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In Covid company : Quandary of quarantine

Jaswant Kaur Jaswant Kaur
07 Dec 2020

It should not have happened. I had been taking all the precautions. Washing and sanitising my hands as frequently as possible, wearing mask while in office and following the mandatory protocol of removing my footwear outside the house, sanitising my laptop and other belongings, taking bath and washing my clothes as soon as I came back from office. All this gave me an assurance that I would keep the invisible enemy away.
Not only that, I did my Diwali shopping online. Even the festival, on which day the Hindu women wear beautiful dresses, could not force me to visit the market. Amazon came in handy. True, I also received the benefits of discounts and relief.
Like thousands of fellow Indians, I kept the courier packets outside the house for up to a whole day. They were sanitised before opening them. Of course, it delayed the excitement of seeing the newly bought material. But that was a small sacrifice for feeling good that you were keeping the virus away.
However, just a day after Diwali, I developed fever and started coughing. A few hours earlier, I had stood in my balcony to enjoy the sudden drizzle. I began feeling cold since then. I related it to the change in weather. I didn't want to take any risk and I isolated myself in a separate room. 
One of my colleagues had been on leave for a few days and another was having continuous body ache. “It could be Covid”, I thought. A day before Diwali, we had a small celebration at the office. And I had removed my mask too. Uff! I shouldn't have done that.
I had heard a lot about quarantining at home. Partly from my colleagues, who had Covid, and from the Facebook posts that my friends wrote. I asked my family members to keep the food outside the door. I would pick it up and wash the utensils inside. “Nothing should go out from the room”, I thought. I asked them to wear mask while coming closer to the door. And I, too, wore it while picking up the food.
The fever continued on the second day. It was not alarming enough to give me goosebumps. Yet, at the back of my mind, I had a doubt. I decided to book an online Covid test. 
Late in the night, I called a private lab. The lady was kind enough to tell me that the sample could be collected from my home. I felt relieved as I would be saved from standing in a long queue in front of a Covid testing centre. I felt happy that it was easier to get tested now. A few months ago, it was an uphill task to get a test done, even at a private lab. 
Next day, a man came home. All this while, my mind was full of worries. Did I do the correct thing by booking a home collection sample? This man was wearing a PPE kit. Who knows the kit might be having the virus? Even if I am negative, I may get it from him? Or anyone can get it from him! All this while, I was cursing myself. I should have visited the lab. That would have been much safer.
While the questions remained, the man entered my room with a small bottle and two nozzles. With one hand, he held the bottle and with the other the nozzles (a long plastic pipe). "Remove your mask", he said. The throaty voice came from behind the mask and the face shield he wore. I was asked to open my mouth with my tongue out. 

Without caring about the inconvenience it caused, the man inserted the nozzle into my throat and nose, one by one. He twisted the nozzle in a circular fashion to get the swab. "Oh! am I really giving my sample", I thought. 
My colleagues called me and comforted me. Don't worry, it would be negative. I also felt confident. It couldn’t be Covid. And went to sleep expecting the report to be negative.
While I waited for the report, I could feel a unique sensation in my head. It appeared as if someone was inserting a needle into my head at different points. What is it? I had never felt like this before.
The sensation worsened as time passed. Finally, I got a WhatsApp message. With trembling hands, I opened the file. “Oh! how is it possible!”, I thought. How could I be positive? I had taken all kinds of precautions. For a few minutes, I could not come to terms with the fact that I was positive. 
Reluctantly, I sent the report to my husband. He was equally shocked. “What should we do now”, I asked. “Are you all fine? I think you all should also get yourself tested”.
My mother and my husband had not been keeping well, of late. I was scared. What if they were found positive? Their immunity was already low. What about my nine-year old son? Who would look after them? How could I be sick? 
The man again visited our house in an hour or so. I could hear the doorbell ring. “Please sanitise the house once he goes”, I shouted with all the power I had. I got no response. I immediately called my husband and asked him, “why are you not replying?” I pleaded, “please sanitise the house”. “I will do it”, he shouted. “Don't panic”. That is the kind of stress Covid brings.
While the sensation I had in my head increased, I just prayed that their reports were negative. Tuck tuck tuck… came three WhatsApp messages in the morning. My heart sank as I downloaded the reports. God had listened to my prayers. All three were negative.
I called my husband. “You all are negative. I will manage myself. You please leave this house”. I ordered. 
“No, I can't leave you alone here. What if you need hospitalisation? Who will take you to the hospital”, he said. “Let's think about the mother and son”. Reluctantly, I called some of my relatives. 

More than the fact that I was positive, what kept my energy flowing was the negative status of my family members. I begged and prayed, "Can I send my mother and son to your house for a few days till the time I get well."
"What are you talking? They can get positive in 14 days. How can we take the risk?" After getting negative responses, finally we found a place where they can stay safely. 
I felt at peace with myself when they reached Una in Himachal Pradesh, away from the Covid-charged environment of the national capital. A colleague helped me in shifting them. 
Unlike other colleagues, who got calls from the Delhi government after they got a positive report, I didn't get any call. I was alone in my room, taking the home remedies that a colleague prescribed, the usual dose of paracetamol, cough syrup, anti-allergic medicine, Vitamin C and multi-vitamins. Of course, not to forget Chawanprash and the steam, that was always on.
My husband was more worried about the loss of smell and taste. "This could become serious," he said, one of his colleagues had told him. I was calm in my response. “It happens. It is usual. Don’t worry”, I said.
But it is horrible when you just can't smell and taste. At times, I tried hard to smell the Tulsi drops that I was taking, just to find if my senses were back. 
The first 10 days were the worst, I would say. I had no energy to even get up from my bed. I wanted to know if someone could come and help me. But it was not going to happen.
From cleaning my utensils to making kara (a unique concoction of different herbs) to cleaning my room, I felt like I was moving a mountain. I had put on the induction cooktop that a friend had gifted to heat water and make kara. The backache I had after doing even a small task lasted for a few minutes. And it took some while to be normal.
My cough had aggravated. And fever was not leaving me. While my oxygen levels were fine, I was not able to speak. And then came a panic call, "you should get hospitalised. You don't seem to be improving”. It was hard to convince a well-wisher, who had even finalised the hospital, where I would be able to get a bed easily.
Finally, I spoke to a doctor on the helpline. The doctor added one medicine and asked me to get hospitalised only if the oxygen levels dropped below 94 and breathing difficulties were there. 

I just can’t forget that night. I was finding it difficult to sleep. Even if I slept, I had nightmares of breathlessness. A death in the neighbourhood and of a Facebook friend had added fuel to the fire. Nevertheless, I woke up slightly better and was able to keep the hospital away. That was the last day I got fever.
After calling the helpline, I thought, maybe the government officials would visit my house like it happened in the case of other colleagues. But I didn’t get any call. I was happy to see that my status in the infamous Arogya Setu app had changed after 14 days. While I was still quarantined, it said “you are safe”. Yes, I thought, I am now safe for at least a month, thanks to the antibodies I have now.
While I was fighting Covid, I was able to complete a short-term course I had opted for even before I knew that I would be Covid-positive. I was also able to read a book on leadership by Robin Sharma. I have emerged stronger. 

I have now entered the wiser club of the real “Covid-warriors”. I can now offer free advice on how to fight Covid. As far as keeping it away, I don’t have any formula. You will get it, if you have to get it. Just keep your masks on. Wash your hands often. That is all I can say.

(The writer, a company secretary, can be reached at jassi.rai@gmail.com)

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