Home Coming and Hugs
My sister joined her first job at Google in Oct 2019. Following the Chinese New Year Holidays, she came home in Jan and soon after that, the world was rapidly reporting cases of Coronavirus. Flights were being cancelled, China was reeling under the virus attack and we decided that her going back wasn’t an option. After lots of confusions and a few meetings, she got permission to work from Bangalore Google office. I was working in Bangalore too and so she came to stay with me.
Meanwhile, I had been attending interviews and finally landed a new job. My life was crazy for a couple of months. The work pressure, the pressure of not really enjoying the work anymore, the pressure of attending interviews every other day while ensuring that I was performing my duties well at work, had all gotten me into a state of frenzy. On 11th Mar, I shifted my house from one end of Bangalore to the other, and moved closer to my new workplace. The whole shifting and arranging got me so exhausted and with my old job almost wrapped up, I decided to go to my hometown, Kochi, to be with my family. By then India had quite a few cases of Coronavirus and the rest of the world was going crazy.
I remember my journey home. I was paranoid. I had booked a sleeper bus. I normally carry my own bed sheet as I have dust allergy and the sheets in buses and trains are always so dusty. I spread my bed sheet on the sleeper. I woke up every few hours panicking because the sheet had moved and I had come in contact with the bed and hence, Coronavirus! Great! Now, I was exhausted from all the work AND paranoid! Finally I told myself that the panic wasn’t going to stop me from contracting the virus, so I might as well go to sleep.
As I reached home, my grandmother was pleasantly shocked to see me. I hadn’t really informed her that I was going home as it was a last minute decision. She stared at me for a while as though trying to comprehend and said,
“You keep fooling me in the name of surprising me. Come here!”, she extended her hands for a hug. I remember that moment so vividly. She had just gotten up, her eyes were sleepy, her silver hair disheveled, her naughty smile playing on her lips, clearly happy that her granddaughter was home and she stood there like a baby, asking for a hug. I didn’t hug her.
“I have traveled for long and it is risky.” I said my heart heavy while I badly wanting to hug her and she understood.
Meanwhile, my sister called me up that very same day and told me that a person at her work place who had returned from Greece, was tested positive and that the company had asked everyone to work from home. She knew that it was easier telling me than telling our parents, as they’d panic. It was a confusing ten minutes. To be clear, my sister did not have any contact with the guy as he was on a different floor and he was in office only for 2 hours after he came back from Greece and she hadn’t gone to office that day. The chances that she or anyone else (apart from the ones in direct contact with him) contracted the virus were almost zero.
She had two choices: Either to come home and stay in quarantine or to just stay in Bangalore. But her room did not have any cooking facility and we worried that there might come a point where she wouldn’t get anything to eat. Besides, we believed in Kerala government’s crisis control mechanisms better than anyone else. I’m not putting any State down here. Through various crisis over the years – be it Nipah or floods – we have seen the efficiency and we just believe more in the Government. So we asked her to come home immediately. To be on the safer side, we dropped my 86 year old Grandmother at my Uncle’s place before my sister came home because travel from Bangalore had its risks too.
The plan was that once my sister reached Kochi, I’ll take her to the hospital, get her tested and then go home (or be quarantined if that becomes necessary). At that point of time, we didn’t know anything about testing for Coronavirus. We assumed that if we had any doubts, we could just go and get ourselves tested.
But soon we found out that it didn’t work that way. As there were very few cases back then, all monitored by the Health officials, the people traveling between states were asked to quarantine themselves at home. However all were required to inform the Health officials if they traveled between States. Only if they showed any symptoms would they be tested. And thus started our long days of home quarantine because it was necessary, it was the right thing to do and if we all did it right, we’d soon win over the virus. But it wasn’t that easy, was it?
It has been 28 days since we dropped Ammamma off at Uncle’s place. I haven’t hugged her yet. I am beginning to miss her warm, cosy hug that smells of Vicco cream and Mysore sandal soap. I never considered myself to be a hugs person. But now, there’s nothing more I want than to see her and hug her.
This post is a part of April A2Z Challenge 2020 with Blogchatter. Every day of April, I will be publishing one post on the Theme, ‘Life in the time of Coronavirus’. If you like my writings, you can also follow me on Instagram at @afew.handpickedthings.