00:01 Prathap Nair
Welcome to the second season of record of change.
I’m Prathap Nair, your host for this episode.
Here at the podcast, we follow eight people from around the world to understand the effect of the Covid 19 pandemic on their lives.
Today, we’re headed to Bengaluru, India to talk to Alan Rocha.
Alan says the prolonged lockdown has made him appreciate the smaller things in life.
Though it has not made him anymore religious than before, he’s looking forward to a drastically stripped-down version of Christmas celebrations with his parents.
It has also, in a subtle way, changed the course of his long-distance relationship with his partner.
We hope it’s for the better.
00:52 Alan Rocha
I am good.
00:55 Prathap Nair
So the last time we spoke, you had not met your boyfriend, your partner, in so many months.
You were going to meet him.
01:06 Alan Rocha
So yeah we did meet at the end of the month, end of September, we spent a week together, we got to spend time after roughly six / seven months.
01:21 Prathap Nair
How did that go?
01:22 Alan Rocha
It went well, it was different.
We both knew that it's going to be like this for quite some time now, going forward.
The ease of meeting each other will not be as it was before.
So yeah it felt good after meeting for a long time.
But then there was a little bit of a strange feeling too because you're meeting after so long.
Though we are staying connected but yeah meeting face-to-face too makes a difference.
01:55 Prathap Nair
Did you guys meet after that?
Are you meeting from time to time?
After that we will be meeting in the end of December.
And you told me you were going to talk to him, you both were going to talk about opening [your] relationship so you can meet other people.
Have you done any of that?
02:19 Alan Rocha
We did discuss that and we are currently in an open relationship.
So yeah, we figured that this distance is going to be longer and felt we won't be able to meet that often.
So yes, open is what we will do, so we are less sexually frustrated.
So yeah we have an open relationship now.
02:49 Prathap Nair
So tell me this, would this have happened, would you have opened your relationship if this pandemic had not happened?
02:56 Alan Rocha
No I don't think so.
I think this September made it a year since we had been together.
And we wouldn't have taken up this topic or spoken about it at least for some foreseeable
time, we weren’t even thinking of it, because of the pandemic, things kind of got advanced.
Maybe this would have happened a little down the line but this got pushed further and advanced further.
And we did bring up this topic because of the COVID, yes.
03:31 Prathap Nair
Because before that you were meeting each other a week.
03:35 Alan Rocha
Yeah we have a meeting at least once in two weeks.
03:46 Prathap Nair
And so, since we spoke last time, things are slowly opening up…
03:59 Alan Rocha
Pretty much everything has opened up in Bangalow.
So how different does your life look right now as opposed to how it looked in September when we spoke.
Now it looks like it's all gone back to normal, are you making use of this liberty to go to office at your own convenience.
04:21 Alan Rocha
See this liberty was there even for me in the month of June / July, it was slowly kicking
in because real estate I work with the company which is related to real estate business.
So they all had picked up work since June because they couldn't keep their labors idle.
So the work happened at all these residential buildings.
So our company also obviously.
Since we are working in line with the builders as such, our business also started picking up.
So I'm still going out but I think there's no sense of complete freedom, whereas we can go in and walk into any office or walk into any site for any meetings.
It all has to be pre-planned, pre-approved and then we can take anything forward.
Earlier the luxury of say scouting or just doing a random field work just to scout and see certain potential clients - that has become a really tough task.
So that sense of freedom in work has come down because of the COVID situation.
Everybody's still back to say the new normal I would say but there's a sense of caution still..
05:46 Prathap Nair
So what are the precautions they're taking?
For example if you're going to meet a client what kind of precautions are being taken?
05:52 Alan Rocha
So these days, clients or even our company mandates face-to-face meeting is only encouraged when there’s a dire need.
Otherwise we are encouraged to do virtual meetings.
Don't entertain any walk-ins for a meeting, all has to be pre-planned.
So they do take the necessary precautions because nobody wants to be in the receiving end of the COVID infection.
So yeah precautions are there.
They are not very open to meeting face to face just like that.
And if we do meet people then there is a sense of social distancing in terms of the
conference room how many people can be seated or in any cabin how many people can meet.
And if it is at a site level, we are asked to prepare gloves mask temperature checks all those basic guidelines have been followed.
That's what's happening at work.
Have you done any fun stuff in the past three months?
Have you picked up a hobby at anything in lockdown?
07:21 Alan Rocha
There's no new hobby that I've picked up.
Probably I started paying attention to the plants outside.
I never do earlier.
Since we last spoke, I remember telling you that we shifted homes.
So the earlier days, I had planted pots across and I had few plants and they never used to survive.
