Long Reads

Love in the time of lockdown

Mahwash Ajaz
Filed on September 10, 2021
Alamy Stock photos

Being thrown together almost 24x7 may have been taxing for many, but there were also moments of unbridled joy

Urban lives are always in a hurry. Always desperate to make the ‘clock’ or have the ‘time’. It’s a catch for living life in the ‘big city’ where you want to make the extra buck. But the life consumes you. And it applies to everyone: whether you’re single or married with children, the city life envelops all your soulful needs like a giant anaconda. You seek ‘retreats’ and ‘long getaways’ to ‘feel yourself’ again and the travel agents get the best of your savings you gathered.

The husband and I, as working spouses, would barely see each other on weekdays when he would leave office at 6pm and I’d reach home by 7pm, and we’d hardly get that half hour at the dinner table to exchange anecdotes. This life in Dubai was very different from the relatively smaller life we were leading in Sana’a, Yemen, in the early 2010s where he would come home for lunch, and we’d lounge around watching Boston Legal and Doctor Who in the evenings (most days he’d be home by 5pm) eating snacks and exchanging jokes.

When the lockdown happened, we were suddenly in front of each other all the time. And while our workload increased when we were working from home (don’t tell upper management this, but us middle-management types work more when at home), we got to see each other more.

Was that good? Or bad?

Like marriage, it was both.

Some days, I just wanted him to go back to work. I’m pretty sure he felt the same way about me on those days. We were constantly in each other’s faces some days and it was impossible to escape anywhere. Grocery stores, cinemas, gyms, parks, schools — everything was closed. You couldn’t even take a drive out on the road to clear your head (remember when you needed a permit to go out for even an hour and that too only for essentials?). While we felt blessed having jobs and a roof over our heads while the world was collapsing on its axis, our share of self-indulgent problems didn’t really take a back seat when cabin fever set in.

But it wasn’t all bad.

We got to spend more time with each other than we did when we were barely a couple. We got to spend more time with our children, we enjoyed the little stupid things they did and we got to lounge around in those precious hours that we would have probably spent fighting traffic and groaning at the driver who was beeping left but turning right. We cooked, binge-watched The Witcher, I made fun of his gym routine he attempted at home where he was trying to balance his chin lifts off doorways and failing to assemble a bench press. He saw me at my most glamorous (t-shirt and shalwar) — but then again the man has seen me come to from an anesthesia post C-section. If he loved me then, he can love me during my haggard over-worked-in-lockdown condition too.

For many, the lockdown was a stress test for relationships — especially those living as expats. Relationships back home in Pakistan didn’t really suffer the kind of stress expat families may have had to experience. Because as it is, there is a factor of loneliness and self-dependence when it comes to expat life. You add a lockdown to this mix, you’re bound to see some fireworks.

Now that life has returned to what we call ‘the new normal’, I kind of miss the panicky moments when you just got the permit and you raced out to buy bananas and cookies. Okay, I’m lying. I don’t miss that at all. But I do miss

binge-watching The Witcher and seeing my husband all the time with a goofy grin on his face when he’s about to show me a gym joke. While we still work from home sometimes, we are slowly going back to life as it was in pre-pandemic days… the traffic is back… the school routine is back.

Perhaps it’s time to plan a ‘retreat’ in the mountains?


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