Issue #13: On grief

And coping mechanisms

Hi,

Welcome back to Continue Watching! We’re coming to you after yet another unplanned break that lasted for a month-and-a-half. This time, we don’t even have to tell you what happened. It’s all around you, it’s on the news and it’s on your Instagram. The second wave of COVID has taken so much from us that we do not know how to even begin the process of healing. So let’s dwell on our grief in this issue. 

We understand that you are heartbroken right now and unable to function, and yet every morning you wake up and you survive the day. You do it for those who love you and you do it for yourself. In the last few weeks, as we were discussing if we should send this newsletter out again, we suffered personal losses and challenges. For so long (and often still), we did not know what to say here. But we cope by writing and watching TV, so we’ve come back to this space to process our grief. 

We decided to send an issue out so that if you want a break or a distraction, you can read this and find something to watch. After our essays, under The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, we have also linked to a number of COVID resources that can help you if you’re in need. If all of this is too much or too triggering for you, please walk away from our newsletter. Prioritise yourself. 

With that said, let’s talk TV. Now, more than ever, it’s become imperative to have something to look forward to, so here’s a bunch of TV news that’s keeping us afloat. 

  • The Gossip Girl reboot, which you will have to get creative to watch, is premiering in July. That’s only, like, two months away!

  • However, in less than two WEEKS, the FRIENDS reunion will air on HBO Max (if you do not know how to get creative to watch it, write to us!). Apart from the off the charts nostalgia factor (rivalling the Bennifer redux!), have you looked at the guest stars? BTS????????????? We’re shaking in anticipation.

  • Hilary Duff is starring in a How I Met Your Mother spinoff for Hulu. HIMYM is a subpar show with some funny episodes, but Hilary is a queen so we’re looking forward to this. Plus, the 10-episode series is being created by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger of This Is Us, so that’s promising. The premise is exactly the same, except Hilary is going to tell her son how she met his father. 

  • In our last issue, we recommended the Spanish show Elite to one of our readers. The first look of the new season, which drops on June 18th, is out. Just. Look. At. Them. We’re very into it!

  • And, finally, our beloved The Bold Type is coming to an end with an extremely short final season. The trailer dropped recently and it’s everything we love and more. The show returns on May 26. 

While we wait for all of this to hit our screens, here’s what we’re watching right now.

CURRENTLY WATCHING

Kashika 

Enlightened: I started watching it because I love Laura Dern, but now I kinda wish I hadn’t. This is not to say that it is a bad show. But it is the kind that makes you super uncomfortable and question everything. Enlightened is about a woman, Amy, who has a breakdown at work and goes to a ‘treatment centre’. When she returns after a few months, she tries to get her job back but is demoted and nothing goes according to her plan. Amy is the type of person who always has the best intentions, and yet nothing ever works out in her favour. You don’t know how to root for her because she is as annoying as she is well-intentioned. Watching her try and fail over and over gives me so much second-hand embarrassment that when I watched the first five episodes of the show in one sitting, I felt super bummed out for the rest of the week. Now, I’m taking it slow, a concept that is completely alien to Amy. Streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.  

Money Heist: This is not a rewatch. I know! Four years too late, I have finally gotten into Money Heist. When people ask me, I tell them that I started watching it in 2018 but I just lost interest after two episodes. The truth is that I started watching it because my then boyfriend asked me to and stopped because he was making every day a living nightmare. So, three weeks ago, when my brother asked me if I wanted to watch it with him, I said, why not. This is unequivocally a good decision. The show is great, it’s so popular (and has a self-explanatory title) that I don’t even have to summarise it here for you, but there is one big problem. My brother is not a binge-watcher. Whenever we watch more than three episodes in a row, he wants to take a three-day break from the show?????? One night (not on a weekend), when we were two episodes away from the finale of the first heist, I sort of strong-armed him into watching them. It was 3am when we finished. All of the next day, he walked around like a zombie. So, yeah, this is driving me insane. Streaming on Netflix.  

