It was on the Saturday the 24th of October, 2020, with the three days’ holiday in its infancy, that I dozed off with a mild ache pulsing through my meagre frame, right after the morning bout of toast and ginger-chai. The beautiful holiday lay sprawled at my feet like a tranquil lagoon, as sparkling and deep as can come the way of a middling bank employee. Its colour was turquoise, but the hue kept changing to purple, pale green and even pink. Secure with the knowledge of nothing hounding me for the next three sunrises or sunsets, I fell in love with every colour that graced my eyes.
The pain though returned in the evening. And it stayed put. The next day wasn’t any better. The evening of the Sunday found me at the doorsteps of the family physician whose oximeter found me in default of the precious element called oxygen, my body having only 95 percent saturation. I was promptly flagged off to the nearby government hospital for a Coronavirus test but the window conducting the procedure was closed for the day.
It was a tough, sleepless night. The fever that had made home in my tendons and joints was now coursing through the veins of my body like the bullet train promised by our prime minister. The sun rose fitfully in the east as I clawed my way out of the night. I was at the counters for the test five minutes shy of 08 AM, the time it was supposed to begin operating. After a while, someone entered my details in a register, and a lady next door prescribed a list of drugs including a cough syrup, and I was instructed to wait. The wait grew longer.
Meanwhile, something kept simmering inside me, and it must have been stamped all over my face, for my usually placid wife, who had accompanied me to the hospital, lost her cool. I’d be the last man on the earth to blame her, considering the ceaseless grumbling of an elderly matronising support staff about people having nothing better to do than showing up bang at eight in the morning, not allowing the girls to have a proper breakfast even on a day like that, which happened to be a prominent festival too. It was Dussehra Alright!
The promised girls came. They kept discussing the ‘extra items’ in breakfast.
For years, I have been curbing my tendencies to whip out a multi-barrel rocket launcher where a whiplash would do. It has not been good to my body or the brain, and my homemaker and friend has been an active moderator and coach unto me in the journey. But, as she herself had lost her composure, I went berserk and unleashed the warship killer intercontinental ballistic missile, the Dong Feng 31, and began dialling in what I believed was the coordinates of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. It worked like magic, for within the next minute I was given an Antigen test. I was advised that rRT-PCR tests had been halted for ‘some reason’ on that day. But haven’t the coronavirus Antigen test kits established for themselves a reputation of being shamelessly dicey? So, the two of us, man and wife, crestfallen and all, went to an expensive private medical facility to get the ‘real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction’ test done on me. It turned out that unless an inhouse doctor had recommended, I could not take the test. Fortunately, the inhouse doctor we consulted turned out to be a very encouraging and supportive gentleman who prescribed a cocktail of antibiotics, anti-allergic and probiotic medicines for me, apart from approving the test and a week’s rest.
The following day, content that my day job could in no way claim me back for a while, I was lost in another siesta at the banks of the now magnificently enlarged lagoon, when my slumberous ennui was shattered by a phone call that rang simultaneously on my phone as well as the iPad.
“This is the Corona Control Centre calling!”
“Your sample was found positive for Corona. Where are you?”
“I am, of course, at my home.” I managed, digesting the impact.
“Please don’t move.”
“I am not moving at all!”
“How many of you are in there? In the family?”
I pictured a family of four, activists of a sleeper cell, holed out in a shady lane of Kashmir, taking instructions from the extremists of a rogue state further west. I did not like it one bit.
“Call me legion, for we are many.”
I explained that. I also explained that the others are highly ‘negative’ people who should be trusted. Except, perhaps one more, which I didn’t acknowledge, of course. Never thought negative could be so beautiful a word.
“Don’t move then, any of you. A doctor will visit you soon to quarantine you.”
That was pretty unsettling. But as I kept replaying in my mind the dialogue I just had, the phone and iPad burst upon me once more. I reminded myself to delink the iPad from the calls as soon as I am through the call.
“This is Corona Command Centre!”
“What? I just received a call from some control centre.”
“Right. We are the Command Centre! You Mr Oomash-Shanker?”
“Sort of.” I wondered how difficult it was for the active generations of my own country to pronounce my name.”
“You are Corona Positive!”
It was followed by a lengthy interview about my propensities to travel and socialise, and a strict warning not to move. I said I was already immobilised by the previous call. Before I could delink my iPad from the calls, it jumped on me once more.
“Hello! This is the police control room!”
“Police control room?”
“Yes. Your name figures in today’s corona positive list. We need to register your name, address etc.”
“But you can’t arrest me just because I am corona positive!”
“Are you Arnab Goswami?”
“Of course not!”
“Then why will we arrest you? But if you plan to move out of the house, we will be watching!”
“Who says I plan to move around?”
