There was a nagging thought in my head the first two weeks of the lock-down. Something felt out of place, but it was hard to put your finger on because quite a few things were out of place. As the public life itself withdrew, adjustments had to be made, plans rearranged, ideas reframed and expectations reset. But even as everyday matters started to stabilize, that odd feeling didn’t subside. I later realized it was the sounds, a few specific voices, that I had gotten so accustomed to in the last few years that their sudden absence was uneasy.

Before, every morning’s bike-ride to work would be scored by a few podcasts; it was my way of keeping up with the headlines and popular science. Unknowingly, I had done it long enough for it to have become a ritual but now that there was no bike-ride, the ritual had collapsed without notice.

That’s just one example. As the shallow bite of the intelligent lock-down crunched in, many such habits started to get tossed out of the window while others, such as washing one’s hands while singing, had to be wired in.

The same way many among us had to “re-invent” work, calendars too had to be reinvented in order to preserve a semblance of normalcy. At my student house, thankfully we were quite quick to identify our priorities, and put a cooking calendar of sorts in place. Over the last month, when many scheduled commitments disappeared from agendas, a dinner with the rest of the household became a small daily marker to look forward to.

Among colleagues and friends, virtual breaks became a regular channel to check up on each other and socialize beyond the households. And we managed to organize a couple of virtual pub-quizzes to fill the void of the weekly quiz we used to attend at The Carrousel. A vague pattern had thus set in by the time the much-awaited partial openings of university laboratories were announced.

So, on Wednesday, it was time for the seconds innings; a thought-through affair which will nonetheless come with its growing pains, as we began to absorb the altered nature of research that we must undertake in the age of social distancing.

The often freeform progression of experimental work has been replaced by strict, timely access to equipment (actually, the whole building), which would thus necessitate rethinking activities in the lab in favor of public safety. We’re also starting shifts at 7 AM in the chemistry department, so some rewiring of sleep-cycles is in order, at a time when even the lockdown sleep-cycle had hardly become a norm.

But it was much-awaited and thus this necessary act of a re-routine will hopefully amount to a small cost for some normalcy in a very dire time. As a simple pleasure, at least there will be podcasts again, and the coffee break will not be virtual, just slightly distant.

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