Taken in Sigtuna, Sweden in 2015

The first question everybody asks me nowadays is, “Where are you Elsa?”

Not surprising, because if you know me, you are aware of my hectic travel schedule. And with the current COVID19 health scare resulting in social distancing and lockdowns enforced in various countries, my friends and acquaintances are concerned about my wellbeing.

Luckily for me, when the situation started to deteriorate in India, I was still in Mumbai which is my home. I had a series of overseas trips ahead of me for the next three months and whilst I was evaluating to pro-actively cancel my travel, the government issued instructions which informed my decisions. So now, I have no travel plans for the next few months and am getting used to staying at home in Mumbai. This is indeed a welcome change and luxury because for the past three years, I have hardly spent more than two weeks in a row at home.

Recognising that this is a major crisis early on, I led from the front and advised my family, team and friends to practice social distancing. Except for my early morning exercise routine, I hardly stepped out of the house except for essentials. I made sure my mum who is 72 years didn’t step out either. My household help was taught the right way to wash hands and instructed to sanitise herself when she came into the house. We stocked up on essential food items for at least a month — rice, lentils, tea and other daily items. Currently, like the rest of India, we are in a full lock down mode and have no outside movements.

My organisation, Red Dot Foundation, primarily functions remotely and it was only recently that we were contemplating moving into an office. Even so, whilst my team is used to working from home, they are not used to being locked down completely. With our workshops, events and all public facing events coming to a standstill and with family members also at home, it can be difficult to work given that most of us don’t have very large apartments in India. Therefore, we started a daily team call where we check in with each other and find out how each one is doing. We are also using this time to up-skill our knowledge and refresh our training offerings in preparation for the new academic year in June.

Everyday, our team members do an internal webinar on different topics that they have researched and which we believe might be of interest to a larger audience. Topics such gaslighting, marital rape, domestic violence, etc have been discussed using case studies, quizzes, films and role plays. Through these exercises, the team is learning to be digital facilitators as well as collaborate virtually. We as a team are spread over six cities in India and many have not met each other in person. So, we find this exercise very valuable to bond and get closer as a team. Shortly, we will be rolling these internal learnings out to an external audience as sharing circles and webinars.

I find the current situation in many ways similar to the time in 2012 when my airline Kingfisher Airlines went bankrupt. Suddenly my colleagues and I found ourselves with an uncertain future and plenty of time on our hands. One of the things I did then, which I found useful, was to make a list of all the things I didn’t have time to do earlier when I was busy and could do now. I have employed a similar approach this time too as I have learned from that experience the value of time.

Some of the things I am currently focused on:

We can choose how we address and respond to this crisis. My parting advice is “Be Present” as we have no idea what the future holds. So, as we get used to this new normal, I wish you, your family and loved ones a peaceful, safe and restful time.

(This was written on the request of Ana Patel, Founder of Noisy Women)

Contradiction of sorts — dreamer and doer, introvert yet extrovert, grounded whilst always flying. Feminist. Know more www.elsamariedsilva.com; www.safecity.in

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