“Good. You need to answer a few questions then.”
“Shoot.” I tried to project a false bravado, as if I were Dirty Harry or someone.
“Tell us how many corona positive people you know about?”
“That’s not possible for me to tell! Not guilty. I mean, if only I knew about people being positive by merely looking at them, I’d never have contracted the virus.”
“No. Sometimes you know. Always remember, we are the best police in the world after Scotland Yard!”
“But that is what is being claimed about the police of a state whose name begins with ‘M’, is it not?”
“Well, our state shares the same first character, does it not?”
I realised the gravity of a state whose name shares the opening character with another law-loving state. I thought of people walking in and out of crime scenes like abundant stray dogs and dead bodies being rolled out turned on their sides with incriminating stuff lying alongside under the sheet. And I thought of a girl undressing to the last thread before jumping off to her death from a tall building and her files being ‘accidentally’ deleted by the cops within a month from death. Some say the post mortem was carried out after the corpse was cremated already.
It was highly unnerving, but it imparted an important lesson to me. Next time I plan to get infected by an uncontrollable disease, or perhaps commit a crime for that matter, I need to cover my tracks. Never disperse your coordinates like confetti, I told myself under the breath, because it will all return to hound you like fissile material found in ramshackle nuclear warheads. Old wisdom, but it took a certain experience to kick in, like a child’s first brush with fire.
That was not all. I received a call that made me visit the loo in the aftermath. It was a call from the Office of the Collector of the City.
The erstwhile masters of this conglomerate of states, the East India Company, and the British Monarchy in succession, instituted the powerful post of the Collector to rule over the uncivilised populace. The British have left, but the Collectors still rule the cities, purportedly to carry on the unfinished business.
“That the Collector shall also keep an Abstract Register, in English, of the proceedings of this Court, in which shall be entered only the Names of the Prisoners, the Crimes or Offences they stand charged, and the Sentence or Acquittal, which shall be transmitted in like Manner, twice every Month, to the Sudder Adawlut.”
That was enough to instil the fear of the Administration in me, and suddenly, the Wuhan Virus was reduced to a lump of cow dung on a pockmarked road in which I had dabbled my erring foot. Immediately after relieving myself of the nature induced liquids, I vanished in the seams of my bedsheet, not setting a foot on the floor till an entire revolution of the planet. Eventually, the powers that be assigned a physician to me who paid a personal visit to put me under house-arrest for a period exceeding a fortnight.
Now that I am past the tunnel where I had a series of nerve-wrecking duels with the invisible beast on a nightly basis, much of which was as much psychological as it was physical, I feel constrained to scribble these notes for the uninitiated. I have received an enlightenment which I daresay compares well with the God of a certain sect who had to pray under a tree for ages for a similar awakening. I can see now at a scale that is cosmic and microscopic at the same time, how perfectly the pandemic is being managed by the controllers of this nation. My only regret that remains, however, is that given the astounding success in smothering the bug, why our law enforcement agencies have to remain the next best after certain investigating department abroad? As I write this, I am not sure if Mr Biden or Mr Trump will return to the White House in the United State of America, and how badly the incumbent will take the slippage of the legendary FBI from the pedestal. I also wonder how the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation or the People’s Armed Police of China will feel about being absolutely surpassed by us.
So sorry to read this, our friend – but I trust you are OK now?
I trust the worst is behind me, Derrick, except that certain vitals are now out of the range and I keep getting these splitting headaches once in a while. Thanks for the concern.
Dammit! We are both thinking about you, fondly
Thanks to both of you for your kind thoughts!
Dammit from me, also! I didn’t like reading this, Uma. It’s not nice when someone you think fondly of is so ill. I hope you have a complete recovery from this beast.
It’s comforting to learn about your concerns on my relatively poor health. Recover I will. Thanks a ton, Yvonne!
Thank you for letting us know what you have been dealing with. I am so sorry for this unfortunate turn of events for you. May you have what you need, food, rest, care and within may your spirit be sustained in trust and hope for full recovery.
Thanks for your kind words. I have everything I need, and I do feel peaceful now that I have vented out!
Oh my ! Good to hear that you have recovered enough to write such a marvelous post on it ! Hope you are fully recovered now. Must have been really stressful days but i loved how you have made light of it
I am glad to find you back at this dilapidated structure, Moonstone! It was certainly bad, but the tempest has blown over now. Thanks for your concern.
Great Scot! So glad you didn’t tell us until now else it would’ve ruined my day. Delighted you are on the road to betterment. Of course on a more delightful note, we wouldn’t have got this wonderful (and best) description of the Wuhan virus attack if you hadn’t undergone such a horrible purification.
I have been bidding my time, alternating between dozing and whiling away in Nada. This period has been exclusively dark, more so because of the fears associated with the disease. But I have been faithful to the blogs I read, day after day.
