After Emory’s halls closed, I packed my things and flew to the closest thing to India that I have in the U.S. — Houston. Coming back to a brown household is always fun. Your many relatives’ voices will undoubtedly maneuver around every concrete wall, clashing with the sound of clinking metallic pots. Any quiet that exists will be rare and appear only when you least need it, and you will look up at the sky at least thrice, wondering which one of the many gods you angered to cause this godforsaken construction in the opposite lot to start at the exact moment you sat down to take your midterm.
Though the pandemic has cut the ability to stock up on essential items — such as 120 rolls of toilet paper — the house almost never seems to run out of coconut oil or turmeric, and your family will, at some point, insist that you consume them to relax.
I’m incredibly lucky to return to a comfortable environment and have my day filled with an almost unsettling amount of free time. Soon after coming home, I realized that I no longer stressed over the lack of time to complete assignments. While my classes might have become easier, clubs I’m involved with have barrelled on. Naturally, like any sane, corporate-aspiring individual, my sense of self-worth is proportional to my status in an organization, so I began to worry about how I would prove myself at every single club meeting.
I was certain that, as a member of Generation Z and a former computer science major, adapting to the internet hurdle that now riddles all organizations would be an absolute piece of cake. You see, I once aspired to acquire a much-coveted “A” in CS 170. After 63 days of scouring my fundamentally incorrect code for misplaced semicolons, I decided that I wasn’t particularly talented at syntax and dropped out of CS 170, which turned out to be only marginally better than not taking CS 170 at all. Simple logic led me to believe I had significantly superior computer skills than someone who never even attempted to take the class.
Unsurprisingly, I was amazingly wrong. I learned the hard way that I was utterly incompetent at mastering the most coveted computer skill of all — Zoom. As student groups continued to move away from my area of expertise (Google Hangouts) to a mumbo-jumbo app that has grasped the youth (no, not TikTok), a club I am involved in announced a Zoom meeting.
Just the thought of someone waltzing unwittingly into my background while I was in the middle of a Zoom meeting worried me. Looking back on my unexceptional past record, I really should have expected my luck to forsake me. Midway through an explanation of a project I was assigned to do, my door creaked open.
I was thrust into a world of panic. I couldn’t switch my microphone off, and it was too late to cut my video. I started spewing absolute gibberish as I squinted at myself in the lower corner of the screen, hoping to recognize this intruder. It was my absolutely adorable grandmother, Domma.
She peered at me, did not recognize that I was on what I call “a work call” and made her way into my room. By this point I didn’t know what I was saying. “So, uh, the hypothesis, uh, confirmed — wait, no, that’s not right,” is about all I got out as I watched my grandmother potter around my room, completely oblivious to the fact that I was both rattled and busy.
I sat there, in utter mortification, certain that I exuded unprofessionalism. My aunt’s dogs were barking, my knees were shaking and my jacket on the floor behind suddenly became obtrusive (Could everyone see it? Oh, the embarrassment!). Rather anticlimactically, Domma made her way to my desk, set down a single slice of a somewhat dried peach, patted my head and smiled at the camera as she left.
Engulfed by a healthy mix of embarrassment and immense affection, I looked at the camera and said, “I’m sorry, that was my grandmother; could I start over?”
Much to my surprise, I received a round of “aws” and a single “That’s hilarious! I saw a meme about that on ‘Subtle Curry Traits!’” I felt myself loosen up, truly feeling a sense of camaraderie. I was united with my fellow peers. They all understood and empathized with the struggles of working from home. I needn’t be embarrassed.
This emotion, while thrilling, lasted for approximately three seconds. I heard my aunt’s voice cut through the walls — “Who left this plate here? It belongs in the sink!” Much to my chagrin, I excused myself, turned my camera off and scuttled away to return the offending piece of kitchenware to the sink where it belonged.
Rhea Gupta (23C) is from Mumbai, India. Contact Gupta at [email protected].