Used to travelling 200 days in a year, India's leading squash player Joshna Chinappa is grappling with the anxiety of being home alone amid a nationwide lockdown, during which even going to a grocery store has become an "amazing experience".
With her mother staying elsewhere in Chennai and father in Coorg, Chinappa has been forced to do things she seldom did and is enjoying for now. "About three and a half weeks at home. Initially you are like bring it on. You get to relax at home as you are so used to living out of a suitcase. But as time passes by and it is more than two weeks, it hits you hard," Chinappa told PTI, narrating her experience of being grounded amid the lockdown to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chennai-based player feels it is important to stay mentally strong, learn "who you are without what you do for a living" and do things that "you never did". You realise simple things like leaving your house is not normal anymore. Going to a grocery store has suddenly become an amazing experience. But it is the same for everyone," she explains.
"I am grateful that I am in a position where I have a roof over my head, so many don't," says Chinappa.
With all activities on the professional squash tour (PSA) suspended until July due to the pandemic and extension of the nationwide lockdown very much on the cards, Chinappa might have to be on her own for much longer than expected. "(Going forward) For me the biggest challenge would be the mental health. Staying at home and not being able to do what you love, pushing your body in open spaces. Instead, you are sitting at home and you want to eat every one and a half hours. Most of your life has been all about discipline and now it has all gone haywire," she says. Also, going to sleep could be a slight issue too.
"Another challenge has been the sleep since there is no sense of time. I literally do not know whether it is a Monday or Saturday. So you are sleeping late and waking up a lot later than normal. So, the biggest change has been the discipline of life (or the lack of it now). What sport does for us as athletes has gone completely out of the window," she explains. "But the situation is beyond sport at the moment. Sport right now is a very small aspect of life. Hopefully, we can beat this phase and sport comes back stronger," says Chinappa, who played her last tournament in Egypt from March 8-14.
There is a possibility that the 33-year-old gets back on court not before August but on purpose, she is not thinking long-term at the moment. "...I am not trying not to think about it because it can be overwhelming. I am just taking two-three days at a time and making sure whatever training I can, I do at home. Luckily, I have a big enough balcony where I go about my daily fitness routine." Since there is all the time at hand, Chinappa feels one can't be following the same routine everyday and expect to be "okay". She is cooking now, something she never did earlier, sweeping and mopping floors is therapeutic for her. "These are things that can get you through the day," she says.
To beat anxiety, she meditates. "It is easier now to feel anxious and you can roll into depression. It is important to meditate, breathing exercise." On the upside, thanks to the lockdown, she knows herself better. "Because all of us are used to tying our identities to what we do. For me at least, I am kind of enjoying the fact that I am hanging out with myself. Doing household chores that I never did or had time for. Those are sort of my personal achievements. The more things are there for you to do, the better at this time. My mind has opened so much more," she signs off.