I know you have been faithful to the blogs. That’s what I find amazing! – and your ability not to spout it to the world. If I get it, I die, so I’m in relative admiration of you.
Just don’t get it, Bruce Almighty.
I have a month’s supply of cat food if the occasion arises.
No human ever choked on cat food! (I read it somewhere in a story).
Good. The cat will share I am sure.
Fortunately, it’s not a terminal illness for most, God forbid, even you, should you were to be touched by it. I accept the admiration though!
Hope the ordeal is completely over. While as usual the post is a wonderful composition, it was a little scary at the same time. Glad to know that you survived the ordeal.
The disease has the potential to turn lethal at a short notice. I am happy to be reporting having sailed through the quagmire without significant damages.
I’m so sorry that you got this awful virus, and that you had to suffer from the nightmarish consequences that go with it. (As if you weren’t already feeling badly enough!) I hope you are better now, and that there are not lasting effects. Honestly, a vaccine can’t come fast enough. Meanwhile, I will pray for you and for all who are suffering from this pandemic, and sending healing wishes your way, my friend!
Thank you for your kind wishes. Apparent signs of the virus have receded. It seems I might need some time healing back to normal though.
From what I understand, it can take a while before you feel fully recovered. Just take your time and let yourself heal!
I’m very sorry to hear that you’ve had the dread virus Uma and glad that you are healing well. This was a visceral and amusing account of your experiences and there is an element of worry at the new laws that are being passed that allow us to be controlled….
I have always suspected we are a failing state —my worst fears stand confirmed after all this. I am glad you liked the humour part, am thankful to you for the wishes.
Only you could be so eloquent in the throes of sickness. Please get well and also your family.
I especially liked how you described your temper in terms of weapons of destruction. I’ll be reading that to my husband, as he lives with me and will understand.
Thank you! I feel honoured by the extended audience. I have been missing your poems of late though.
I have had difficulty writing, just rewriting old poems, and small poems.
Do you ever just lose the words?
I do. A stifling, barren dryness descends upon my consciousness from time to time and everything becomes still and rancid somewhat like the sea on which Ancient Mariner stood aboard his ship.
I’m so sorry to hear of your distressing experience, Uma. I also succumbed to the virus but back in the spring. Take good care as you recover.
I am glad you have recovered well from the clutches of the virus. The curse of Wuhan is a great leveller. You also take good care of yourself.
Hope you are recovering well, Uma. Your ability to find the humor in it all is admirable. Take care.
I am happy you liked the humour. Thanks for your kind words.
I hope you are feeling better. How is the family doing?
We had all come down with something strange way back in Feb. And we thought it was the seasonal flu but then as we learnt about the range of symptoms this covid19 thing has, it looks like it might have been just been that. (It seems the virus was here in CA way earlier than they thought it was.) Unfortunately that’s no consolation because they say you can get re-infected, no?
You take care. Let’s hope the vaccine will be here, soon.
Thanks Divya. This has been an insidious virus indeed. I hope you are well out there in CA. I am doing fine now, and hope the residual biological alterations within will gradually be restored to me.
Oh Uma, I am so sorry to hear you haven’t escaped the virus. What a story! Scary thing, because you never know how it is going to turn out. Glad you are getting better. Prayers for full recovery XX
It is dicey indeed. I am experiencing lingering fatigue but it’s abating. Thanks for those kind words, Inese.
Just rest, Uma. Fatigue sets the limits for your body. Stay in these limits for now. It is the way to get better sooner. Play by your body’s rules, don’t overdo anything. The healing is in progress. Wishing you well.
Thank you very much.
Oh my – glad you could keep your sense of humour during your ordeal! Rest and healing to you.
Thank you, ever so much, my friend!
An experience to remember! A cousin had to be in the hospital for ten days and said those days will always haunt her.
Last year has been a year of fear.
Liked your way of writing.
Thank you for visiting and putting in words of encouragement. I guess I can understand the ordeal of your cousin.
Oh, man, Uma! I can’t believe I missed this! I’m glad you’re alive and kicking. Are you having any aftereffects?
Thank you, Susie. I have taken my share of inspiration from you! The aftereffects are threatening to remain as unwanted guests but I am fighting tooth and nail.
Ugh! I hope you’re good as new soon.
I have been so careful, but these new strains are insidious!
Too late to say take care, fighting both the virus and bureaucracy is a tough ask. Hope you have recovered by now.
Am reading this several months late. I hope you are fully recovered now, and managed to stay safe in the tsunami that struck in April and May.
Thanks, Ankur ji. I am quite alright now, except for the lingering brain fog, which may have occurred anyway. Hope you are all hale and hearty.