So now I'm at least paying attention to them.
And I can’t say gardening because there's hardly five, six potted plants but yeah I’m paying more attention to that.
So I can say that there's a small developing habit or a pastime.
08:02 Prathap Nair
What kind of plants do you have?
08:05 Alan Rocha
I don't know the names of it, but yeah two lilies and then yeah two ferns.
I don't know the names of it.
I am not an avid gardener.
As long as they're alive.
That's the goal number one.
08:20 Prathap Nair
Okay cool, So did you visit your parents?
08:20 Alan Rocha
No I'm going after a year in this month for Christmas.
So I visited in the last year for Christmas and I was supposed to go and meet them for Easter which was in the month of April.
Unfortunately from March 22nd is when all this happened the lockdown happened.
So even though the lockdown was lifted, I did not want to risk traveling at that point of time.
Because I'm sure a lot of people would want to travel back and forth.
But yeah now for Christmas I am traveling home.
09:05 Prathap Nair
How do you think this Christmas will be?
I think it'll be weird?
09:08 Alan Rocha
I think it’ll be really different because, I don't know, because for me Christmas revolves around going for midnight
mass to church, come back put baby Jesus in the crib, then have a little bit of wine & cake with each other and go to sleep.
And the next day morning, you start feasting on all the food mom has made, but this
time it's going to be totally different because there is going to be online mass.
So mass is going to be at home.
I don't know how an online mass will impact but I don't think I would get the feel of Christmas.
But yeah the feeling of Christmas probably also would not be that much this year because it's just going to be the four of us.
I don't think either my mom's side or my dad's side anybody is planning to get together because most of them are on the older side.
So I don't think anybody would want to risk but yeah it's just going to be the first time Christmas with just four of us.
So probably we'd have to reinvent ways of enjoying Christmas.
I’m not particularly religious, I'm not someone who would go to church.
I hope my mom isn’t listening to this but I'm not going to church every Sunday.
So I remember her giving me grief when the lockdown started, she said you have to listen to online masses.
So I was like, no I think I can just pray to myself, I think that would suffice.
10:56 Prathap Nair
But you didn't find yourself swaying towards religion during the lockdown in the past eight nine months.
You've not felt any more religious than before?
11:07 Alan Rocha
No nothing of that sort.
11:10 Prathap Nair
Okay did you attend any online mass after your mom's…
11:14 Alan Rocha
No happened I haven't attended any online mass.
Uh I just do my regular morning prayers whenever I wake up…
11:26 Prathap Nair
So you don't pray every day?
11:28 Alan Rocha
But I don't basically follow the standard I have to go to church every Sunday If I don't go to church, it's
considered to be a mortal sin…so no that way I'm not that religious but, I do say some prayers before I wake up
11:47 Prathap Nair
Has your prayer ever included this pandemic
? Alan Rocha: Yeah I definitely did pray that this ends soon but I did not question him.
I think this is kind of self-brought by us.
So you can't really blame God.
I think this was something which is supposed to hit us sometime now or sometime in the future.
We have to pay more attention but I think we should be more keen about our surroundings.
I think people are more aware right now.
I hope it stays like that.
Once the vaccine comes in, everything gets forgotten It's quite easy that we all go back into our old ways.
From what you're saying, it looks like people have gone back to their old ways.
Do you think there will be an awareness?
If you were to say like a few lessons that you had taken yourself from this pandemic, what would you say?
12:56 Alan Rocha
I think a major thing is I should not take things for granted.
That's what I have, like certain things I just kept it aside I thought okay this will just move on.
But I think taking things for granted as what I have understood that should not be the case after this pandemic.
We need to be more vigil, appreciate whatever you have at that point of time.
Don't too crib much.
The biggest takeaway for me during the pandemic is that.
And yes I'm being more self-sufficient and not just relying on somebody or leaning on somebody just for basic things.
And then I also realized appreciation to all these menial things in life.
But washing vessels after cooking, my God, I don't know how my parents did it.
Every night I cook, in the morning there are dirty dishes in the sink.
And then I'm like I cook in the afternoon and I cleaned that up.
And then again it's filled up with dirty dishes.
So yeah that's a profound appreciation to my parents - who clean dishes - probably in India where we get maids to come clean it.
But yeah that's what I meant like such small menial things which did not make much of a difference now you pay heed to it.
14:41 Prathap Nair
Cool so that's what the pandemic taught you.
Since the lockdown started did you go out to a restaurant to eat?
14:48 Alan Rocha
Yeah I did.
So for my work, when I'm traveling around for some meetings in between, if I have to grab lunch,
I do go grab lunch at local restaurants, and not many people are actually dining in per se.