Shahana

Them: This is one of the worst shows ever, and I don’t know if I can or will finish it. The basic plot of this show is this: A Black family moves to an all-white neighbourhood where racist neighbours and racist demons (I’m not kidding) terrorise them. Them is relentless with the violence it constantly inflicts on the Black characters, both in the storytelling as well as the cinematography. Who is this show for? What is it trying to say? This is not a show I would recommend. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Nice Guy: Not gonna lie, I’m only watching this because I just want to look at Song Joong-ki (which is odd because he has such a baby face which is not my type but he plays very masculine characters and it works?). Speaking of looking at Song Joong-ki, did you know China warned the country to beware of him? Either way, this show has a very Baazigar-type plot. Poor boy and poor girl love each other, but poor girl stabs poor boy in the back to become rich man’s trophy wife. Rich man’s daughter and poor boy cross paths, and poor boy pretends to love rich man’s daughter to take revenge on ex-poor girl. Multiple people get amnesia. Drama ensues. Streaming on Netflix.

This Saturday morning, our one and only prayer for you is that you are safe. So please continue to take all precautions, get vaccinated if you have access to a vaccine in your state, and take care of yourself. We are not going to say this too shall pass, but please take heart in the knowledge that you are here and we are here with you.

Continue Watching (and reading!),

Kashika and Shahana

An Oral History Of Kashika Trying To Write The 13th Issue Of Continue Watching

By Kashika

[Trigger Warning: COVID deaths]

April 10: Shahana and I do our newsletter prep call and decide to send out an issue dedicated entirely to K-dramas. This should be easy for me because I’ve been obsessed with K-dramas for over three years (cries in whatever the opposite of foreshadowing is). Shahana, at this point, is COVID positive but she is being a champ about it, unlike me

April 11-13: I write absolutely nothing for the newsletter. I don’t even pretend. I don’t even make a new Google doc. Instead, I obsessively watch The Bold Type on Netflix, a show that I have watched every single episode of in the past. This is not surprising at all, since I usually do all my writing for a newsletter that has to be sent out on the 15th AFTER I finish work on the 14th. I should still have some shame about it, but I have none. 

April 14: Shahana’s mother is in the hospital. The hospital bed-oxygen-remdesivir crisis has started to hit headlines. I don’t even fully understand what is happening so I Google stuff often and tell Shahana to hang in there. Sounds stupid. She asks me if we can skip this issue. Without a question, I say. 

April 18: Things around me continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate and suddenly everyone I know knows someone who is in desperate need of, among other things, oxygen. It blows my mind as I try to understand how it has gotten so bad. Despite all this, the world continues to run and everyone is still working and talking and sleeping and watching TV, all the while praying that everyone they love survives this. I should, ideally, be working on the newsletter in my free time. I can at least write Currently Watching and have it ready for the next issue. Instead, I watch the K-drama Tale of the Nine-Tailed on Netflix. It stars all-time hottie Lee Dong-wook, who played Korean yamraj in Goblin (Guardian on Netflix) and destroyed me with his weepy eyes. I also send this incredible meme to Shahana.

April 19: Shahana is watching Descendants of the Sun, another good K-drama with some Ekta Kapoor-esque twists and she has a lot of emotions about it. I try not to spoil anything for her but it is so hard to watch her go through this roller coaster and not say anything. I miss obsessing only over TV deaths.

April 20: Shahana is asking me if I want to do the K-drama issue this time (for the 30th) or a proper issue with essays. Like a fool, I tell her I want to write an essay. I also send her a working title for it - Why I Rewatched All Of The Bold Type Recently Or Why I Feel Like I Am Losing My Mind Every Minute Of Every Day. See, I’m already ahead!

April 21: It’s 2am and I am sobbing. The second lead of my Korean show has died. I turn off the TV and Google the actor for an hour. When I wake up in the morning, my father has lost his cousin to COVID. 

