The darling of the house – the only son among six siblings in the family – Harbhajan Singh always drew massive applause from the crowds on the cricket field when the young off-spinner weaved his tangled web around batsmen. Popular as Bhajji, the Padma Shri award winner is the first Indian to take a hat-trick in Test cricket. He tells Nilima Pathak how he is dealing with life in these unprecedented times.

Where are you staying right now and since when have you been at home?

I am in Mumbai, Maharashtra, with my family – wife Geeta and daughter Hinaya Heer. Except for going to the neighbourhood grocery store a couple of times, I have not ventured out of the house since March 13. I don’t see the need why one should unnecessarily step out during this time. We all must follow Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diktat of not crossing the lakshman rekha and stay at home.

What are the biggest challenges you are facing during this time?

I don’t think there is any real challenge. In fact, we are having a great time. This is neither the time to visit anyone nor to invite visitors. There is nothing that we cannot do sitting at home. I feel the actual challenge is for the daily wage earners who work through the day to feed their families in the evening. I empathise with them and understand the complexities and difficulties they are going through. But it is absolutely absurd for the well off who earlier complained about not getting the time to spend with their families, now complain they are not able to go out to restaurants or chill out with friends. To all such people, my advice is – be responsible. Life is not all about going out of the house.

In what way has your daily routine changed?

Since our three-and-a-half-year-old daughter goes to playschool and I would drop her to school when at home, that’s the first thing that has changed, as schools are closed. Now, whenever we ask Hinaya if she is looking forward to going to school, she says “no”. That’s because she’s spending so much time with us and getting a lot of attention. Nowadays, our morning begins listening to prayer recitals and we are able to have breakfast together leisurely.

What do you miss the most these days?

Due to the massive building structures in Mumbai, I miss getting the sun, which I find in abundance in my hometown Punjab. I also miss meeting my mother in Punjab. Earlier, I would go there every month, but have not met her for two months. We do interact over FaceTime, but I miss her physical presence.

How do you keep yourself occupied?

I am not an outgoing person and unlike people who look forward to going out every weekend, if I had my way, I would avoid going out even after a month! Because of busy work schedules, I would get less time to spend with family. So, this is the time for family bonding and we play games and sing songs. Geeta and I exercise together. She has been learning yoga for over a year and is my yoga instructor these days. Together we do power yoga, including shoulder and back strength workouts.

Have you discovered some new aspects of your personality during this lockdown period?

I have never cooked before and am enjoying doing that. So is the case with Geeta. The other day, she prepared delicious chole-bhature that turned out to be even better than what we eat outside. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen and find cooking very therapeutic. I prepare dinner at least 4-5 times a week. It’s good fun. I would say that everyone should know to cook.

Busy work schedules had left little time for family, so Harbhajan cherishes the extended time he's getting to bond with wife Geeta and daughter Hinaya Heer

What will be your priorities once this scare of Covid-19 is over?

The foremost thing I would do is to visit a temple and pray to God to protect us all and never ever should the world see such difficult times again. We have to start life afresh. 

Any behavioural changes you find in people around you?

The pandemic has led to sweeping changes in people’s behavioural patterns. It’s amazing to see those who were carefree and reckless showing concern and engaging in helpful actions in different ways. It has united India.

What will be your favourite memory from this experience?

Undoubtedly, it would be the opportunity I have got to spend time with the family.

Any lessons you think the world should remember from this experience?

We all need to realise the implications of our actions and how we had put too many pressures on nature with damaging consequences. It is a warning that we need to respect nature and other living beings, including birds and animals. It is their planet too and we need to give space to all. The chirping of birds, clean air and pristine clear waters of the rivers have shown us that nature has its own way of improving things. Moreover, today, the rich and the poor are both in the same situation. That money cannot buy everything has been proven once again. So, it’s time we learned some lessons in humanity.

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