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It’s the last minute of the football match and one could feel the blood rushing through the beating heart as the striker moves closer to the edge of the post and makes the winning goal. The thunderous cheer from the packed stadium makes you tremble in sheer joy, weakens your jaw muscles making way to unleash a victorious cry. For that one moment, you become the happiest person on earth. On the 34th day of institutional quarantine, after being tested negative 5 times, the same overwhelming sense of excitement came over me as the freedom to go home awaits the next day after a long excruciating confinement with much extension in between, prolonged by reported positive cases. What a moment of joy it was! On every extension, thought I was fighting a lost battle, didn’t I?
So Diary, do you know how it felt to be quarantined? There was always the mixed feeling of being okay and not so at times. Yet, the beautifully packed and delicious meals lifted my heart up and it kept me going through the entire stay. What a great affection and care shown by the community! Netflixedduring the day and put myself to bed in games just to wake up the next day with the smell of delicious packed food right outside. I felt so fortunate to have indulged on such amazing food. Not to mention, the side dishes always complemented the main dish. Not only did the delivery team said grace before every meal but alsoa Bible passage written right on the food package was a great reminder of God’s protection. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to the entire team who worked tirelessly day and night behind and on scene to make our stay better. I’m ever grateful to each of you. It may seem a bit unfair to others but nonetheless, a big thumbs up to the kitchen team for showing such immeasurable care and love through food.
Oh! Have I mentioned where I was stationed? My quarantine was in a hostel at Impur, Mokokchung which is the headquarter of Ao Baptist Church Association. ABAM (Ao Baptist ArogoMundang) was kind enough to shoulder this great responsibility. Such selfless act is the very spiritual foundation of churches and I’m so glad to ABAM for making me believe it again. My sincere gratitude goes out to various churches, individuals and organizations that came forward with donations in cash and kind and doing their best for us. There cannot be a better time to put the gospel in action than now and I hope the churches will continue to relentlessly lend their support during this pandemic.
And oh my! If you are wondering about our location, well, it was pretty adventurous with a little rough edge to it. As you enter the premises, there was the shelter for security guards and the entire landscape was surrounded by big tall trees. From the lens of backyard, less human inhabitants and more greenery were there, allowing more fresh air and insects as constant visitors. Caterpillars, grasshoppers, spiders, butterflies, crickets, you name it and even frogs dropped by quite often. Once I was woken up by strange murmurs in the middle of the night. At first, I ignored it but it became a bit louder. My curiosity tempted me to wake up and find out the reason for such commotion. Since we dare not visit each other’s room, I could only listen. And guess what? It was a mighty frog creating unnecessary chaos among the female inmates which one of them finally got rid of it. By that time it was already 2 am. Again after few days, we encountered another green frog in the washroom.
Now Diary, let me share with you the thoughts that went through my mind during the whole shebang right from the journey till the last day of my quarantine. Being a traveling enthusiast myself, I enjoy to different places. Never have I had a sleepless night before taking on a journey except for this. The fear of pandemic eclipsed the joy of going home. When the cab arrived at 3:30 am, I was still awake and fresh. Strict protocols at the airport didn’t help much either.Each of us was screened at the entry point. My gosh! That was a tense moment.As the aircraft landed at Dimapur, mixed feeling of being relieved and anxiety crept in. Thereafter, a bus was arranged to take us to Mokokchung that very evening. A thick plastic divider segregated the passengers from the driving team inside the bus. Being seated in the front row, one could hear the driver and the handyman talk about being away for weeks and how they miss their family. The thought of being prevented from seeing your family for discharging your duty almost broke my heart. I could only imagine the frontline workers and what they must be going through. As we reached the quarantine center at dawn, the frontline workers led by the district administration received us. Gosh! They must have had sleepless night upon every new arrivals given the fact that I was asked to inform one of them at every crossing point all through the journey. As we entered the building, a gift hamper (with all the basic necessities and a Bible) was provided by the Research and Communication Committee District Task Force COVID-19, Mokokchung along with counselling services on request. How very thoughtful! A soft spoken lady was always on the call asking about our health status during the entire stay.
Dear, now hear my little discomfort during the stay. Given the strength of inmates, the number of useable bathrooms was quite few I would say. Out of 4 bathrooms for an inmate of 16, 2 were damaged beyond use and one faced blocked drainage every now and then. So here’s a little heads up for those staying in quarantine with fewer bathrooms: Be an early bird and take the first dive – short and simple. You’ll feel better. Bombarding of phone with calls and messages after every positive case report from every quarter asking unnecessary details about the patient was the most discomforting characteristic among many others. Other than the requisite details for medical purposes, why pry into people’s lives and induce stigmatisation allowing unnecessary gossip to spread at the cost of others? Is it not the time to stop digging and start helping? Be it a patient, a murderer, a thief or any other criminal as it may, we have no right prying into people’s lives creating unnecessary stigmatisation which benefits neither the listener nor the subject.
Dear Diary, as we await the result, the air was tense within the four walls. There were five rounds of test and every time we waited till midnight to get an implied hint of the report. If any of the inmates gets picked up by the medical team that very night, then we get to know that the rest of us are negative and vice versa. That’s how we determined our result by midnight. Unfortunately to my great dismay, the first round of test didn’t have my name listed. I enquired but it wasn’t there. The person in charge noted my detailsthat very day to get it checked at the office. But I was impatient to know why my name was not listed when all my friends (with whom I came from Delhi on the same day) were tested except me. Then I saw 3 grievance cell numbers on the wall and called the first one without wasting any moment. A lady answered and was kind enough to put the call through to the concerned Department. To my surprise even before the first hello, a stern voice angrily asked if I “Complaint.” Forget about complaining, it was hardly a query. Anyways, maybe that was how she perceived it. Following which she asserted that my name was in the list. But the person in charge, who was right in front of me,with the list, didn’t have my name on it. So, obviously there was some confusion between them. Eventually, they discussed among themselves (by this time, the inmates were already done with the tests and after seeing me still standing there, one of the officials even asked what I’m waiting for ) and I was tested onthat day itself. I understand confusion happens to everybody when you are dealing with lots of work and I am not here to accuse anybody. But Diary, that clarification over the phone could have been done in a more humane way like any other instead of responding with an angry tone. The other 4 rounds of test went smoothly.
Dearest Diary, the long wait is over and I am finally home. What seemed eternity became a reality! Thanks to all who prayed for me and the people around the world who are continuously praying for this pandemic. Deep gratitude goes to Mokokchung medical team too for their relentless effort and testing 5 times within 34 days. I am also thankful to the driving team, administration team, police, security guards at every quarantine centres and all the frontline workers for risking their lives as well as for bearing the ultimatum of not meeting their family during COVID duty. Phew! Here am I for another 21 days home quarantine filled with good wishes for those who are in quarantine now and longing to be home. I understand the fear of not being able to go home when you are in a quarantine but hang in there friends, you’ll be home soon!
The paradox of my quarantine was, when the person (who was tested positive from our quarantine) was healed and discharged from hospital and sent home, we were still stuck in our quarantine. So Diary, it’s really hard to make sense of this pandemic.