April 22-27: I write absolutely nothing for the newsletter. I work, I read the news, I feel nauseated, I check up on friends and family who are suffering. I helplessly watch my mother cry on Google Meet during a virtual prayer meeting after my uncle’s funeral. I put out a call for plasma for my chacha who is in a hospital in Delhi. I am shocked by the kindness of acquaintances. I try to pay it forward. I want to delete Instagram and Twitter but of course I don’t. I watch Hotel Del Luna, a K-drama about a hotel where the dead can stay for some time before ‘crossing over’ if they have unfinished business in the human world. I ask myself why I’m watching it at a time like this and do not wait for an answer.

April 28: I write 606 words for my ‘essay’ and delete them because they’re a steaming pile of trash. Even though Shahana and I are both writing about grief, I ask her if it makes sense to send out an issue because who cares about TV and who cares about reading about TV right now. She tries to look at it logically but I am very unsure. We decide to scrap it. I think, this is the 13th issue. Then I chastise myself because how much unluckier can we get. 

May 1: We got unluckier. My chacha is on a ventilator. Twelve hours later, he’s no more. 

May 4: I become the person crying on Google Meet during a virtual prayer meeting after my chacha’s funeral. I don’t know how to console my baby cousins. I don’t know how to do anything.

May 6: I rewatch all of Strong Woman Do Bong-soon on Netflix. It was the second K-drama I ever watched and is one of my ultimate comfort watches. I ask Shahana what to do about the upcoming date for the newsletter issue. Our topic is still the same - grief. It’s been the same for two months now. Do we want to process our emotions the way we always do, by writing? Or do we want to skip this issue as well? I have no ideas, just broken thoughts. Shahana puts them together and gives me my essay topic. It works.

May 7: I do not start my essay. I start another K-drama, When The Camellia Blooms. It is wholesome but kinda boring. I think, for the 49270847234 time, that it’d be nice to watch K-dramas as background noise and, just for that reason, I should learn Korean. I also think that when this show is over, I will take at least a month-long break from K-dramas. 

May 8-9: The final season of Shrill is here. I finish it over the weekend. As a fat woman, I have a lot of opinions on this show and I don’t agree with everything on it, even though I feel like I am expected to. This is a terribly uneven season and the ending is (SPOILER ALERT) open. I fucking hate open endings. I’m also bored of (I’m scared to say this) the ‘female friendship is the central love story of the show’ plot device. It’s done to death and I’m over it. Aidy Bryant apparently wanted Shrill to have four seasons and they didn't mean for this ending to be the series ending, and it is VERY EVIDENT. In an interview, she and Lindy West (whose memoir the show is based on) said that because in life there is no end to our struggles of self-love and acceptance, it seemed fitting that the show didn’t have an end either. Okay????? Are you LIFE or are you a TV show? Get out of here.

May 10: I get my first vaccine shot. To celebrate, I do NOT watch TV. I download 12 books on my Kindle and one of them has a horse on the cover. 

May 11: I wake up and everything hurts. I also want to throw up. These are the much-hyped side effects. Lying down is not helping because I want to lie on my left side but that arm is sore from the shot. I do not want to lie on my right side but no one understands that. I cry. 

May 12: I feel better but my arm is still sore. I continue to not work on the newsletter. I see one random GIF from a K-drama on tumblr and start watching the show. I do this a lot. It’s called Angel’s Last Mission: Love and I forward about 62% of every episode. 

May 13: Shahana DMs me on Instagram and asks me if I have finished my essay. I reply - 😂😂

May 14: 

11.30am: I wish Shahana Eid Mubarak and tell her we have roughly 12 hours to close the issue and I have written 0 words. Not even an intro. She is ahead but she sends me this iconic meme and has the grace to say that it applies to both of us.

Because it is clear as day to me that I cannot write an essay in these timelines, I find a cop-out and tell her I am going to write an oral history of trying to write this issue. She, thankfully, likes the idea. 

12-4pm: I do not work on the oral history. Instead, I rewatch The Office, which my brother is watching for the first time ever. I also watch a Norwegian dance movie called Battle, which has Lisa Teige, the protagonist from SKAM, a show I have watched in eight languages. 

