God knows

One of the consoling facts for both V’s and my parents when we decided to get married was that despite our cultural differences, we shared a religion. Never mind that both of us had stopped going to church regularly by then.

Unfortunately for them, instead of bolstering each other’s faith, we progressively lost it. Nevertheless, I planned to raise my children as Catholics as I was convinced that it would give them structure and community.

However, as I increasingly came to see belief in God and religious rituals as anything more than quaint practices as being as silly as unflinching belief in Harry Potter, I found it would be quite hard to answer “yes” with a straight face questions such as “does God really exist?”.

So, much to our parents’ dismay, religion fell by the wayside.

The result, though, is that my children have been exposed to a much wider set of mythologies than they would have had been insisted on belief in one faith. They never quite took to the Bible, instead been drawn to Hindu mythology. Reading those stories to them, I ended up educating myself and becoming a fan of the sheer fantastic quality of imaginative storytelling. I can see why the Judeo-Christian tradition paled in comparison.

When the government declared schools closed this month, one of the unforeseen side effects was the lack of books. Due to a lack of space, I’ve pruned our bookshelves and relied more on the school and public library. However, even the public library has shut down, so we were forced to turn back to our bookshelves.

And we found Muezza and Baby Jaan, a collection of stories from the Quran by Anita Nair. It had been rejected in the past for being too wordy and having too few pictures, but it seems to have caught on this time (it is a tad worthy and could do with at least one illustration every couple of pages).

While my knowledge of Hindu mythology had been sketchy, my knowledge of Muslim mythology was pretty non-existent, save for knowing the background to some of the festivals and the difference between Sunni and Shia. I tended to fall back on the idea that since the Muslim Holy book shared many stories with the Bible.

Muezza and Baby Jaan tells its religious stories through a series of conversations between a cat and a djinn that takes the shape of a camel. This nesting of stories within the narrative makes it a little complicated, but the kids enjoyed the Muezza-Baby Jaan conversations as much as the Quranic stories, possibly more, so I can’t complain. They also surprised me by remembering some of the common biblical stories, so I guess they aren’t as devoid of Christian mythology as I had thought.

Despite V and I being quite open in our lack of faith in the existence of the divine, our helpers are believers and have done some amount of indoctrination. Mimi, by personality, is more drawn to spirituality and insists she believes in god, though which one keeps changing.

At some point in Muezza and Baby Jaan, Muezza said that when he gets angry, he recites the ninety-nine names of God and then the book proceeds to list then. I read a few and can see the point of this recitation as it has a calming effect as such recitations tend to.

Mimi surprised me by deciding she would read all the ninety-nine names (her reading skills are actually poor, so I was not optimistic about her getting through the Arabic names but she progressed further than I would have expected). She knows she has a tendency to fly into rages and I think she wanted some divine intervention to help her calm herself.

While I have no objection to her reciting the ninety-names of God, I think it would be easier to teach her the Hail Mary and Holy Mary. Apparently, both my children are familiar with the rosary, thank to our helpers. I suggested Mimi could say these prayers when she needs to. Despite my own lack of faith, I can see the value of prayer for a restless child and I have already taught her a nightime prayer (which she seemed fascinated by at the time though I’m sure she’s forgotten now).

The next day Mimi had a fall on her scooter. Suddenly, she said: “I know why. It’s because I fought with you.”

“What?” I asked.

“I said the ninety-nine names of God and said I wouldn’t be angry, but I fought with you. So God punished me by making me fall.”

I was gobsmacked. “That’s not how it works. God – if he exists – doesn’t punish,” I told her.

But then I realised that all the stories we had read recently were of God punishing people. The idea of a vengeful God is so powerful that even children who have never been exposed to it take to it like fish to water almost as soon as they encounter it.

Perhaps to them it is comforting to think that someone out there is controlling things, even our misfortunes. But it is also deeply flawed.

In fact, Catholic catechism has sort of outgrown this idea even before I left the church. The vengeful god of the Old Testament, we were told, was not as important as the forgiving God in the New Testament.

