In the month of December, when the first case of Covid19 was detected in China, I was in Europe, enjoying canal rides, eating waffles, laughing with my Italian colleagues Natalia, Serena, Loredana and flirting with the Dutch-Italian fellow Roberto at the hotel’s reception desk. He resembled the Indian actor Arjun Rampal and was no less than a human encyclopedia who knew about every hotel, pub, and bar in the town. I almost had a tiny crush on him.
Back then, we had no idea that a couple of months down the line, all that would seem surreal. Today, Italians are struggling for their lives and I am amidst a lockdown.
In January, many of us were thinking of Covid19 as something that affected only China. In February, my cousin came to India from Singapore. He had to go through thermal screening at the airport. We joked in our family WhatsApp group that we wouldn’t meet him, as he would spread the virus. Covid19 was still more of a joke for us.
Gradually, things started getting a bit closer when a friend had to cancel his Japan trip and was quarantined on his return from the USA. Then, Italian tourists were diagnosed in Rajasthan and Covid19 became a real thing for us because we were scheduled to travel to Rajasthan. Husband asked me to cancel all tickets and hotel bookings. All of us were looking forward to this family trip and were naturally upset. To be honest, both I and my son thought he was overreacting. Now, when I think in retrospect, I do give credit to my man’s farsight. Had we gone ahead then we wouldn’t have been able to return as the Lockdown would have started.
Things got scary when the son’s school sent an email writing ‘indefinite closure’, his swimming classes also got shut down by the government. Then one fine morning we came to know that an elderly couple from our neighborhood who had returned from Dubai were infected. Suddenly the only dining table discussion we had was ‘coronavirus’. Offices started asking employees to work from home. One afternoon my house help was not allowed to enter our housing society. Soon after we got a message that the society was banning all house-helps and delivery people to enter the society. Many residents even got angry and started abusing the secretary of our society for taking such a drastic step.
In the meantime, we had almost developed OCD of washing hands. I started getting suspicious of every touch and every person. We started using toothpicks and tissue papers to press the elevator buttons. Husband went a step ahead and started climbing the stairs to avoid any touch. I started washing everything in the house with Dettol like a maniac. We kept a big bottle of sanitizer at the entrance. Son was still rebellious and I was losing my mind trying to keep him indoors and make him wash hands.
In between all this, one day, a friend came to visit, she had come back from Hongkong in January. I almost went crazy after she left and literally cursed her in my mind. I washed the sofa where she sat and cleaned the cup and saucer with Dettol. I don’t know if I should feel proud or ashamed of what I did. Then finally the government declared a total lockdown. And the alienation aka #socialdistancing began.
All of a sudden in 2020, people all over the world entered a new ‘world’, a place where staying away from each other is the only mantra to stay safe.