The only thing that keeps 31-year-old occupant of Room number 112, bed number 2, Abhishek Gupta, an employee in a multinational pharma company in Ahmedabad, going is the routine video call he makes to his two-year-old son.
Gupta has not met his family members including his wife, son, aging parents, brother, sister-in-law and their two children for over last three months.
Gupta and his friend and colleague Ravi Shah (31) first quarantined themselves at the former’s vacant house on landing at Ahmedabad’s Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport from Germany on March 19 and later at Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s quarantine facility at Sports Club.
Understanding the health risks they might put their families into, they both decided to go into self-quarantine right from the airport.
“I have another house which is right opposite to where my family is staying in Gayatrinagar society in Jivraj Park area. So we both decided to quarantine ourselves there for 14 days once we completed the formalities at the airport and assured the authorities about that by filling a form,” says Gupta.
Shah, a resident of Chandlodiya area, too accompanied him without meeting his wife, one-year-old child and his parents.
Sharing the experience they had to go through, Gupta said, “When we reached our empty house at around 6 am, I did not meet anyone from my family. My wife just left the keys outside the door for us. I did not even see my child. They would leave food and other stuff too outside the door.”
Hardly had they stayed there overnight, the society residents started raising objections asking them to leave.
“On morning of March 20, people from Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) came and enquired if we have stepped out. They said they have received a complaint from a society resident that we are roaming around. The society residents also fought with my family and accused them of spreading coronavirus in the society. My family had never hid anything from anyone and we were peacefully staying away from everyone. Despite that, this unnecessary and uncalled for behaviour by the society was another rude shock we were not prepared for amid all this social isolation we already were in,” says Gupta.
“Being from the pharma sector we know the repercussions one might bring if one fails to follow isolation. Instead of respecting and supporting those going for self home quarantine, the neighbours are harassing them. Despite lockdown, these people will move out and roam, hold meetings but not offer a helping hand to others. We have to support each other as the government cannot reach everywhere,” says Shah.
On the proposal of AMC authorities, both moved to the corporation’s quarantine facility created at the Sports Club.
“We were shifted here the same day by 108 ambulance,” says Dr Rajni Contractor, member of one of the teams of AMC doctors deployed for the medical services including the daily checkup of all quarantined persons. Contractor is visiting all those who are home quarantined in the city.
“I even cater to requests from residents asking for food items though for that there is a separate attendant,” said Dr Contractor. He further says that there have been instances where society residents have raised objections to home quarantine though they have been assured time and again that it would not jeopardise their life if they follow quarantine guidelines properly. “But people are not ready to listen to anything at all. There needs to be more awareness and empathy among people towards their own neighbours than hatred and ignorance,” he adds.
On an official assignment in Germany, Gupta’s six-month term was supposed to get over on March 20 following which Shah was to take over, but with the outbreak of COVID-19, both decided to cut short their stay and return home as early as possible.
“We had our return tickets on March 26 but we rescheduled them for March 18 since we were unsure about flights and health concerns,” Shah says.
When asked how was the situation in Germany when they left, Gupta said that it wasn’t as bad as back home.
“There was no lockdown and as the population is less we usually don’t get to see many people on roads,” he says.
Already in the sixth day of quarantine, Gupta and Shah have at least some comfort being friends and put up in one room. Nearly 30 persons are in isolation at the Sports Club quarantine facility that has 20 rooms. Each room has accommodated two persons.
“Those who don’t know each other are now getting along well in such difficult times away from family and friends,” says Shah.
Appreciating the arrangements made at the Sports Club, the friends said apart from boredom and homesickness there is no other complaint.
Health conditions of both are normal and so far both have developed no symptoms of the virus.
Among their routine is video calling their family and friends everyday after breakfast, their stress buster.
“We have television in the room. Morning tea, breakfast, lunch and dinner all are served in the room itself. These days, in lunch and dinner we are getting more Punjabi food but that is good too. Everything is free,” says Shah.
The inmates can ask for stuff from market or their home but that is chargeable, they say.
With a 24-hour medical team stationed at the reception, the quarantine facility also has police deployment along with some bouncers from private security services to ensure no one escapes.
They also have been provided with a table tennis, chess and carrom board on the terrace where they are allowed to take a stroll and play.
Counting days, Gupta and Shah have to complete their 14-day quarantine period till April 1. “The first thing I would do when I get home is hold my child,” both said in unison.
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