My Covid came knocking in the dead of night like Kashmiri proverbial 'traath', – lightening speed and frightening suddenness. It was the first week of April; shoots in the earth, and on the trees were just beginning to sprout. Yet, April proved a cruel month.
In the dead of night, my life – my son – was wheezing with fever. It 3:30 AM. I touched his forehead, and here was a shivering message: Mr. Covid is here. A live nightmare had arrived. It was a pre-dawn panic. Rooms were segregated and sanitizers fanned out in all rooms. Washrooms reserved and paths regulated. It was a scene of a mini-crackdown, just like we witnessed as children in those brute years of 1990s. It was a complete mess, bringing my mind to total closure. The dreaded virus had breached our bio-bubble nursed for the past one year. What followed was a never-ending time stretch, an interminable dawn, and no sleep in any of the eyes in the family. If only children could know what they mean to their parents, and grand parents. If only those who played with the lives of our children, could grasp the enormity of crime.
Finally, it was the time for nose-piercing and tear-jerking tests for the whole family. The cotton stick looked like a long Kashmiri poplars, when a sample collector arrived at home in a scary Mars-suit-like PPE kit and made us sit in the open on a chair. Each sample collected, and lined up on kits, which looked like pregnancy kits. The blue chemical in vials looked like the barometer of death and life. Five tests were neatly put on the stairs in a sequence. Reminder of those queues in a crackdown.
Then began the anxious wait for the results: I felt the same turpitude when my Class 10 results were declared on those thick gazettes in small fonts, and all my relatives and their comments were weighing heavy on my mind.
"Son is positive. You are negative. Father is positive, and mother is negative," the sample collector put the whole gazette before me. He wanted to make a quick exit now for the obvious reasons. And the most important, our helper and the supply-line, was negative.
Rooms were sealed like containment zones but breaches would happen often. I volunteered to stay with my son. I hid my face under a bundle of masks only to get up in the morning and locate them entangled somewhere down on my feet. Sanitisers became like a sacred spray for those two weeks. I watched horror movies on the Netflix all night to keep COVID away. But five days later my body started throwing up symptoms, as scary as those movies.
I felt that COVID affliction is like typical possession by a jinn. It took over my ability to think, taste, smell and enjoy movies or read books. I was someone I did not know. I was in a different zone: sleep came so naturally to me every hour, even during the day.
Frantic, friends and relatives started calling up to check on us. Thus began a long funny list of what to do: from inhaling steam emerging from a mix of dozen ingredients to gargling with toothache mouthwashes to sunlight therapy. The list of potions only grew longer with each relative calling up. It would not have cost me less than one lakh rupees if I had gone for these potions.
Now, I started getting calls from those relatives who recovered from COVID last year. One advice stumped me. One of my relatives said that a protein diet was very very important to battle the virus out in this wrestling, where the attacker is invisible. He said he ate so much meat, of all types, that he had to cut nails twice a day and his bald patches on the head started showing up hair again (Protein does help nails and hair grow).
One relative said he fought the Covid with only tandoori chickens, but with a spicy mix of masala and another with Pizza. Many suggested new dishes and chickpea varieties. I realised that only Kashmiris can even turn Covid into 'a mahraaz saal'.
My mother made me eat an extra dose of eggs, meat, milk, fruit and litres of herbal tea. I am not sure about COVID dying in my body because of it but I can vouch my kidney stones must have swelled to 14 mm and cholesterol level shot up to 900 plus by now. COVID must have had a feeling of attending an elaborate 'khandaar sabb' every day for over two weeks.
I enjoyed the language and symbolism used by relatives and friends all this while, to convey the dark side of Corona impregnating my body. One relative said in case you cough and feel heavy at chest, recall dialogue of Asrani from the movie 'Sholey': "Jail mein suraang hogayee hai". He meant that it indicated pneumonia and likely hospital time.
The most difficult calculus of the infection was recalling the dates of symptoms, exposure, peak of symptoms etc. to decided on the final test, which must come negative. It's worse than hearing that you have failed in your Matric exams if it came positive. I must admit calculating dates on the calendar is not that easy when you have Coronavirus inside.
As days passed, the mood improved and I started enjoying movies from the 1980s. I had my first drive in the city after 23 days. I must say the foliage on trees has grown as bushy as my beard. The landscape had completely changed, so had traffic on roads, which is very thin from what I saw in the first week of April.
As the pandemic reaches new levels, I realised that Coronavirus does not possess you for being too happy, posting pictures of food online, enjoying getaways with friends, visiting tourist places or bad deeds. Covid is a jinn and can possess you whether you pee at the trunk of a tree or not. It just possesses you without any logic or reason. By the way, now that the jinn has left my body against the high-protein diet offered to it, I can afford to live a little more normal again than those who are yet to be possessed.
I must admit that my COVID story would not have been this rosy had my parents and myself not decided to get a vaccination shot in the first week of March. It acted as a shield. A vaccine in time saves nine, if I may slightly tweek the proverb. Probably, vaccination is the only mantra to show the invisible guest his place. Stay safe.
PS: This write up is an attempt to break the grimness spread by the infection. It's to just make you feel a little happier in these scary times. This write up is no attempt to play down the seriousness of the disease. Please take care of you and your family. Contact only doctors for advice on Coronavirus infection
The writer is a Special Correspondent with The Hindu, a national newspaper.