4-5pm: I rewatch Hasee Toh Phasee on Netflix.

5-8.30pm: I ‘nap’.

9.22pm: I send Shahana a voice note, reproduced here verbatim:

“Hi fam, I recorded the entire voice note before this and then realised that my finger was not actually on the voice button, so it did not get recorded. What I wanted to tell you was that I hope you are ready to do some ratri jagran with me because I have just started to write the oral history and I feel like it’s going to take me at least four hours to at least complete this bit, my bit, like my portion. I can’t even form senneces, sentences from my mouth, let alone from my fingers. So anyway, ummmmmmmmmmm, I hope you are ready for this. I’m extremely sorry about this. I will try to do it before four hours though, four hours is making it like 1.30, I did not do the math before telling you four hours and I’m starting to freak out quite a bit about how much there is to do. But you know what, I can’t do anything about it. So, yeah. Just a heads up. How are you placed?”

9.30pm: I sit down to write.

10-11pm: I have dinner and watch two episodes of The Office season 2 with my brother. I know. Shut up.

11.30pm: I am writing furiously. It’s 12 hours from the first message I sent to Shahana in the morning and we are not even close to done.

11.47pm: I do not know how to end this oral history but I am DONE, so I’m ending it with this epic meme I saved to my phone a few days ago.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Finishing this oral history is only 1/4th of the writing needed to finish this issue. Kashika and Shahana actually wrapped it up at 4.36am.)

Shows mentioned:

The Bold Type - Netflix ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Tale of the Nine-Tailed - Netflix ⭐⭐⭐

Goblin - Netflix ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

Descendants of the Sun - Netflix ⭐⭐⭐

Hotel Del Luna - Netflix ⭐⭐⭐

Strong Woman Do Bong-soon - Netflix ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

When The Camellia Blooms - Netflix ⭐⭐1/2

Shrill (season 3) - You’ll have to get creative to find it ⭐⭐1/2

Angel’s Last Mission: Love - Netflix ⭐⭐1/2

The Office (season 2) - Amazon Prime Video, ⭐⭐⭐1/2

SKAM - You’ll have to get creative to find it ⭐⭐⭐

How K-Dramas Helped Me Navigate Grief

By Shahana

[Major spoilers ahead]

[Trigger warning: Death]

Early in February, my mother called me crying asking me to fly back to Calcutta, and to tell me doctors had finally figured out the source of my father’s back pain. It had started a month ago, and continued to increase till he couldn’t move at all, and was completely confined to a bed. It was cancer, and had progressed enough that doctors gave him less than a year. He passed away two weeks later, four days after we brought him home from a month-long stint at the hospital. 

When someone dies, there’s a list of things one has to do. Pay the hospital, thank the doctors and nurses who looked after him, arrange a hearse, call everyone close to inform them, plan the funeral, look after family, apply for and collect the death certificate, find and close accounts. People called to offer their condolences, and many would ask if I had done all the things or add to the list. Most people asked me if there was something I wanted, if there was something they could do. I wanted to ask if they could tell me how I was supposed to go on with the knowledge that someone I love is gone, that the memories I already had were all I would have, and that I would have to remember my father longer than I had known him. I couldn’t find the words to ask my questions, and I suppose no one really knew what to say to me so they said “Be strong.”

So I was. I hugged my mother when she cried, I held my younger brother’s hand in an attempt to prevent him from feeling as unmoored as I did, and I answered every single phone call and said, “He’s not in pain anymore, don’t cry.”

“Be strong.”