It’s been a long time since I heard the words “God will punish you”. Ironically, the last time I heard it was at my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary mass, where for reasons unknown, I volunteered to do one of the readings and to my horror ended up having to stand before the community enjoining wives to submit to their husbands. I considered coughing over that part, but settled for a smirk.

Maybe the priest heard that in my voice because he decided – to my surprise, because in fact obedience has been left out of wedding vows – to stress that point. Perhaps he saw that his audience was rather unresponsive to his message because he ended with a menacing, “if you don’t, God will punish you!”

Snort.

 

 

 

 

Seven ate nine

This year started off well. You seem to have made one close friend at school and another at home and that’s good enough for me. You were doing well at school. You seem to have found your niche.

It started getting angsty around mid-year. Now that I think about it, perhaps it was the beginning of the new school year. You and your bestie were separated. It wasn’t as hard to make new friends as its been in the past but you weren’t as into them. Your home bestie became a little too bossy.

Perhaps it was the protests in Hong Kong or trying to find schools in Bangalore , but towards the end of the year, we all got more angsty. It seemed like I could never give you enough of what you needed.

I know, I know. You need time, lots of it, and undivided attention. I can only do my best.

It’s hard being you. It’s hard being surrounded by people who seemed to gave found their special thing and are acing it. It’s hard being a dark-skinned kid surrounded by white-skinned people. It’s hard having such big feelings in a little body. It’s hard having a mum who is never there as much or as patient as you would like her to be. You have become daddy’s girl and I am glad.

But we love you, our little firecracker. You are smart as a button. You astonish me with how confidently you move your body. You have such an eye for beauty. Your quirky drawings delight us. One day all that drama will find an outlet and you will blow us away.

January reading list

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Three Women, Lisa Taddeo

This is an ethnographic project that almost reads like fiction. Ya deo follows three women as they navigate sexual lives complicated in some way.

This line on the force of male desire: “men did not merely want, they needed”.

It rings true but is it?

The Golden Mean, Annabel Lyon

Did you ever wonder what Aristotle might be like in bed? No?

Well, read this to find out. It traces the years Aristotle spent working on his greatest project – Alexander the Great. Take this exchange:

Alex: “You’re going to hate an entire nation because you lost one friend?”

Ari: “You’re going to love an entire nation to annoy your teacher?”

And

Ari: “You’ll have to destroy their world just to get into it. What’ll it be worth to you then?”

“You can make the world larger for yourself by conquering it, but you always lose something in the process. You can learn without conquering.”

Alex: “You can.”

The Argumentative Indian, Amarya Sen

  • Loved the giggle worthy opening.
  • The bit about the BJP’s limited success and the soft hindutva – that has changed
  • Shantiniketan: no exams at all (yet he became an economist
  • Stopped half way through and never went back. My bad.

The Position, Meg Wolitzer

The premise is how a book can change lives. The book in question is book about sex, written about one’s parents.

You know how we hate the idea of our parents having sex, what if you discovered a book detailing the sexual exploits of mom and dad? What if not just you but the whole world saw it?

Basically, a family drama that deals with sex and love in different permutations and combinations.

Elle Kennedy: The Deal, The Mistake, The Score, The Goal

Read my thoughts on the chick lit blog here

Sheena Kamal: The Lost Ones, It All Falls Down

Would have been fine if it was a simple missing persons mystery. Turns out to be much more.

Why does the bad guy have to be an outsider though? (not like there aren’t enough white baddies  and Zhang is not a Cantonese name)

My one quibble is how our intrepid (homeless) detectiv, Nora Watts, seems to escape from the most hoary situations. Thrillers are like fairytales – the good guys always win in the end

By the second book, I was sold. In this one, Nora, tries to find her father, but finds her mother. Motherhood – her mother’s, her daughter’s, that of the baddies. Obviously I was all over it.

Overstory, Richard Powers

Thought the individual stories were too fragmented in the beginning but it grew on me (see what I did there?). By the end, had a desperate need to climb the mountain near my house, which I guess is praise?

