Quarantine used to be a lesser-known word for many of us before the outbreak of Covid19. It was relevant only for patients of highly contagious disease. The general rule was that if any person contracted a contagious disease he or she would be quarantined from the others. They would live separately without infecting others. However, with Covid19 all of us are forced to quarantine ourselves. The infected and uninfected alike and thus new terms like self-quarantine or self-isolation are entering the English dictionary.
Post covid19 outbreak anybody who traveled abroad were made to stay in quarantine for 14 days. Then reports started coming about people who were escaping from quarantine facilities. Those who were asked to self-quarantine at home also started taking it lightly and started roaming around freely. Then airports started stamping the hands of travelers coming to India from abroad with a quarantine stamp. Irrespective of the stamp many started evading the quarantine. Once few people with the quarantine stamp were caught traveling on train by fellow passengers and they were badly heckled. One woman escaped the quarantine facility in Bangalore and went all the way to Agra. When Police went to her Agra house they were heckled by the woman’s father. The District Magistrate had to personally go and control the situation.
Many reports came that the quarantine facilities were dirty, unhygienic and unliveable. Even now the facilities where migrants labours have been kept in UP and Bihar are quite abysmal. Nevertheless many well educated foreign returned people also showed carelessness when it came to self-quarantine. However, there were also many who diligently followed. I have a few friends who were very careful and in my neighbourhood a girl returned from the UK. Her entire family went into quarantine. They didn’t step out at all. Groceries and other emergency items were dropped at their doorstep.
This whole quarantine situation reminded me of a few situations from the past. When I was around seven years old, I got chickenpox. That time my mom self- quarantined herself with me in an abandoned kitchen of my paternal grandmother’s (thakuma) house. My grandmother and Aunts used to leave food for us on banana leaves at the doorstep. I was made to sleep on a bed of neem leaves. Within a couple of days my youngest uncle also contracted the disease. He joined us and he was also made to sleep on a bed of neem leaves. Within a week apart from my grandmother and Ma everyone in the family got chickenpox. There was no more space in the abandoned kitchen. Maids stopped coming and my poor Ma and Thakuma had to take care of so many patients alone. Later in life, when my son got chickenpox, I did the same as my Ma. I quarantined myself with him. Thankfully, he had a mild one and got better faster without infecting anyone else.
Conjunctivitis was another infectious disease that used to bother us every summer. It is also known as ‘Joy Bangla’ in Bengal. I used to get it almost every alternate year and that time I used to stay quarantined in my room.
However, this is the first time that I am in quarantine without any infection. And I am not alone, almost three fourth of all the countries have joined me. Sigh!!!