I wanted desperately to be somewhere that wasn’t here, and I didn’t know where “there” was. I had started watching Crash Landing On You when I found out how sick my father was, and I continued watching, hoping that the subtitles would keep me completely occupied. For the 80-odd minutes that each episode usually was, I wouldn’t have to think of the last time I saw my father or what it felt like to wait by his side all day for the few seconds he was lucid and would say, “Hyan ma, na byatha nei [Yes dear, I’m not in pain].” Crash Landing on You is the story of a pair of star-crossed lovers, Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin), a South Korean heiress and Captain Ri Jeong-hyeok (Hyun Bin), a North Korean soldier. Think Veer-Zaara but more intense, because Se-ri has, as the title says, crash landed in North Korea thanks to a paragliding accident, and without proper documents, she will likely be imprisoned for life. Captain Ri decides to hide her and return her to South Korea, and as they stay together for a while, the two fall in love. I related to Se-ri in the helplessness she felt, trapped amid people she didn’t know but had to trust, and wished so hard for a Captain Ri to come and tell me I could leave things be, that someone would handle the myriad things I had to do now, that I didn’t have to “be strong.” I didn’t want to go through my father’s desk or his phone, but there was no Captain Ri in real life. I put off the pending work and continued watching. When I finished Crash Landing On You (not a happy ending really; bittersweet would perhaps be accurate), I watched everything Hyun Bin is in (Secret Garden [happy ending, but not good], Memories of the Alhambra [could’ve been good, so much wasted potential], and Hyde Jekyll, Me [okay, not great]) and kept myself sane, if only for a little while. 

I noticed a new Korean show that kept showing up on my tumblr dashboard and thought, well here’s something I could start. Vincenzo, a show about a Korean-Italian mafia lawyer (Song Joong-ki) who comes back to Korea to take care of something but ends up staying to help a tenacious lawyer, Hong Cha-young (Jeon Yeo-been) take down a villainous company. Sounded interesting, I pressed play. At this point, most of the work I had been distracting myself with was over, and my father’s absence had really started to seep in. My father and I shared a love for tea, drinking several cups a day. One morning, I got off my bed to go make myself a cup, and I found myself on the floor, hyperventilating. I never made it out of my room; I simply climbed back on my bed and played the first episode. 

In the fourth episode, Hong Cha-young’s father dies, and I watched her crying over his body in a way I hadn't been able to. I remembered telling a friend I hadn’t really been able to cry and him insisting I needed to get it out of my system because it simply wasn’t healthy. 

“Be strong.”

I replayed that scene over and over again, but the tears didn't come.

“Be strong.”

A month later, my mother came home from meeting some friends with a bad cold, and three days later, the day we were meant to travel to my father’s village for the last rites, she tested positive for Covid. She deteriorated very fast, getting so weak she couldn’t lift her head to eat. The phone calls began again, and I repeated the same words over and over again. “No, she’s not doing better. Yes, her vitals are alright, but she has a nasty cough so I hope it doesn’t turn into pneumonia. Yes, I’m fine and looking after her.”

“Be strong.”

She did get pneumonia, and we rushed her to the hospital. She was too weak to speak to us on the phone, so we stayed by our phones all day, waiting for the single text the hospital sent with an update on her vitals. On my laptop, I watch Vincenzo’s mother die. He kneels beside her hospital bed and holds her hand, and I had to go throw up because it reminded me of myself at my father’s hospital bed. I watched Vincenzo cry over his mother’s body and all I could do was wonder how my brother would live in this apartment all by himself if my mother didn’t pull through; it was too empty with just him and me in it anyway. Vincenzo cries harder, and I cry a little. My brother comes to my room and laughs when he sees me crying at a television show. We always did laugh at my mother when she cried watching a soap opera. 

My mother recovered and came back home, but my Twitter was full of desperate requests for oxygen and hospital beds and I did what I could to help, terrified I would hear “No need anymore, they passed away,” on the other end. And I did. 

“Be strong.”

Another Korean show titled Be Melodramatic pops up on my Netflix dashboard, and Jeon Yeo-been from Vincenzo is in it. A show about the lives of 30-year-old best friends Lim Jin-joo (Chun Woo-hee), Lee Eun-jung (Jeon Yeo-been) and Hwang Han-joo (Han Ji-eun) sounded light and fun, just what I needed to cover up the nearly continuous sound of ambulances that passed my house. I pressed play. In the very first episode, Eun-jung faces a devastating loss, one she finds she is unable to grieve. She copes by talking to a hallucination, and her friends let her, because she won’t let them in and this is the only thing they can tell is getting her by. 

