. The ability to see past anything that has little to do with me, with my family, with the people I care about.

I hope the future is not as grim as my heart and mind portend. I truly do.

2 thoughts on “COVID-19 Diaries: Jugaad

  1. It wont be Laksh. I would say keep faith in whatever ways you know. It might be a long haul – but we will pull thru. It is all despair if you think about it – about all of it. So I try to tell myslef not to think. There is no point. Live for now, for today.

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