Didn’t love any of the characters though.

Why wife jokes aren’t funny

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I’m sure none of us has had the good fortune to escape the many jokes which use wives/husbands beleaguered by wives on their family Whatsapp groups. In the sainted past, one could go at least a few days (or even weeks!) without having to listen to these PJs of the worst kind, but now thanks to the wonders of technology one can savour the pleasure of gagging over the sexism of one’s (usually male) family members every day.

I always thought that I belonged to a fairly progressive family (while being under no illusions that the patriarchy is still alive and well). Unfortunately, my cousins whatsapp group is rife with this stupidity. Now seeing as I’m an ardent feminist and usually quite fiesty, you’d be surprised to know that I have kept silent all this while. I didn’t want to rock the boat and be that feminist. Yeah I know.

But even I have my limits. And I won’t deny that I’ve become (even more of) a grumpy ol’ crone since I have been stuck at home. Now I don’t even have literal fresh air to distract me from the irritation of other people.

So when once again, I saw a couple of jokes using wives as a punchline, I decided to speak up. Predictably, the dudes in question got defensive. In trying to explain to them why I disliked these jokes, I found it surprisingly hard to find something online. In fact, when I Googled “why wife jokes are not funny”, the top results were “why women aren’t funny”. Insert facepalm emoji.

As I step out of academia, I am realising more and more how the common sense there does not apply to other people. Many people have just not got the memo, and even if they did, they didn’t understand it.

Since I couldn’t find a readymade explanation for why wife jokes should be consigned to the annals of history, I decided to write one:

These jokes come from a long tradition of jokes that use women as the punchline. Remember the “dumb blonde” jokes that have thankfully died a quiet death? Either women are stupid or frivolous or talk too much. For example, the wife that cannot stop shopping or spending all her husband’s money.

A variation is the poor husband who has to face his wife’s ire (never mind, domestic violence rates). This was the joke that broke the camel’s back on my family group. The problem with the joke is twofold:

  1. It’s flat out tiresome. It’s been made so many times that it gets boring. Also constantly making the same joke about the same group of people is not just not very creative, it’s bullying. What else would you call picking on the same group of people? The punchline of these jokes is essentially – women be crazy ha ha ha. How many times do we have to hear that before we stop laughing?
  2. Jokes function best when they are punching up. A white person joking about being oppressed by a black person would probably fall flat. But when the same dynamic is translated into gender terms, anything goes apparently.
    Women are already subject to discrimination and oppression. (That is something middle-class men do not want to acknowledge became apparent in my family discussion). We may have made great strides in gender equality, but that project is far from finished, even in our privileged circles. Men still rule the roost.
  3. Given the above, jokes which cast men as being at the mercy of their wives are particularly galling. In a similar way to how Indian goddesses as trotted out as examples of how enlightened Indian culture is, these jokes purport that women are supreme in their homes, when the reality is anything but. While women have carved out the home as a source of power for themselves, having not been given the choice to do anything else for centuries, it is still often the man – who has the benefit of economic independence and the whole patriarchal infrastructure shoring up his sense of self worth and entitlement – in most families, who calls the shots in the final analysis even in the home.
    Moreover, like the mythological goddesses, there is a suggestion latent in these jokes of women going too far, of their power (however limited in reality) being in danger of actually threatening men. The joke thus functions as a way of circumscribing what is essentially seen as a transgression of women by ridiculing them.
    Have men ever wondered why women talk so much anyway? Perhaps because they don’t have the luxury of saying just a single word and being heeded at once.
  4. The other problem with these jokes is that they perpetuate stereotypes of men and women that are in the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” vein. This is the very idea that has conveniently kept women out of many spheres arbitrarily deemed the exclusive province of men on “natural” grounds. “Arbitrarily” because from a scientific point of view, men and women are much more alike than different. Many of the differences we insist on seeing, if they exist at all, are the result of social conditioning. So there’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at work here: men and women are different because we insist on saying that they are, and these jokes are part of that narrative.
    The ineluctable difference between men and women is often both the punchline of the joke and its defence. Thus, when it is pointed out that it’s rather cruel to denigrate a group that is already oppressed, the oppression of women itself is called into question. Men and women both have their strengths, we are told. Sure, everyone has their strengths, though I tend to think our strengths are much more individually differentiated, rather than being part of some lumpen “women’s strengths”. Even if one accepts that women as a group have particular “women’s strengths”, we have been historically prevented from exercising them on an equal footing with men.
    The “men and women have their strengths” line is a nice way of saying “stay in your lane, ladies” (and that lane just happens to be subordinate but we’ll be nice and not say so). It’s similar to people justifying the caste system on the grounds that we need this hierarchy for society to work.
    Yes, we know, the world will fall apart if women wear pants, literally or metaphorically. And if such a dastardly eventually were to come to pass, how can men cope by pointing fingers and laughing.
  5. But but “dad jokes” and “inept husband who doesn’t do any work” jokes! How is it that women can poke fun at men? First, see point 2.
    Then, think about how frequently we hear “dad jokes” versus “wife jokes”.
    Finally, I do not find “inept husband” jokes funny. Men refusing to pitch in with the housework and the double burden women carry has serious consequences for women.
  6. So obviously one will finally be accused of, in nicer terms of course, being a humourless feminist bitch. Usually, it is phrased as “no one will be able to make any jokes anymore if everyone gets offended”. The threat of a world without humour has been ongoing for decades at least but as far as I can see, despite the best efforts of us social justice warriors, humour has not died. In fact, dare I say that we have landed up with better humour? Think of stand-up comedy today versus what it was a couple of decades ago when being funny was basically pointing to people who looked different and alughing. Comedians are now forced to reach higher than the lowest hanging fruit and that’s a good thing.
    Try harder, dudes. I’m sure you might actually be funny one day.

