It’s only been slightly over a week of the movement control order (MCO) being in effect. If we follow the original period, it will be another week. But two days ago, the prime minister extended the MCO for another two weeks. That means Malaysians will have to remain at home under a semi-lockdown situation for a whole month.
I’ll tell you the truth – that it is stressful to be in this situation. The uncertainty when it comes to work and also the children’s education is what gets me. Although the fact that we’re all stuck at home day after day is also causing cabin fever. I still go out for work because as a journalist, there are stories that I need to report on. But this is minimal.
As parents, my wife and I came up with a detailed schedule for the kids to fill up their time with (okay, my wife organised it!) Their day is planned out from the moment they wake up right up to the moment they go to sleep. It’s quite fun! There are games, entertainment and even learning activities. She also incorporated activities that we do as a family every day.
Not only do we do things together that are scheduled, but my wife has also scheduled activities where each kid gets to spend time with just one parent. It’s been quite a bonding session and It has definitely helped to ease our cabin fever stress. But for three kids and two restless adults who are locked indoors for too long, it can still be quite detrimental to mental health.
So, every evening, we step outside in front of the house either for a short walk or for a little bit of cycling. We don’t really go far – just in front of the gate and several houses around our own. And this is what really cures the cabin fever. Not only do we get some fresh air and see the sky, but the social interaction with our neighbours does wonders for the mood.
Admittedly, I only know a handful of my neighbours by name – the one next to my house and the one opposite. The others, well, I don’t know them at all. But since the MCO has been enforced, everyone has been spending time at home and when the evenings come, they will all be in their gardens or in front of their gates. And we get to see everyone.
Before you start to get all worked up saying that we are going against the MCO by interacting socially, just hear me out first. Firstly, most of us are within our house compounds. At the most, we open the gate and step outside for a bit. Some may walk along the street, but nobody gets close to anybody else, and definitely nobody gets within three or four metres of each other.
We see each other and for the first time, we nod, smile and speak to each other (more like calling out and projecting our voices across the fences and gates!) We ask how each of us is getting along, listen intently to each others’ responses, we commiserate with each other because we’re all in the same situation, and then we wish each other well by reminding ourselves to take care before we go back inside our homes.
Again, before you start getting all worked up, it’s not like these are huge gatherings. It’s just neighbours on the street shouting greetings at each other from their compounds.
And again, I repeat, we don’t touch each other and don’t even get closer than three or four metres from each other. It’s like those people living in condominiums and apartments coming out onto their balconies and singing together.
I feel like I have to make this clear because the MCO vigilantes out there are demonising anyone they think are breaking the MCO without even understanding what is happening. Honestly, I am surrounded by way more people when I go and do the essential grocery shopping at the supermarket than I do just talking with my neighbours.
Anyway, back to the point that I am trying to make. In the time of the crisis that we are facing now, I am comforted by the fact that we are facing it together and there is understanding and compassion between everyone. We have come to the realisation that the crisis is affecting everyone without discrimination of race, religion and economic status.
Although my extended family is separated, we are all still connected by social media, especially WhatsApp. In our family group, we share what we do with each other and I find joy seeing what my mother cooked for dinner or what dessert recipe one of my aunties tried out in their respective homes. Yes, we have the occasional heated debate about fake news and other issues, but we are all supporting each other.
I know that we Malaysians who have to be locked down can’t even compare our experience with the Malaysians who are frontliners like the medical staff and essential services staff. I salute this group.
Our country continues to stay alive because of all of you and nothing we can do will be able to repay the national service that you are all providing.
Yes, this may be an extreme crisis that we have never experienced before. We are scared, angry, anxious and stressed because of it. But on the bright side (we always have to look for the bright side!) I truly believe that we, as Malaysians, have come together.
Let’s stick this through and continue to be positive and find the bright side of it all. I’m sure we will all come through the other side better.
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