From lockdown to restrictions and back again to lockdown | Sunday Observer

From lockdown to restrictions and back again to lockdown

5 September, 2021

With the current lockdown and lockdowns so frequent for the past year it has taken a toll on many. From mental health, work and finding ways to sustain oneself, the Youth Observer spoke to a few who shared their views on the lockdown and what can be done in the very uncertain future.


The greatest challenge - not being able to adapt to change

Kumudini David - Singer, voice trainer and activist

Q: Since the lockdowns started last year, how did you manage?

A: When I first saw the initial spread of Covid-19 in China I had a bad feeling it would explode out to the rest of the world very soon. I realized voice coaching in person may get affected if there was an outbreak in SL. So in January last year I started teaching online and offered that as a viable learning stream for people with challenging schedules.

I wanted to test the viability of coaching online. Happily, I can say with complete confidence that online coaching works better for the approaches I take. My student base went up by 300%. My work took a hit when I got Covid-19 in April and I couldn’t teach for almost two months. But I am back to a healthy state now.

Q: How has it affected your work and mental health?

A: My work is going well. I’m a voice coach by profession and I love the simplicity of teaching online. I find for the approaches I take the online learning platform works best as the student is in a comfortable environment, has his/her devices on hand so doing research and the analysis for songs happen immediately as opposed to being done at home as homework before the next class. My training requires the students to do their thinking and problem solving, with my guidance.

My mental health is on an even keel. I’ve been going for therapy for 10 years now so I’m pretty comfortable with the health of my mind. I have a standard practice of getting myself checked regularly and debriefing with my psychiatrist and therapist.

Q: If you could share your story of resilience, what would you share?

A: My entire life has been about resilience. I’ve been overcoming hurdles from the time I started refusing to go to the paedophile who was abusing me from age 3-8. I have an obstinate streak that’s maybe overdeveloped a tad. My advice to others is never to be a passenger in your own life. Take charge of your life. If you must go, go with a bang. Live your life on your terms and stop worrying about what others say. Others don’t live your life. You do. Surround yourself with people who help you feel better and cut out those who pull you down. No one will look after you but yourself.

Q: What are the challenges faced by people during lockdowns and how can this be prevented in the future?

A: I think the greatest challenge people face is not being able to adapt to change. A lot of us hate change. A change in where you work, what you work on, how you work, how you live, who you meet/don’t meet…etc. I honestly think we make life harder on ourselves by being reluctant to adapt. Instead, we spend a great deal of time wailing and gnashing our teeth. Nothing is ever an impossible situation. There is always a way out. All we have to do is look for it. This is what true resilience is. Adapt. Roll with the changing circumstances.


Adapting to change has been challenging

Vraie Cally Balthzaar - Presenter and activist

Q: Since the lockdowns started last year, how did you manage?

A: I went into the lockdown thinking about how it affected daily wage workers, which then grew to be a much bigger conversation than I could have envisioned. What began as a small plea on FB, grew as a collaborative effort, and took two months of fundraising, coordination and lots of adapting given the fact that regulations were a lot more stringent in March / April 2020. A lot has transpired since then. Work, the dynamic at home, and trying to keep up with everything I had committed to do, has been challenging. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I managed well. I dropped the ball on many occasions.

Q: How has it affected your work and mental health?

A: My work, before 2020, was in the entertainment industry. The constitutional crisis and the Easter attacks were such a huge blow for the industry too, and we were just picking up when Covid hit. And we’ve not recovered since. The industry has struggled — and like so many others who had to try to adapt, for me, it meant changing careers in the process too. That has been challenging for me because it’s still a new space.

Q: If you could share your story of resilience, what would you share?

A: A few years ago, I was told by a lecturer that if we stop to listen to people’s stories, we will realize how extraordinary each person was. For me, this is how I see most everyone now. As extraordinary people who have extraordinary stories. So for me, resilience isn’t only about reinventing yourself, or starting a new career or business… but more about the willpower to get by every single day, and to make sure you take your family and communities with you.