 

 

Oscar frocks 2020

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I had been meaning to do Grammy picks, Bafta picks etc but never got around to it. So anyway, here are my Oscar picks.

All bow down for the queen, Janelle Monae

janelle

This woman only dresses in shades of black and white and yet she manages to be spectacular. Every time.

Surprisingly basic yet breathtaking – Lily Aldridge

Lily Aldridge

Basic and breathtaking runner-up – Renee Zellweger

renee

Nailed It – Mindy Kaling

mindy

Mindy just seems to be getting better and better every year.

Colour it seemed easiest to get it right in: red

christine lahti

Christine Lahti

jenno topping

Jenno Topping

kaitlyn

Kaitlyn Dever

guliana

Guiliana Ransic

Also best fit for a baby bump: Carissa Culver

carissa culiner

None of these (except Guilina’s) pushed the envelope greatly fashion-wise, but the looks were well executed.

Most glamorous political statement – Natalie Portman

natalie

The cape was embroidered with the names of female directors who had not been nominated. Unfortunately, she has been criticised for having only one female director in her own production company.

Best Oscar replicas

rebel

Rebel Wilson

kit hoover

Kit Hoover

brie larson

Brie Larson

Most fun look: 

ryan michelle bathe

Ryan Michelle Bathe

Best use of accessory

america

Black and white bests

beannie

Beannie Feldstein

adam driver joanne tucker

Adam Driver and Joanne Tucker

Drawn to despite myself

florence pugh

Florence Pugh. She really has kept upping her game this awards season.

Most disappointing

laura

Clearly, she wasn’t feeling it either, because look how she’s just standing there like the lampshade she resembles.

Now do tell, which were your faves and most hated?

Everything is stupid

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You know how foreigners keep coming to India to seek enlightenment? With the right attitude, they could save themselves the trouble and a fair bit of money and just stop at the visa application stage itself.

So I went down to the office that has been contracted to handle passport and visa applications for the Indian consulate. I had to renew Nene’s passport which meant that I had to take him along.

We went back and forth on this given the coronavirus outbreak and finally I decided to go ahead because who knows when this is going to end and there might be fewer people at this time.

Turns out I was wrong. The place was packed.