I think most of them are delivery boys standing in queue to take up all the deliveries and go.
But nobody's really dining in there are a few brave hearts dining in, and enjoying the luxury of space and less hustle bustle in the restaurants.
But yeah sadly because of that a lot of places are shutting down in and around Bangalore which is a very sad thing
to see because things were just opening up with such grandeur and then this thing happened and they can't survive.
So a lot of places are shutting down sadly in Bangalore per se the weekend culture of shopping or going out for eating.
And the funny thing is Bangalore is empty because all the IT crowd, since they've got work
from home and they're all gone to their respective hometowns, so there's no crowd too.
And on top of that nobody's venturing out and going to restaurants and pubs or even you know meet up and spend time.
So yeah it's quite a different scenario.
16:14 Prathap Nair
I hear Tobi barking in the background…
16:16 Alan Rocha
No that's not Toby, that's another dog on the other street..
16:20 Prathap Nair
So speaking of which, how are Toby and Penny?
16:24 Alan Rocha
Penny got knocked up and she hasn't come back home.
I think she's gone to go give birth somewhere.
She hasn't returned, it's been a week I guess.
I was raising her as a combination of a house cat who ventures out.
Because I adopted her similarly.
So she was not very keen on sitting inside home.
I think she's due and that's why she's gone off somewhere to give birth, because, I think at home
since Toby is there, she obviously is a female cat and once they give birth they'll be more guarded.
So she doesn't find this a safe space.
So I'm sure she'll come probably with the kittens later on…
17:20 Prathap Nair
She has opened up her relationship with you and she has brought back babies…So have you met any new people after you guys decided this?
17:40 Alan Rocha
I did meet a few people.
I thought a lot of them will have, you know, contentions about meeting because one if I'm a person who's
venturing out a lot, they might be a little, you know, wary about meeting but I didn't find any such problem.
I think it's quite the opposite which is happening.
Because earlier if I say I live in Koramongla and a place named Whitefield is supposedly considered as another city, because it's so far
with that amount of traffic, but now people are actually willing to travel that distance because there is no traffic on roads to come meet.
The distance within the city is now shorter and I feel because there's not many people on roads.
There is traffic, but it's bearable.
The pandemic has shrunk distances within the city.
18:49 Prathap Nair
Yeah at least within Bangalore.
But are the buses running?
18:53 Alan Rocha
Buses have started running, yes, and a lot of people have started travelling.
I can see a lot of posts from people going to travel.
I think my boyfriend is going to Kodaikanal now with a bunch of his friends to celebrate his birthday, not his birthday, but his friend's birthday.
So yeah, there are people venturing out for I think local tourist destinations within the state.
In certain states, it's quite strict because I think Kerala and Maharastra I think still have more strict rules for coming in and going out.
But I think there are people touring and there's a lot of people coming to the local tourist spots which are open.
19:36 Prathap Nair
So domestic tourism is picking up.
19:39 Alan Rocha
Yeah definitely picking up.
20:01 I don't think India can afford another lockdown anymore.
Even if a lockdown happens, I think it will be met with a lot of backlash.
Because I think the lockdown that happened for those three months itself has shattered many things.
Now mostly focus is on rebuilding rather than again hindering that process of rebuilding.
So I think now everybody's notion is either you stay safe, take your precautions, this thing is not that big of a deal, I guess some of
the emotions are either you get it and it might pass through or you already have it and you are out of it, just that you were asymptomatic.
20:47 That's the notion.
I think now everybody's just gunning for, just holding on until a vaccine comes and then back to your normal.
20:58 Prathap Nair
Will you take the vaccine?
21:02 Alan Rocha
I haven't thought of it, but I don't think I would immediately.
Probably first of all I think the vaccine to reach each one of us would take a long time because uh I think the
government also, I was reading an article that the main concentration is not to vaccinate everybody in India.
And it's about vaccinating that targeted group which needs or is suspect to transmit.
So I think the frontline workers and the ones who are in the target groups that would be the first ones to
even receive it because I am sure availability of the vaccine is not going to be easy in the initial days.
So even if it comes to an option of me choosing to take the vaccination, I think I can see it happening early next year where the choice of it will come to me…
22:06 Prathap Nair
So, I wish in whatever lockdown form you’re going to be celebrating your Christmas, I wish you a merry Christmas.
22:12 Alan Rocha
Thank you so much, same to you.
22:24 Prathap Nair
Next week, my colleague Stephanie talks to McKenzie Roller, an 18-year-old who moved to the American South to do a gap
year work experience with Vote.org, a national non-partisan organization that helps to register and inform eligible voters across the US.
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