My greatest learnings come from the women in the communities I work with who manage their homes, their children’s education, their work and also support those around them. All this, while they are overworked, underpaid and underserved. These are stories of everyday resilience. But it’s a burden we should be looking to ease.

Q: What are the challenges faced by people during the lockdowns and how can this be prevented in the future?

A: Lockdowns affect people in different ways but affect those who are daily wage workers, and from the informal sector a lot more adversely. It also affects those who may be more prone to violence and abuse.

Lockdowns also become challenging for especially the elderly and those who require assistance. Lockdowns affect our homes, communities, businesses, and our mental health and wellbeing. However, it’s also something we needed at this time.

The state needs to have better mechanisms of support for people. A lot of people have been falling through the cracks and citizens deserve a far more equitable system. On a personal level, it becomes our responsibility to go beyond social media to see how we can interact with both the government to hold them accountable, and also in ways to support our communities.


An ideal situation for many to realize many forms of savings and modes of income

Sanith Fernando - Fashion designer, baker, lecturer and model

Q: Since the lockdowns started last year, how did you manage?

A: Sri Lanka for the past few years has faced severe setbacks in terms of the Easter Bombing followed by the terrible pandemic that no one ever anticipated. We were trying to emerge from an already economically afflicted traumatic period, to be hit only by the worse. The outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic has devastated many lives, business enterprises and the harmonious coexistence of the Lankans.

Needless to say, the entire world as a whole, has had economic drawbacks to such an extent, that many countries are suffering to look after their population and so is Sri Lanka.

Q: If you could share your story of resilience, what would you share?

A: Facing the pandemic has been a tremendous challenge, and it gave me an opportunity to reassess myself, my situation and my position emotionally, financially and professionally. That’s an opportunity in my life I am grateful for.

As humans, we all need to reassess ourselves and our lives, be grateful and be smart and mature and be most careful. This is exactly where I was; I managed my life and taught myself careful thinking, careful management of resources and also recycling.

Sanity was definitely a must in my daily routines in a strenuous situation like this. I directed my energy to start up a small enterprise called Heavenly Treats, an end product of my reassessing and counting my many blessings and talents. Heavenly Treats that started as a couture cake company has today evolved into a fully-fledged catering company meeting the needs of my clients on many occasions and events. As an avid fan of international cuisine, am happy to see my brainchild, Heavenly Treats take off so well.

Q: How has it affected your work and mental health?

A: In terms of my designing career, I could say that we, as an industry, have had a major setback, as there were scarcely any events, functions or weddings, our consumers were not looking for our services. It was indeed a tough situation. I bounced back with a new business venture Heavenly Treats, teasing the consumers’ taste buds.

Q: What are the challenges faced by people during the lockdowns and how can this be prevented in the future?

A: The pandemic was an ideal situation for many people to realize that many forms of savings and several modes of income generation were vital for today’s existence. This is exactly where my life was in equilibrium. One needs to always be careful and plan ahead and foresee situations with grey clouds and plan for the possible silver lining always.

My story of survival is simple. To assess one’s talents, venture into areas that could generate more income in an ethical manner and help one’s own self to value, appreciate what one has and embark on a journey that could generate more happiness, stability in terms of emotional status, financial standing and personal growth. This is my story of resilience and overcoming the drastic setbacks of the pandemic.


It takes a toll on mental health

Parami Fernando - Media and communications strategist

Q: Since the lockdowns started last year, how did you manage?

A: The work from home concept is indeed a new experience for most of us. Initially, it was difficult to adjust but getting used to a new daily routine, paired with working out often have helped to manage the lockdown blues so far.

Q: How has it affected your work and mental health?

A: Well, my work includes interacting with a lot of people daily and travelling out of Colombo frequently. This completely changed after Covid-19 and most of the meetings happen online now. It did take a toll on my mental health initially as I’m an extrovert who’s always on the move, doing something or the other.

However, following a routine, being on top of work, studies and working out as much as possible helped. Also, reminding myself once in a while how blessed we are to live a comfortable life amidst a global pandemic.