The contractor has moved to a smaller office which means people were more packed in that ever. There’s no place for signage so everyone crowds at the counters to ask anything. Even getting a token requires asking for one from a human being.

They also said on their website that the closest MTR to the new office is Wan Chai when it’s actually Causeway Bay so we ended up being later than I would have liked.

I had made the rookie mistake of checking the Indian consulate website and not the contractors website. Turns out (surprise! Not.) there are a whole lot of other documents needed, including one that required me to back to Wan Chai to get some affidavit done. Because god forbid there be an Indian bureaucratic process without an affidavit.

I admit that I snapped at the girl at the counter – and by counter, I mean she was manning the photocopy station as well as taking photos. To her credit she kept cool and explained to me everything and was very helpful. It’s hardly her fault that the Indian consulate doesn’t update their website or tell people to check elsewhere for the updated instructions or has ridiculous requirements.

So then we walked back to Wan Chai, huffing and puffing in our masks. Turns out the Indian consulate has happily outsourced this process to the Hong Kong government which provides this service free of charge. Basically you write your name and address on a form and that you swear the info is true. Then you wait half an hour and swear before someone that what you wrote is true.

How is this helpful? Why is this even a thing? Would this deter anyone from lying?

Who knows? Who cares?

Only saving grace is that the Hong Kong government is very organised about this. They even took my name and contact number in case anyone who visited was found to have contracted the dreaded virus.

Please note Indian office not only did not do this, there was not even a bottle of hand sanitiser in sight. Oh HK I will miss you.

Anyway.

Take all forms and go back to Causeway Bay. On the way, eye buses speeding down empty streets longingly thinking of throwing self in front of one. Think of children and desist. (By this time had sent Nene home)

Back in the Causeway Bay office, all the same people seem to be milling about. Turns out their computer system is down.

Gweilo man at counter keeps asking how long it will take and grumbles that he has to go to work. Arre Mr, you want to go to India no? This is India only. Learn zen and the art of twiddling your thumbs.

Indian aunties who I asked what was going on got very agitated at the thought that I might be trying to cut the queue when I went up to the counter to inquire and kept hovering behind them. O aunties, take a leaf out of the Buddha’s tree and chill.

I was curtly told nothing would get done that day and I left quietly. Hopefully the aunties were satisfied.

I had an epiphany of sorts on my journey from the notary (or whatever it was. The woman at the counter got a bit agitated when I said “notarized”) and the passport office. The ridiculousness of being shoved off to a different office to stand and say I was telling the truth just seemed too much to bear.

What are we doing really in this life? Just shoving around pieces of paper and trying not to die till we die.

Honestly, I’ve had enough. I turn 40 this year and I feel like I’ve had my fill of life’s delights. I sure there are more left to sample but I’m not greedy. I’m sure it doesn’t get exponentially better than this. Everything we do is just our genes trying to survive by convincing us that we must stick around.

I mean, yeah, I’m going to because I brought two people into this world to do more of the same paper pushing (my bad). But it all does seem rather pointless.

I suddenly stopped caring if I got the passport done or contracted the coronavirus while doing it.

Speaking of which, the streets were lined with people queuing up for some “necessity” or other. I was willing to understand the quest for masks (up to a point) but now people are stockpiling toilet paper and rice. In one of the richest cities in the world with an almost 100% literacy rate. Still at the slightest hint of trouble, people seem to lose all sense of reason. It quickly devolves into me me me.

If this is Hong Kong, then fuck it, I have no hope for anywhere.

I floated home listlessly, didn’t bother with my son trying to do his homework or trying to correct his substandard answers to some poetry analysis (poetry analysis! At age 9!) and played a board game with my daughter, going along with her attempts to give herself the greatest advantage.

Obviously this state of mind will not last. But who knows?

Heartwarming coronavirus news

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A couple of days ago, I wrote about how it didn’t seem like there was much cooperation on the Indian mums Whatsapp group on the hunt for face masks. Today, I’m happy to eat my words.

One  of the mums who travelled to Mumbai brought back a large quantity of masks and distributed 20 pieces free to anyone in the group who wanted them.

