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In the second week of March, I had an invitation from Times of India and Madhya Pradesh Tourism to be a part of their culture trail. The travel blogger in me was super excited about it but then I had to opt-out of it. It was an impulsive as well as an emotional decision but I felt that was the right thing to do at that moment. And yes, it did turn out to be in my favor. Soon after the lock-down followed and thankfully I was not caught in the frenzy and panic. Corona-virus had stealthily found its ground in India and the first few hundred cases caught the nation unprepared. In no time, the virus was all around.

The last four months have been like never before. They have brought many unprecedented challenges, health miseries, and life lessons. I couldn’t even go home and had to live in a hotel apartment in Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, quite far from my home in New Delhi. To be honest, I haven’t missed much about travel. The truth is that I will not be able to enjoy traveling until I am comfortable about my health and surroundings. And looking at the present conditions, it is very important that normalcy returns first and then we start thinking about traveling. Right from day one, I have held on this belief that this break is temporary and for our own good. Amidst the stress and fear, the heydays of nature have been the only consolation prize.

The break has been GOOD for my travel blog

The statistical and economical comparative graphs show that the pandemic has changed the course of the travel industry unlike any other. Thousands of businesses, hundreds of hotels, and many airlines are on the verge of breaking down and some have already declared bankruptcy. Personally, the first two months were the longest period ever when I had no commissioned work to look up to. The newspapers and publications stopped accepting travel articles and there was nothing that any one of us could do about it. It was a very tough phase if I look at it from a freelance writer’s perspective but at the same time, I am happy that my family stood by me and I didn’t even feel the pinch of it.  As soon as things resumed, my work got published in ‘The Hindu’, ‘Deccan Herald’, and Pune Times.

As far as travel blogging is concerned, there is no end to it. We are never short of stories. We bloggers sleepover backlogs. This was the time that we all craved for but never had. I aimed to re-tune my old articles and produce lots of fresh content. With continuous traveling all around the year (I visited 15 countries and 20 international cities last year along with many states in India), I knew in my heart that I had not written as much as I should have and now was the time to make up for it. There were at least 50 stories in my drafts and I did not even have to travel for them. I began to work on them and I am glad it not only kept me busy but also gave me a chance to reminisce those lifetime memories.

The lock-down and the unlock phase have been all about those untold stories. There has not even been a single day when I have not thought about travel or done something related to it.  I would also like to reiterate that the virus may have stopped us from venturing out and implementing our travel plans but it cannot stop us from talking about travel. The travel industry will bounce back with a newer and healthier version of it.

Creative Endeavors

When I was not writing, I was learning to cook or making drawings. Art has been my coping mechanism in these times. I have used it as my wings to escape and find my solace. With all the unrest and the grim news all around, there have been days when I have felt lost and art has helped me to focus and find my ground. I started making drawings from mid of March and have made more than a hundred drawings to date. I became a part of the #OneArtADay challenge and completed it successfully. I am happy about the fact that all my artwork was inspired by the present situation. I ensured that all the illustrations were meaningful and socially relevant.

Kaleidoscope of Cheer and Hope 

This is the title of my first book which has released ten day ago. It captures the last four months most uniquely, through illustrated musings. Another interesting fact about the book is that not only is it born in the pandemic; it is based on it too. The book comprises of fifty diary entries and handmade illustrations. It not only pictures the lock-down life, the changed lifestyle, our new normal but also educates and creates awareness on social distancing, the need for wearing masks, staying at home, and much more. As the blurb says it is a book meant for visual mediation and helps in positive grieving.

Pandemic Positive

I would also like to talk about another baby of mine which is called Pandemic Positive. I initiated this project along with four travel bloggers during this lock-down. We came together to create a platform where we could share positive stories of people. We managed to reach out to more than sixty people who talked about how lock-down affected them and how they kept themselves engaged and inspired in more than one thing. From corona warrior families to adept artists to animal rescuers to musicians, we featured people from various fields. 'Pandemic Positive' was meant to inspire people around the world to use the lock-down time and the days after that in the most constructive way.

Though the current scenario is extremely stressful and we are still in the grip of the virus, I would say, ‘Take care of your loved ones and invest some time in your creative pursuits.’ Real happiness lies in the little things that we do for ourselves and our loved ones. The biggest health challenge of our generation, has already taught us that materialistic things do not matter much.

Manjulika Pramod is a telecom engineer, short-story writer, big time foodie and a compulsive traveler. After working for 8 years in the corporate industry, she gave up her regular job to explore the finer things of life. She began her second innings as a freelance writer and started contributing in magazines and newspapers. 'PENDOWN' is her personal space where she has been practicing the art of story-telling for more than a decade now. Her first story was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul-Indian college students. She passionately follows street art around the world and in an alternate world, she would love to be a street art curator. Recently, she published her first book Kaleidoscope of Cheer and Hope 

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