Q: If you could share your story of resilience, what would you share?

A: Since the start of Covid-19, I have mainly faced two challenges, one is adjusting to working from home and the other is travelling for work during these times because it’s not the same as before and requires a lot of preparation and precautions.

Also, the lockdowns provided the time to slow down and reflect on my journey so far where I realized the importance of work-life balance, something that I look forward to working on.

Q: What are the challenges faced by people during the lockdowns and how can this be prevented in the future?

A: It’s a new adjustment for most of us and all of us respond differently to lockdowns. For example, some introverts might like working from home better in contrast to extroverts.

One of the biggest challenges is the effect on people’s mental health because we are very used to moving freely and lockdowns restrict movement for all of us.

To prevent this, I think we have to be creative and find ways to keep ourselves engaged. It could be trying out a new workout routine, taking an online course, learning a new skill, cooking and many more. This could be the time to do something that you have always wanted to do but never found time!


Be innovative and a never give up

Ranil Amirthiah - Founder/lead singer of the bank ‘Black’ and businessman

Q: Since the lockdowns started last year, how did you manage?

A: Being innovative and a never give up attitude. Black and me – we always believed in our ability to entertain and stand out as a different breed of musicians.

Lockdowns and travel restrictions had closed down our stage but also opened up a new avenue called the “Virtual Avenue” Black conceptualized, organized and performed for 7 such shows. This opened up opportunities for other bands too and we are proud of it.

In between, there were a few months where Weddings and events were allowed by the government. So it was, even though a struggle – we could survive

Personally – since I’m a creative writer, I’ve been able to keep myself occupied by writing a few creative pieces for a few brands.

I’ve also ventured into the food industry and launched my Café called “Café Cotta” serving Burgers, cappuccinos to Tea. It’s a street style corner Café with an outdoor feel to it.

Q: How has it affected your work and mental health?

A: Luckily my stage life and my family history of surviving a few setbacks as far back as the cyclone in 1979, the riots in 1983 and the ten years in India had made me a mentally strong person and a survivor. So this question about mental health doesn’t apply to me I guess – you can say I didn’t let it apply to me

Q: If you could share your story of resilience, what would you share?

A: Resilient parents who always made sure we stood up and worked for our rewards. They never condoned shortcuts or cheating to get ahead in life.

Facing a cyclone as the youngest in the family back in 1979 – I was well protected by my parents and siblings but, the riots and our exodus to India and our return in 1993 made me realize – nothing comes easy. Nothing comes without being different and taking risks.

Started as an office assistant and when I left the corporate field to pursue entertainment as a full-time career, I was a Director of Production at a leading Advertising Agency. I had been in the corporate field for 20 years – in media as well as advertising. These I believe are two of the toughest and resilient teaching fields out there.

Setting up ‘Black’ as a three-piece band in 2000 and by 2014 being one of the most sought after bands for weddings as well as events, I should say it has taught me to be different and resilient! Being on a stage every day is a challenge.

Q: What are the challenges faced by people during the lockdowns and how can this be prevented in the future?

A: The economic hit is inevitable and will continue till early 2024.

As a citizen – I will try to create an environment for my daughter as well as the new generation in a climate that “rewards creativity and honesty”. Equal opportunity to the rich and the poor. But then that’s just a dream – that I know I will keep fighting to make it come real.

As for the band and myself, I have come up with innovative solutions to provide entertainment as therapy and motivation to the corporate sector. We have created tailor-made projects based on the HR needs of big companies that have large WFH staff.

I have also ventured into an e-commerce business personally – knowing that music and entertainment for a cover band like ours is going to be a tough journey.

The solo artist route is profitable but I will not take that route because – I have given a commitment to my team and that will stay. There’s no prevention in my opinion – only innovation. Innovators live to fight another day. Evolving is what will keep it alive.

Unfortunately, the country is made up of a lot of judgmental people and also it’s all about “who you know’’ and “who you are to somebody”. So evolving and innovating is being looked upon as secondary criteria. Recommendations and knowing the right gatekeeper has become the primary motive.