Asymptomatic, I reached Government Medical College (GMC) Baramulla to meet the particular consultant. Both of us, masked, talked for an hour or so. I complained of headache. He suggested going for a quick RAT (Rapid-Antigen Test) in the emergency ward. To be on the safer side, I headed towards the virology lab. Chaos in the corridors was palpable. Clad in snow-white apron from top to toe, the technician inserted a nasopharyngeal swab to collect the sample. It irritated the nasal area and tears brimmed out of my eyes. My throat started aching. Panic button beeped. Here, I knew something is amiss.
The specimen was sent to the department of microbiology. With my heart racing, the result for novel Corona Virus was announced. The word Positive was painted purple. It indeed was a shocker. Panic gripped. I reached this stage due to complacency and callousness, I told myself as I made a quiet exit. It was just a matter of time. When the same doc checked the report, he was also unnerved. He didn't prescribe any medicine. "Self-isolation and intake of warm-water is what you must follow religiously." He urged. No sooner I reached home, inside my room, I was like a caged bird with clipped wings for a fortnight.
The days were getting difficult. Next day, Data Entry Operator (DEO) of the nearest Sub-District Hospital (SDH) phoned me to know certain details to log in the long list. "It is just a formality." He laughed it off and hung the call. I was a mere statistic for him. Fever and cold refused to go away. It stayed for a week. For first few days, every morsel I took was hurting my throat. I could feel the virus stuck in my respiratory track. My head was also spinning. My family brought disposable plates, and food was kept at the doorstep. It felt odd but there was no other option than to adopt this survival tactic.
Inside the 'temporary prison' (read my room), It was totally taxing on mind to think about how Corona virus knocked me down. In the subsequent days, flu subsided, headache reduced but my blood pressure lowered. Fatigue overpowered. I started feeling dull, dizzy and dreary. My tongue lost the taste. The virus attacks immune system. So, intake of immunity booster fresh fruits was the next advice I followed. It worked.
Meanwhile, two tense, tough and terrible weeks passed. I rushed to the same lab to be tested again. The doctor suggested opting for RT-PCR. It takes a day or two but it is more reliable, I was told by the staff. This time, the swab was rolled around Vallate papillae of my tongue. In medical lingo, they call it Oropharygeal swab. "The result will be available a day later in the central laboratory." The nurse informed as I left. I continued to be in Isolation for next fifty hours and thought about the second wave of pandemic. It is quite frustrating than the first one. Quarantine is itself a torture. Prayers, patience and precautions are what I could afford to do. On a rainy Thursday, I received the positive news of the day: word Negative was painted yellow. It was a relief.
More than a week later, two ladies from the medical fraternity of our block disembarked from an SUV in front of our gate. Draped in bluish PPE kits, the duo quickly pasted a poster on our main gate. It read: "Do not visit this house till……." They were supposed to come over three weeks before but as the DEO from the same hospital earlier said, "hum formality puri karte hain."
The much-needed solitude pushed me to ponder over some harsh realities of life. How ungrateful we are. How it feels when we socially isolate people on the basis of their caste and status? How destitute live on the mercy of fate and have been isolated by rich? It also taught me to stay away from toxic people/relations. This self-imposed mandatory restriction on outdoor movement for a fortnight pushed me to think how it would be feeling to be framed in bogus cases and jailed for years for no fault. This virus teaches us to show solidarity with the incarcerated but we have a volatile memory. We don't remember.
Lastly, an ode to hyper-religious people: it is not Modi's Chaal (conspiracy). It is a goddamned disease. The killing spree has spiraled. There is one death in every four minutes in the capital city. It is utter horror. Bharat is ill. We have lost over two lakh precious lives in the country. It is a catastrophe. Medicos are at a breaking point. Experts believe Indian strain of the virus spreads faster. While the efficacy of vaccines is a matter of deliberation, there is a cocktail of new mutants. Viral load is huge, and the new strain is more infectious.
Virus does not have feelings. It just kills. Please avoid religious gatherings. We don't want Delhi doom to be repeated in Kashmir. I will invoke Ajaz-ul-Haque: "Don't visit God's Home, He will visit yours." Life is precious. Save lives. Science is backed by evidence, reason and logic. Please don't politicize the virus. There is lot of misinformation doing rounds. Don't believe any forwarded texts from fake "WhatsApp University". New virus variant is worrying the world. And yes, testing negative is not an achievement. It is not a license of being virus-free. It is not like a successful surgery. Even vaccinated personnel do contract the virus again. So, don't lower the guard. Mask Up. The virus is far from over. Take care. Please.