The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably disrupted our daily lives and summer plans. With the nationwide lockdown in place and government-mandated social distancing, it’s easy to think we’re living in a somewhat dystopian novel at the moment.

Alone, no friends around, not allowed outside; but in hindsight, are we alone? Are we practicing social distancing?

Yes, physically we are distant. But socially? Not possible when you live in the internet’s era. Ironically, it’s the physical isolation that has brought us closer together.

When I first heard that the lockdown extension would take place, I let out a loud exasperated sigh. The boredom and monotony had been getting to me. Besides, there are only so many recipes a person can try before that exhausts them too. I missed seeing my friends and getting my daily dose of gossip and giggles. That was when apps such as Houseparty and zoom got thrown into the mix, satisfying the need for an unmediated connection with my friends. After that, each day saw me video calling my friends or cousins, having the most random discussions.

My usual non-quarantined self wouldn’t be bold enough to start full-blown conversations with people I barely knew or even met. But thanks to social media, everyone is just one ‘send message’ away from striking up a conversation. And in this world, where we survive on a steady diet of pixels, it takes just one reply to a story or one comment on a post, and Voila!, that’s how you start small talk. A conversation naturally picks up from there, with the need to engage in good dialogue.

So many people in my life turned from strangers to friends, and friends turned into family. If this were in person, I would have already been suffering from an ‘introvert hangover’. And as privileged as it feels to say it, quarantine ended up being a blessing in disguise.

With family, quarantine has finally got us under the same roof 24/7. It would be a lie if I said this did not result in occasional fights. But nothing beats the feeling when you’re all gathered in the hall, discussing the virus or gossiping about relatives, while a corny Telugu movie plays in the background. Opportunities like these don’t come around often. We might never get this much time together again. Tiny moments such as dividing the housework, helping each other cook, choosing what movie to watch at night, have weirdly brought my family closer and made me cherish this quality time. Trust me when I say, I’m making the most of it.

Teaching my grandparents how to use zoom was an initial hassle, but they figured out how to use it. Their faces light up when they see the entire extended family through a screen. It’s something I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world.

I realized that I had taken so many things for granted. Yes, the need for physical interaction remains. The need to go outside at your will remains. But being stuck inside has not been that bad. We’re all in this together, still connected, physically distant but virtually inseparable.

When the government lifts the lockdown and we’re able to go back to our pre-quarantine lives, we’re all going to feel the way Rapunzel felt when she first steps foot outside her tower. But until then we must settle for being Aurora under the witch’s curse and wait for our Prince Charming to arrive in the form of a vaccine.

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