Dear Pity Paatti

Down and Out with Ms Perumalmalai

Bold and wise, Ms Perumalmalai is a millennial agony aunt: a journalist giving advice on personal problems. She is stuck to her computer through this pandemic (like all of us)―but she has adapted quickly and is full of guidance for the restless and stir-crazy. In this regular feature in The Kodai Chronicle, she takes on your issues with family, neighbours and more.

Q1. I’m having a crazy time dealing with unlocking. I think I’m agoraphobic. Is it possible to still stay inside, Pity Paati, or should I be going crazy before the third wave hits?

Freedom is complicated, these days

Hi there, Re-Entry Anxiety.

While the easing of lockdown, which allows us to get back to friends, family and things we love, has many people excited, others, like you, are understandably feeling a bit more nervous about the situation. I’ve been feeling anxious myself when walking around Seven Roads these days, and have remarkably less patience with people, traffic and noise than before. I tried to express my displeasure by glaring at throngs of tourists, but I’m afraid the effect was dampened slightly by my face mask—I merely looked short-sighted. But I digress.

My point is that it’s perfectly natural to have FOGO, aka the fear of going out, after one year or more in lockdown. We’ve become so used to staying in our bubble of safety indoors, it feels strange to venture out. Now, if you truly want to continue staying at home, that’s completely fine. However, if your anxiety is interfering with what you really want your day-to-day life to be, then it’s a problem that needs to be addressed. You cannot live an eggshell life forever.

The key to unlocking is to take it at your own pace, one step at a time. For instance, maybe start with going for walks in the early morning around the lake, which will ease you into being outside in the presence of a few people. Then work your way and confidence up to a Sunday market level. However, I would caution against going crazy with parties every day. Remember, there’s no rush.

I’d also recommend learning some breathing and grounding techniques to soothe your anxiety when you’re out and about. It can also be helpful to recruit a friend or family member to come along with you when you make your first few trips into town. 

Go get ‘em. God speed!

Q2. I’m trying to stay on in Kodai, but the city is calling me, PP. What to do? How can I have both?

Masking up and facing the world

Hello, I Want to Have My Cake and Eat It Too.

Luckily, you might not have to choose! Thanks to the rise of remote work, many companies are pivoting to a distributed workforce model, ie a majority of the team works from their homes. This means that you can live in and work from Kodai but may be asked to visit the company headquarters (presumably in one of the major metropolitan cities in the country) once a month, or something along these lines. So tackle your company’s HR team and figure out a work model that suits you. Hopefully, this means no hard choices, Sophie.

Either way, if you’re missing the lure of the big city, a weekend break may be exactly what you need. Why not spend a couple of days in that city you’re missing and satiate your craving for junk food, H&M, movies at a multiplex or whatever else your heart desires. Then, with shopping bags full, you can return to the peace and quiet of Kodai. Win-win.

Q3. Like many folks in Kodai, I have a resident bison in my compound. If we don’t get to our verandah first, he claims it for the evening, and there goes dinner and music al fresco (our standard Kodai evening entertainment). Any tips?

Music versus wildlife – one way out

Hi there, Bison Be Gone/Oh My Gaur!

A thrilling sight in the Shola or strolling nonchalantly around town, a bison is less than charming when it’s selfishly hogging your verandah space night after night. How rude. Clearly, a little etiquette training is in order. 

Bison are intelligent, stubborn and not easily put off. Shouting in a bison’s face and throwing things at it, as many tourists have learned to their detriment, is bad for all concerned. 

Instead, if you can’t put up fencing of some kind, which some Kodai residents try, your first line of defence should be to set up deterrents that may discourage the bison from visiting, such as a string of empty tin cans that make a noisy rattle with the breeze. If that fails, you can try blasting AC/DC’s ‘Hells Bells’ through loudspeakers. I’m not sure why bison all over the world harbour an overwhelming hatred of these rock legends, but evidently, it works. You can also opt for visual scare devices like reflective tape or ribbons. And do reach out to the Forestry Department for further assistance.

Try as much as possible to let the bison know that this is human territory. Hopefully, it’ll get the hint. If not, it sounds like you’re going to be having more daytime revelry, till Kodai figures out this situation! Not such a bad thing, if you, like me, are having a tough time coming up with excuses not to party at the moment.

Good luck!

Ms Perumalmalai

Ms Perumalmalai grew up in Kodai, worked in different cities in India, and has travelled around the world. She recently returned to Kodai and lives in Perumalmalai with her cat and rooms full of books.

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