A friend called frantically to tell me her father’s oxygen levels had fallen, and that evening is spent calling hospitals, then an ambulance. He gets a little better, and then doesn’t. He had bought flowers to put at my father’s feet when he went. I couldn’t do the same for him.

“Be strong.”

In the next episode, Eun-jung comes home to her friends after a tough day and finally, after two years, is able to say, “I’m exhausted, hug me. I’m sad.” Her friends walk up to her slowly and softly whisper “Thank you” as they hold her up, and I finally found myself crying. I was exhausted, I was sad, and I simply didn’t have the energy to be anything anymore. 

There are moments when I forget what’s happening around me. When it’s past 2am, and everyone in my house is sleeping and the world is quiet, and I’m watching Cha-young and Vincenzo pine for each other, life just seems like a bad dream. And then the sound of a siren breaks the silence, and I remember that I am exhausted, I am sad, and it is okay for me to hold on to a television show like it’s a raft. Just for a while, at least. 

I text a friend, asking how her mother is doing. “No change from yesterday, SPO2 levels still quite low.” I hear an ambulance pass by. I have an episode of Arthdal Chronicles cued up. I press play.

Shows mentioned:

Crash Landing on You - Netflix ⭐⭐⭐

Secret Garden - Netflix ⭐⭐

Memories of the Alhambra - Netflix ⭐⭐

Hyde, Jekyll, Me - Netflix ⭐⭐

Vincenzo - Netflix ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Be Melodramatic - Netflix ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Arthdal Chronicles - Netflix ⭐⭐⭐

Recommendations

We get so many requests for TV show recommendations from friends, so we’ll get to them here in every issue.

I just need something I can watch without having to think too much. That’s it. All I want right now is 20 or 40 minutes when I can just ignore everything around me because the people I’m watching are ridiculous.

Don’t question it, just play Too Hot to Handle. A bunch of very hot people go to a retreat and find out they aren’t allowed to indulge in any kind of sexual activity, and doing so would lose them money. This is to help them forge “deeper connections.” Everyone makes it sound like it’s very difficult and it is a lot of fun to sit and judge the people on the show. The show aired last year, so you can then spend some time looking up which of the couples is still together and all the drama surrounding the ones that did break up and why. 

Streaming on Netflix. 

Shout-Outs

Kashika

Not something to read, but a podcast on one of my favourite shows, The OC. Two actors who played the iconic characters of Julie and Summer, Melinda Clarke and Rachel Bilson, get together to rewatch the entire show and talk about it on Welcome To The OC, Bitches (great name!). They have a guest star in each episode, and for the third one, they get everyone’s favourite dad Sandy Cohen, AKA Peter Gallagher. I literally cannot wait for the day Mischa Barton comes on it. You can listen to it wherever you listen to your podcasts, but if you’re like me and prefer watching stuff, then each episode is also uploaded with video on YouTube. It’s better this way anyway!

Shahana

Really interesting piece talking about the rise in sex scenes in television, and why they can and are, sometimes, non-gratuitous and actually lend to the storytelling.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Links and resources to understand what’s happening around us, and what you can do to make a difference. If you want us to feature a particular cause or endeavour in this section, please email us.

Head here for pan-India COVID resources that is being verified and updated constantly. You can find state-wise breakups for beds, medicines, ambulance services, meals, tests, and doctors. 

Head here to find a painstakingly created list of fundraisers that aim to help marginalised communities affected by COVID. 

Head here to find state-wise food distributors for patients and caregivers unable to cook for themselves.


We hope you enjoyed reading this issue as much as we loved writing it. Please write to us if you have any feedback. We look forward to your emails, comments, tweets, and DMs with requests, criticism, recommendations, and anything else that you want to tell us. You can also follow us on Instagram here. And if you haven’t already, do subscribe!