It’s a small gesture but restores ones faith in people.

Woes and cons

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Woe: I had a niggling cold which became a sinus infection which turned into a sore throat which morphed into a cough since early Jan. Obviously, I suspected I have the coronavirus. The rational part of me (plus my husband) told me to shut up. Anyway, knowing that my doctor would prescribe antibiotics and fearing I could actually contract the virus or some other nasty shit in his clinic, I stayed away.

Pro: Email from office that anyone with “respiratory symptoms” must seek medical attention pushed me to the doctor’s office. Doctor does not think I have coronavirus.

Woe: Doctor thinks I have a bacterial infection and gave me a massive dose of antibiotics.

Niggling thought: Doctor did not ask me if I had visited mainland China. Possibly because I am a brown person.

II

Woe: Schools have shut and have resorted to e-learning.

Pro: I finally know what my kids are doing at school.

Bonus: I have revised phrases relating to how to go shopping in China

Woe: I have turned into a manic tutor, trying to toggle between two children’s queries while working from home

 

Mask of civilisation

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I mentioned in my post yesterdaythat Hongkongers tend to be qucik to get their masks on.

Masks became a bone of contention during the protests and the government pissed off many people by invoking the colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance to ban the use of masks in public places. This was then contested in court and ruled unconstitutional.

The fact is Hongkongers take their right to wear a mask seriously and ever since the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003, it has generally been public commonsense that if you’re ill, you put on a mask. A person coughing in an elevator without a mask on is often the target of at least a few dirty looks.

Even as the government was appealing the high court ruling that overturned the mask ban, the coronavirus descended. And it appears the government doesn’t have a leg to stand on anyway.

Or nobody cares if it does. Masks are flying off the shelves. People have been queuing up overnight. Store employees were surrounded by angry mobs.

My helper inquired one day and was told they give our tokens at 8.30 so she went down to queue at 7.45 am. By 9 am, nothing had happened except the queue getting even more crazy – it later turned out that about 50 tokens had been given out but my helper was too far behind to know this. Finally, I went down and it turned out the remaining people were queuing up for disinfectant.

For the first time ever, I snapped at someone in Hong Kong instead of just getting silently pissed. I was trying to talk to my helper who was queuing up and this woman behind us kept trying to push ahead and then tell us that only one person was allowed to queue up. We told her once that yes, only one person would but she kept insisted. I literally told her to “keep quiet” and finally “are you fighting with us just because we’re not Chinese?” She may or may not have understood but she quieted down.

Weirdly, she then began to give us some information about what was going on.

The problem with not speaking Chinese is that we are out of the loop a lot. But I later realised that it’s probably even harder for older people, like the woman in the queue, because they can’t access the internet. So, when the shop put up a note on its Facebook page saying it was out of stock, they didn’t know. There was a near stampede outside the shop that morning.

Now I’m not convinced of the utility of masks in this situation. At best, they help you not infect others, which I guess is fine. I’ll admit it, it’s peer pressure. Every single person is wearing a mask outside, and you don’t want to be filthy foreigner that isn’t. That’s pretty much my rationale.

Which begs the question – if there’s a shortage in the market, where is everyone getting their masks from? Admittedly, locals tend to have a stash at home. Or I suspect people are reusing masks which makes no sense.

The government acknowledges that there is a shortage in the market, and that it is trying to secure more supply, but is not intervening in how they are/will distributed. This means that even if shops do get more masks, they might be snapped up by whoever queues up earliest for them. Other cities like Macau and Singapore are ensuring citizens a price-controlled box, which at least eases panic.

It turns out that there are people selling them online. The prices are often inflated but there are still some good souls that aren’t going overboard. The problem is nabbing a box.

I also feel like there is a lack of cooperation. On our local Indian mums Whatsapp group, most people didn’t say anything when someone asked where to get one. I doubt none of the people on that group had not got their hands on any, but I was the only one that came up with a suggestion of where to get one, although it turns out that the ones I had got my hands on were not really effective against a virus. Finally, someone else posted a few ideas.

