By Sima, from Iran.
These days I receive text messages and phone calls from friends and members of community to check if I am doing OK. I live on my own and I don’t drive. Plus, I am an outgoing person with a busy schedule of back to back meetings during the day and visiting theatres in the evenings. So my life must be dull and depressing right now.
But I tell them I’m OK, and actually enjoying the quarantine life: I can now stop chasing
money for a bit and go back to be a writer and get better at cooking. Then I post pictures of the bread and soups I have made to impress them and make their mouth water. This one was my second try; not too bad.
A friend sent me a website called Quarantine Kitchen by a Tehran-based artist who draws portraits of her friends preparing new recipes, based on the stories they told her of their experiments under quarantine.
Iranian cuisine is famous for its richness and the sourness of its drinks and sauces. I have tried them on my British friends and it’s entertaining watching their nose curl up and their eyes rolling eyes as if they are being tortured.
Living in quarantine is pretty much like living as an asylum seeker. The difference is you don’t have money to indulge yourself in different cooking styles when you are seeking asylum and you can’t watch TV simply because you can’t afford the licence. If you are lucky enough to be recognised as a ‘legal asylum seeker’ by the government, you will receive £35 per week to survive. If you are not legal, you are not receiving anything. You will live on canned food donated by charities and sleep in the basement of a friend’s house or in a garage/ under a bridge. Tens of thousands of people are living in this condition in the UK. Of course the same also applies to UK citizens, the many homeless people who are sleeping in shop doorways, on park benches and friends’ sofas. Or to those people on Universal Credit who are struggling to live.
So why should I complain? Compared to the old times, I live a luxury quarantine life right now. I have a laptop that I can put on my belly while writing as I lie down on my bed drinking my coffee with a piece of 75% chocolate. I actually had a small laptop during my asylum life which was gifted to me by a US friend who encourage me to write my story. I started writing my autobiography and this is how I became a creative writer. I remember I used to type 16 hours a day because nobody believed my story and I was called a liar by the Home Office and my case was turned down by an immigration judge for he thought it was not genuine and I was far too clever. ( I used to think judges make decisions based on evidence and facts, not based on their thoughts? Maybe Iran is different)
Anyway, my daily routine is :
- Having a lie-in every single day cos the world goes on without me, I am not the centre of the universe. It’s better actually if we do absolutely nothing for a while because what we have done so far is damaging to our planet earth and killing animals. So better stay put.
- Checking on social media to see what friends have been up to, if they are doing all right. Sometimes writing apocalyptic stories on my Facebook to freak out people! The recent one was a dystopian future where Europeans are seeking asylum in Africa and the Middle East because many countries will have gone under water due to global warming (and Europeans definitely are not welcome in Africa and India and Iran)
Make breakfast and eat it without having to rush.
- Do a few hours work as I run a company and I manage social media and all the paper work! This is the only bad thing about quarantine life.
- Watching cooking channels on YouTube and choosing a new recipe for dinner. If I need ingredients, I go to the corner shop and if I can’t find them I just improvise. I can’t walk around looking for spices and veg and risk spreading the virus because I am too selfish to have a plain dinner. Adding a sour sauce will do the job.
- I make phone calls to my family in Iran to check if they are OK. The virus is spreading across the world and it seems that governments all over the world care about rich corporations not the people. There is nothing I can do except ask them to take care of themselves and help vulnerable people.
- I spend evenings reading books, rewriting my play, and contemplating my art work and what I can do as an artist to raise awareness and to help the young generation to build a better future. We, the old generations, have messed up! Maybe it’s a wake-up alarm. There is much to learn from a microscopic virus.
We should use this pause to reflect on ourselves. Hopefully the world will definitely be a different place after this.