“As soon as I arrived from Bangladesh, I felt it for the first time - an acute, sharp sting in my heart,” says a student from Jammu and Kashmir as she narrates the poignant developments of her stay at the isolation center during the 14-days quarantine period amid coronavirus pandemic.
The first-year student pursuing MBBS in Bangladesh joined college in January this year. “I completed my quarantine today, in a plush guest-home barely 10 kms away from my home in Srinagar. Today, I am home with my family, but I would still be cautious not to give a peck on my younger sibling’s cheek. I missed her antics,” she says as she provides a first-person account.
“I could sense my perturbation fade away as the sweet Himalayan breeze touched my face when I arrived but soon, I realised that home was still out of reach. I was to be locked up in quarantine,” she adds.
After coronavirus broke out in Bangladesh, the young student managed to return to Kashmir almost a fortnight ago.
People sitting inside the hotel that has been converted into a quarantine facility.
“I was screened and asked to board a bus with a group of students. Being one of the lucky ones, I was taken to a relatively good facility (a decent hotel). I really wanted to go home but all I wanted to take home was love, not an asymptomatic coronavirus infection. We were segregated immediately upon arrival, but I found myself in the company of a roommate, a fellow student from my college,” she says.
In the isolation facility, roaming around was not allowed and “everything, including food, was brought to the room.”
“The human brain wanders off in infinite different directions when it’s given time to think. The first few days were fine. What kept me happy was the balcony of my room and the beautiful view of the scant sun rays piercing through the clouds that enveloped the magnificent Zabarwan hill. It took me a few days to settle but soon, the monotonicity became hard to overlook. Eat, watch TV, surf painfully slow internet, sleep, and repeat,” the aspiring doctor says.
“Once, we asked the staff to clean our rooms but considering the fact that we were foreign returnees, they left two brooms at our door. Being allergic to dust, I could not have possibly afforded to have a cough as my symptoms could have been mistaken for coronavirus. So, we made peace with our dusty room. We were so bored that we did experiments with food which, quite frankly, failed spectacularly," she says.
"We used to add chips and nuts (anything we could get our hands on) to our everyday ‘batte’ (boiled rice), so you can probably figure out what went wrong. I rediscovered my lifetime love for fine arts in confinement. I hadn’t been able to do that in Bangladesh because of my hectic medical college schedule,” she adds.
One good thing that I gained from this experience was a new friend - my roommate. In college, we had never gotten to know each other. But as crisis locked us together, we bonded over a vast range of activities ranging from trivial things like online Ludo to typical Kashmiri banter. We happened to find out that we were related (Kashmir is a small place!),” she says, recalling her heartrending experience.
“What we missed the most were our parents. My last “meeting” (See, but do not touch) with my parents happened on my first day of quarantine. We stood far away and all I could do is wave at them when in truth, I wanted to take them into my arms and cry. I never really appreciated the simple blessing of being close to my parents. I missed mom’s lovely food, dad’s warm embraces, and my sisters’ pesky antics. I missed my little nest of peace amidst the chaos. I missed home,” she adds
“As my quarantine nears its completion, my desperation to go back where I belong only has only increased. I have made a tiny little bucket list in my mind to fulfill when my quarantine period is over. I shall return home a happier-than-ever and appreciative person with a wider perspective towards life. This crisis has taken a toll on all of us. Mentally, physically, and financially. But we will rise again - stronger than ever. We shall overcome,” she says.