Out of lockdown: Melburnians share their excitement

By Indira Laisram

The excitement is palpable. After weeks and months of being in lockdown, Victoria, which traded its reputation of being the most liveable city for the being the world’s locked down city, finally sees the light of freedom on Friday.

For many Melburnians stuck in isolation at home without micro interactions and friends, it has indeed been a very tough journey as some of the reactions below will show. However, there are some who thoroughly enjoyed the lockdown with one saying on condition of anonymity, “It’s my lifestyle imposed upon others”.

While his daily routine of practising, playing with his dog or sharing time with his partner largely went unhindered at his Mount Dandenong home, for flutist and well-known Melbourne artist Vinod Prasanna, the lockdown affected him “mentally and financially”.

“The performing arts was one of the most hit sectors during the pandemic as we all know,” he explains. “Government aid was not enough. We lost all our mini concerts and not everyone was happy to perform online as it is difficult. Also, not everyone wants to learn online as well because they want face to face interaction,” says Prasanna.

Vinod Prasanna

He further adds, “Sometimes people practice a lot and then they start losing motivation if there is nowhere to perform, so they give up. That’s what happened. There are many artists I know who took up jobs… I wish the government handled this pandemic better, you just cannot lock up people, it affects mental health and relationships.”

Now that ‘freedom day’ has arrived, Prasanna believes forcing people to vaccinate is not how a democracy functions. Although he has taken his first jab, he has received a letter stating that if he is not fully vaccinated, he will not be able to work.

“I am looking forward to being free again, but at the same time I am sad because many musician friends do not want to get the vaccine. I don’t know the reason, but I respect their choice. It’s going to be difficult,” says Prasanna, a performing and recording artist, teacher and ambassador of the Bansuri.

Christina Teronpi

From Docklands, Christina Teronpi, a Human Resource professional who likes being outdoors, is thrilled that the harshest elements of the lockdown are ending. And for someone, who by her own telling, is constantly checking online for ‘ways to lose weight’ while galloping a huge burger with extra cheese, the first thing that Teronpi is looking forward to is meeting friends in a nice pub or a restaurant with some live music.

But she will also be happy with house visits and a picnic in the park. “At least I can talk to people in person and not via video call,” she says.

Sitting in her Werribee home, Nina Lazaridou Leimonis, a housewife, screamed “freedom” when Premier Daniel Andrews announced easing of restrictions on Sunday. Like Teronpi, she says, “I want to get together with all my good friends and go out for dinner and drinks.”

But she also cannot wait to go to the beach, “play on the sand, put my feet in the water, and just feel the freedom and fresh air”.

Nina Lazaridou Leimonis

Pallavi Dasgupta, who lives in Bayswater and works as academic program manager, cannot wait to go for a long drive with her seven-month-old daughter born amid the pandemic.

Dance entrepreneur Jaya Karan, who runs Sapphire and Studio J in Richmond, is perhaps one of the few for whom business will be as usual. “Friday is just going to be another day for me. For a small business owner like me, it’s all about work especially a passion business. So, for me nothing really changes, I will get perhaps see to some friends and family business but will just continue with classes.”

The fact remains that in a second consecutive pandemic year with restricted physical spaces and social interactions cut so dramatically, the burden of the lockdown weighed on many.

“The first time was very hard and it took a toll on me trying to get used to staying indoors. We had made travel plans which had to be cancelled at the last minute so that got me really frustrated,” says Teronpi.

Pallavi Dasgupta

But out of that came few positives as well. “I had more time to sync with my thoughts and come up with a clear vision of what is and what is not important in my life anymore. I experimented with cooking, learned to knit, and completed a few certifications that otherwise would’ve taken me ages to complete. In short, I had a lot of time to focus on the most important aspect of my life called ‘Me’,” she says.

The lockdown began as somewhat of a vacation at home, says Leimonis. “But what it has taught me is that as humans we need to socialise with other people because being alone even with another person within the four walls is no good for the mind.”

Dasgupta too feels that the initial phase of the lockdown was fantastic—working from home and spending quality time with family. But soon the depths of the pandemic hit her because “I realised and accepted that I am a social person. I love meeting people, love going to work, love my me time in the train. But  everything stopped.”

How soon life returns to complete normalcy remains to be seen. “The way we work, live and look at things around us, life will never be the same again,” reflects Teronpi.

Jaya Karan

Dasgupta rues that there is nothing called normal—something the pandemic has taught her. “I don’t know whether life will be normal, I know whether I ever want to be part of big gathering or I don’t know whether after lockdown I will go and party. But one thing is for sure, I won’t take life for granted anymore.”

She is determined to enjoy life either way—normal or abnormal. “There are places to go and lots of unfulfilled ream to achieve. Most importantly, live a meaningful life before another pandemic hits us.”

For now, Melbourne’s reopening aided by rise in vaccination rates is, perhaps, something one can savour — at least emotionally!

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