I took to my keyboard and contacted a whole lot of sellers before I found one. It became one of those things I needed to have just to relax – which is how the rest of the city feels too, I guess. I offered to buy others on the group if the seller could spare more, but in the end it turned out he couldn’t.

If you’re in Hong Kong and seeking masks, I found Carousell the most useful. Better than Facebook Marketplace anyway. I will probably use the site for other stuff after this saga is over.

 

 

 

House arrest redux – 1

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We thought the protests had crippled Hong Kong. We hadn’t seen anything yet.

Just as the city seemed to have entered some kind of calm – not that the fight was over, but that the fighters were regrouping – news of the coronavirus broke. It came at the saddest time – Chinese New Year, which is normally a time for celebration.

In Hong Kong, to some extent, the city shuts down for at least one day (as far as its possible for anything to shut this city down, the days of the markets being shut for a week are over although people still clear the shelves the day before the big weekend). But there’s usually a huge flower market in the weeks before, there are lion dances,  big dinners, lai see packets and beautiful decor. (You can tell how Hong Kong I am that this excites me).

Well, I guess the decor was already up. But everything else ….

We still met friends for lunch the first day. There were very few people about and we saw a lion dance. I’m glad we went. I went to office on Monday, the big boss came around handing out lai see packets and wished us good health three times, told us to put on masks twice (she had cancelled her own trip back to China).

By mid-week, schools had shut and we were told to work from home. It was protest house arrest redux except a) this time I had braced myself (I knew I would suck at house arrest but I was going to just give it my best shot, especially in terms of getting the kids into a routine) b) the fear was real.

Hong Kong had a really hard time with severe acute respiratory syndrome and any whiff of an epidemic has people stocking up on masks and generally panicking. We didn’t live through those dark days so our reaction was muted.

The good thing about Hong Kong is that having been through Sars, the government and the health care system are experts at this. They sterilize public areas frequently and people are hyper conscious about hygiene.

The bad thing is that the city is so dense that just stepping out of your door puts you in touch with objects that have likely been touched by thousands of people before you. And people who pride themselves on being civilised unravel quickly. People were queuing up overnight for masks. More on this in another post.

It’s hard to know how far to throw caution to the wind. We’ve been staying home, only venturing out for a walk. But I can’t imprison the kids, especially my son, who needs a certain amount of exercise daily to survive, so we only banned him from the indoor play areas (the building shut down the clubhouse so that problem was solved). He plays outdoors though and I think the fresh air is fine.

We had a scare one day when the police informed our estate that a man who had been to China and went to the hospital with the fever had run off without undergoing further tests. People be strange. That set off a massive steralisation project and my son becoming the only kid in the playground. The man has since turned himself in and hopefully his tests will come back negative.

In the meantime, I am resigned to being schoolmarm. I now have a routine. Every morning we do about an hour an a half of work, using worksheets I print off the internet. Math and English basically. Then I log in to work and it’s full on from there.

This means that my morning walk/run is out of the window, but I realised that that’s the only window in which I can work with the kids on a working day. If I can squeeze in a walk after dinner, that’s the best I can do.

Sitting at home, I get hungry more often and eat more. So I’m going to turn into the lump.

An angry lump. Three days in and the cabin fever started taking its toll.

I miss the walk to office, the walk to lunch, the lunch, seeing different people wearing different clothes, wearing different clothes.

I suddenly realised that I always thought I like going to office to interact with people, but it’s possible that office is my escape from other people. I am apparently not cut out to spend 24/7 with no end in sight with my own family. Weekends and holidays are fine. My bad.

My own woes done with, please spare a thought for the people in central China under lockdown. The same world that criticises the Chinese government for authoritarianism breathed a sigh of relief when that authoritarianism was exercised to stop possible carriers of infection for flowing into the world, the fate of the people shut into a city that had not really prepared for shut down be damned. No one really cares about Chinese people, just the pleasure they get out of criticising the Chinese government.

May I also say how heartily sick I am about reading about the weird thing Chinese people eat?