Socialising in the time of coronavirus lockdown: online tea, office parties

Zoom logo is seen in front of diplayed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in this illustration taken on March 19, 2020.

Zoom logo is seen in front of diplayed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in this illustration taken on March 19, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

While conducting business online is not a new concept, socialising certainly is and seems to be catching on.

More and more people are escaping to the virtual world as they realise that life must go on and that 21 days of lockdown is too long to put it on hold. If everything — from ordering essentials to business meetings to conducting classes — can happen online, why not socialising?

On Sunday evening, Mumbai-based regression therapist Sabari Chakraborty did what she would on a Sunday evening: have tea with friends. Only that each one stayed in their respective homes and connected via the app Zoom.

“Men and women are social animals, women more so,” Ms. Chakraborty told The Hindu. “I dressed up in a bright sunshine yellow dress, glad to be out of my kaftans and night dresses, which were my staple wear in home quarantine. I put on some lipstick, a dash of kohl, some Chanel No. 5 of course, so what if it’s virtual, and sat all excited in front of my laptop, eager to meet my friends on the screen,” she added.

“The adda had an edge of adventure and newness, like a hidden love affair, and we chatted, drank our respective teas and coffees in our respective homes and wondered why the heck didn’t we do this before? Coming Friday is a friend’s birthday. We shall meet again, for a virtual birthday party. So what if I can’t eat the cake, I can dress up and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ at least,” she said.

Ms. Chakraborty’s husband Indranil has already made himself at home in the virtual world. “I work with leaders to help them harness the power of stories to make their conversation, speeches and presentation more inspirational. My mode of working has always been face to face. However, the COVID-19 situation changed all that. My clients are all working from home and I am under lockdown myself. So I pivoted and first converted all my training programs into an online course, Virtual Instructor-Led Delivery. I then started to reach out to my clients and the response has been positive,” Mr. Chakraborty said.

“While in the area of health it is the survival of the fittest, in the area of business it is the survival of the flexible and the agile,” he added.

While conducting business online is not a new concept, socialising certainly is and seems to be catching on. Also on Sunday, while the Chakrabortys were ‘attending’ the tea party in Mumbai, about half-a-dozen employees of a multinational bank were having an office party — online — in Bengaluru. Their party was facilitated by Google Duo.

“At first I thought my boss was in one of his nonsensical moods when he suggested the party,” said Sunanda Shukla, a senior manager with the bank who lives alone in an apartment in Bengaluru. “It turned out his wife had just had an office party over video where everybody decided to dress up and it had turned out to be a raging success,” Ms. Shukla added, by way of explanation.

“I have avoided video calls with friends for as long as I can remember, and I reluctantly agreed to do it on Sunday evening. We all got dressed for the event and as usual, it started off with my boss taking my case on something stupid I had done. Soon the women were discussing the new Korean romcoms on Netflix and the men were bragging about their culinary skills,” Ms. Shukla said.

“My connection snapped somewhere in the middle and I suddenly realised how full the lonely house seemed. I reconnected and then two hours went by without us even realising it. We now plan to do this every weekend,” she said.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 5:56:10 PM |

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