The end of life as we know it

COVID-19 Diary

A personal account of the impact of coronavirus outbreak and subsequent nationwide lockdown.

By Jagriti Parakh

Being a journalism grad, I had been following news related to the coronavirus outbreak ever since the beginning of this year, when the virus had not even stretched its arms beyond the geographical borders of China. I’ll be honest: nothing affected me or anyone around me, not until a month passed by, and the first three cases of COVID-19 were reported in Kerala. By the way, I was in Bangalore at the time, attending college. “The deadly virus is now only a few hundred kilometers away from us,” a friend told me.

It’s funny how we (my friends and I) were all scared of numbers, but had already done all the math and calculated the time the virus took to travel from China to Kerala. We even started applying the formulas of physics to derive the virus’s estimated time of arrival at our doorsteps. From that day until today, I haven’t ignored a single news article about coronavirus that sat in my phone’s notifications bar. That’s when I realized why our professors kept telling us: “proximity is one of the most prominent news drivers.”

In the subsequent weeks, schools, colleges, and offices were shut, public places were closed, public transportation was suspended, and travel bans were imposed. Working/studying from home became the new normal across the country and many other countries in the world.

We, the students of IIJNM—trainee journalists, as we call ourselves—continued with our classes and schedule as usual. In the wake of the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and instances of cholera in Bangalore, the faculty members changed our schedule in a way that we did not have to step out for reporting, to ensure our safety.

Because of the impending risk and the unpredictability of the preventive measures to be taken by the government, the college administration told us that we should all reach our safe homes before things get worse. Before we could let this news seep in, another one popped up—“all domestic scheduled commercial airlines shall cease operations effective from midnight, that is 23.59 hours, on March 24,” ANI tweeted, quoting authentic sources.

We rushed to book flight tickets, hoping to reach ‘our safe homes’ safely—well, some did, some could not even leave the campus, while some are still stuck betwixt, including me. Despite taking the last flight out from Bangalore to Jaipur, I could not reach home in Bikaner.

Bangalore Airport on March 24, 2020.

When PM Modi announced a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, I was still in the flight, wrapped in a weird-looking black plastic robe with my nose and mouth covered, sitting in the middle seat—my arms crossed, hoping to magically shrink to avoid contact with the co-passengers—I have never been so anxious.

As soon as the flight landed, I sanitized my hands, switched my phone on to call the driver, but stopped abruptly when I heard a co-passenger shout from across the aisle, “Modi Ji has announced a nationwide lockdown for 21-days, starting tonight.” I was shocked and disheartened. I stood up, took my bags, sanitized my hands for the millionth time and walked out of an empty airport thinking about what had just happened, and cursing the bad-timing of everything in my life.

While I was waiting for the car, I disposed of the first cover of everything I had with me (yes, I had put extra covers on all my luggage bags). I was extra cautious because I was headed to my grandparents’ house in Jaipur, and I didn’t want to put them under any risk, whatsoever.

When I reached home and thought about it—I realized that my concerns were nothing when compared to the greater, global and national concerns right now, in the middle of a pandemic. I call this a sudden awakening; I was now grateful for being able to travel back, for being with my loved ones, for being safe—for everything. I feel no anxiety. I cherish the small things in life—the clouds, the sunsets, my grandpa’s toothless smile, and the internet, of course.

In the weeks that follow, I am often overwhelmed by fear, but I have resumed working and reading apart from my daily dose of coronavirus-related articles. I am hoping for this to end really soon, and for the world to start afresh.

The day I left my hostel for the first time after the coronavirus outbreak and reached the Bangalore Airport amid a curfew, was the day that marks the end of life as I knew it.

I am still trying my hand at mathematics and teaching my younger cousins that one and one will only make the trouble of two or an exposed eleven if they interact or come in contact; nothing happens if one and one stay separated—and they understand.

Surviving through a pandemic really does change your life. I hope we all make it to the other side.


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