Women

Conversations during Lockdown: Batul ben S.

July 15, 2020
Batul_C.D.L.

In conversation with Batul Ben S.  
Artwork Fatema A. (@cosmicweavers) 

Separator.

Fatema:

Yay. Hi. How are you? I haven’t seen you in awhile. 

 

Batul: 

Good. I’m good. How are you? 

 

Fatema:

Good. Ramadan always has so much barakat, irrespective of the situation here in Tucson and not being in Bombay or Singapore, but it worked out. What about you?

 

Batul:

My Ramadan is as usual, half of the time I’m at work. I do miss socializing, because I feel it makes a lot of things easier. It makes namaz easier. It makes doing rozas easier because everyone around you is doing it and just being part of the flow. Last Ramadan was very hectic for me. I used to shuffle from work to masjid. This year is a bit slower and I do kind of appreciate that part.

 

Fatema:

Where are you right now? Is it home for you? 

 

Batul:

Yes, I’m at home in Singapore. With my parents. 

 

Fatema:

And so what’s it like at home in quarantine in Ramadan?

 

Batul:

For me, it’s not much of a quarantine because I still go to work. So I think for the most part my life’s pretty much the same. The only difference is I don’t go out on the weekends. So I’m quarantined at home on the weekends. But yeah, pretty much other than that, my work life’s the same.

 

Fatema:

Oh, that’s really refreshing to hear because pretty much everybody I’ve been talking to is in quarantine and were like, Oh my gosh, we’re going crazy. 

Do you want to tell us a little bit about your work? What does your work look like right now?

 

Batul:

I’m a physiotherapist and I work in a public hospital. I work inpatient, which means I work in the wards with patients who are sick. When they stay in hospital for a while, they become really weak. They get deconditioned. My role is to get them back on their feet and get them back ready to go home and ready to go back to their lives. Now with Covid, we basically do the same thing, but work processes are a lot different now with all of the social distancing. 

 

Fatema:

So much of your job involves physical interaction with your patients and doing exercises. So how does that work out?

 

Batul:

A lot of mask-wearing! It’s like mask mask mask all the time. I think I forgot what my colleagues look like at this point. A lot of precautions when it comes to seeing different kinds of patients. So in Singapore we have A, B and C class words. A class wards are individual rooms- you pay more, you basically get better treatment. But all the A class wards have been turned into Covid wards more because of the individual rooms. So there is no more A, B and C. Everyone that comes in without Covid is in the C ward. Everyone who comes in with Covid is in the A ward. Also a lot more precautions that we didn’t take before, so a lot of varying personal protective equipment even for patients who we didn’t use it with before. Now we just go the extra mile with everything.

 

Fatema:

So for many of us, the reality is so different being indoors and being quarantined. At this point I’ve tuned out the news. Partially because it’s Ramadan, you know, partially because there’s only so much you can take. You pretty much are in the battlefield. What’s that like?

 

Batul:

In terms of keeping up with the news, we have to – for work. A lot of our processes change according to what’s going on in the country. We have no choice. But I completely agree. I have stopped trying to keep up with the global news when it comes to the virus. It is honestly depressing to hear about it all the time.

 

Health system wise- yes. The outpatient physiotherapy is completely closed at this point, because it’s not considered essential service. But inpatient physiotherapy is still the same. I think hospital wise they do turn patients away who do not need immediate attention. So definitely we see a difference in our caseload. 

 

Fatema:

Your job aside, how are you feeling? That I think is the heart of it. How does it feel to be, and the position you are, you know, at one end, obviously you have the responsibility to tend to these people and care for people but you’re also human.While all of us have the luxury to quarantine, you have to worry about going out every day into a hospital of all places and come back home to your parents.

 

Batul:

Most of the time I do feel safe. It is a battleground in the ED. It’s not very safe, a lot of people are coming in and you don’t know what they have until you test them. But in Singapore the number of cases, although high, there aren’t a lot of people who need hospitalization at this point. So we are not overwhelmed. We have all our PPE in place, all of our precautions are in place, and we are a hundred percent prepared to walk into the hospital and to see a patient, whether it’s Covid or not. I don’t feel in any kind of imminent danger. 

 

Fatema: 

Tell me what it’s been like spiritually for you, not just in light of Covid, but also in the context of Ramadan?

 

Batul:

I definitely miss being with friends. I definitely miss being in the flow of Ramadan we usually are in. I have my parents with me, so it’s not that hard because we are in it together.I also feel like I have the freedom to go at my own pace. With my Namaz and my Rozas, the Qur’an. I don’t feel so much pressure. It’s been a little bit easier on me, like mentally cause I don’t feel that stress and that pressure that you know, that everyone’s doing it. So like I gotta push myself. So yeah. I kind of do appreciate it. 

 

Fatema:

What is one thing that you have learned that will serve your future self once quarantine is over?

 

Batul:

How much you can actually do at home? We feel like we cannot survive without all of the luxuries that we have outside. You think you need them in your life, but you really don’t, you don’t need all of the shopping. You don’t need the movies and meeting your friends every single day. I realised how introspective you become. There’s so many things you can do at home to relieve stress. You can talk to your family. Doing yoga. Focusing on the spiritual aspect of your life. They are the things that help you get perspective.

 

Fatema:

I love that. That’s such a valuable takeaway from this. What does a productive day look like for you?

 

Batul:

Waking up on time, not really late. After namaz, I have a habit of going back to sleep and usually I’d be waking up at 11. But if I can take a short nap, get myself up at 8, help my mom get the chores done, recite the Quran and then I like to surf the internet. As horrible as it sounds, sometimes you just need a little bit of that hit. And catching up with my family, that’s the biggest part. So I was always putting things like that off, like calling my nani, my maasi. Catching up with my cousins. It’s amazing. I started doing yoga like for a few weeks now and it feels so good. Every time I managed to do like a 30 minute session that day is just a win for me because it feels really good. I feel really productive, feel really healthy. It’s just amazing. 

 

Fatema: 

 It’s simple for a reason! It’s accessible to everyone. It’s a great thing!

 

Batul:

People think that it’s simple, but it’s honestly not. Maybe getting into those poses is easy. But the mechanics of your body to get into those positions and to stay there and to balance- it’s a lot of core work that you’re doing. It’s complicated and people don’t realise it, but it does a lot. It’s not easy. If you think it’s easy then you’re not doing it right. It’s all about the movement. Transitioning from one pose to another. It’s always slow. It’s very mindful

 

Fatema:

I’ve been thinking a lot about spaces. We have physical spaces to differentiate between what we do and the kind of roles we adapt to. And for you, your work is still ongoing so you still have that physical space separation between home and work. Otherwise how do you reconcile these? 

 

Batul:

I think it’s my parents and I keeping our own personal spaces. The things we do together, that we need each other for, like getting up for namaaz, sehori, preparing food for iftaar, maghrib namaaz.  And then there are things that we do separately. We always have a little part of the day that we have together and a little part that we spend separately. I think that makes a lot of difference in not getting on each other’s nerves. 

 

Fatema: 

Do you have any parting thoughts for this interview? 

 

Batul:

My thought is I don’t care who says what and who your president is. STAY AT HOME. The damage that staying at home will do to you is nothing compared to the damage of going out. 


 

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