Geeta and Mohan Joshi just returned from Spain and are presently in quarantine in Mumbai. This is Mohan's account of his experience so far.
Right now, I am in Mumbai’s SevenHills Hospital. My wife and I are among the first travelers to be quarantined in this facility that is being brought back to life to cope with the challenge posed by the coronavirus. I was last here when my grandson was born, and it used to be a thriving hospital then.
Now 8 years old, he was his usual happy and chatty self when the family gathered for lunch at a restaurant in Barcelona, Spain, on March 7, 2020. We were visiting our daughter’s family and we had happily extended our planned stay of one month by another 17 days.
After we reached home, a friend who was planning a visit to Spain on March 19 called up. I reassured him that there was no panic in Spain. There was no reduction in the number of tourists, and I had not seen anyone wearing a mask. Still 10 days to go, so let’s plan another lunch, I told my family.
Panic upsets plans
Then the viral panic caught up with us. The numbers started mounting. Both India and the US virtually shut their borders. Suddenly, we were in a dilemma.
We had insurance and sufficient stock of personal medicines. So, should we stay where we were in comfort or take the next flight out?
As the news got worse by the day, someone in the Indian embassy suggested we were better off leaving Spain as soon as we could. There was perhaps no escaping quarantine. At least we could avoid overstaying our visa.
We decided to leave. It was a painful task to console my grandson, who was heartbroken that we were going away when there were “still so many days left”.
We rescheduled our departure to Saturday, March 14. Around 10 the previous night came reports of flights being cancelled and turned back midair. We spent a sleepless night, not sure what lay in store, thinking of very many if-only scenarios.
Long queues greeted us at the airport. People were grabbing what everyone understood to be the last opportunity to fly home—Beijing, New York and, in our case, Mumbai.
Our Barcelona-Abu Dhabi-Mumbai flight was full all the way. Conversations were muted, movements circumspect.
Home and in quarantine
We had been fully briefed about what to expect once we landed in Mumbai. I was confident that as my wife and I were free of symptoms, we would be asked to quarantine ourselves at home. Then came the instruction that we had to write our age prominently on top of the form we were filling in. We found ourselves in a separate queue for those above the age of 60.
Some people from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) took charge of us. They took our bags and escorted us through various checks. A doctor told us that we would be taken to SevenHills Hospital, to be quarantined for 14 days. Just as a precaution, he assured us. Outside we were ushered into an air-conditioned bus.
We are now in a two-room facility at SevenHills. The building that had been closed for more than a year is being made functional floor by floor. People are at work round-the-clock.
They have been quick to set up Wi-Fi and a TV is being commissioned. All electrical and plumbing systems have been double checked.
“How many patients are there? And how much do we have to pay?” I was curious. “You are not a patient, sir!” came the reply. “You are a traveler and now you are our guest.” His smile would have felt at home in any five-star hotel.
Let us be what we can be
Every piece of information about the virus is out there. Every fresh case is being tracked. There is no shortage of posturing and blaming across all sorts of divides: political, geographical and religious. There is fear, anger and frustration. There is naked display of self-interest as people dodge quarantine as if the virus is yet another system they can game.
I want to share this because there is also genuine courtesy, care and concern. The kind we are experiencing now.
I am grateful. To these people of those very government institutions we like to blame whenever anything goes wrong. Let us thank them for stepping up. And let us do our bit to help them.
When it is safe to do so again, I would like to shake more hands (if that gesture is still in vogue) and smile at more strangers. Complain less and think more of what I can do for the sake of all of us.
Personally, I hope we will emerge stronger from this quarantine. It has already shown me what we humans can be, if we just try. Why wait for a calamity?
First posted here by Mohan Joshi.