Quarantine can be a long, lonely process, especially in Nagaland where protocol requires those who have travelled back to the state to undergo a two-level quarantine process: first, in Kohima or Dimapur in institutional quarantine for 14 days, and then in their respective district for another 14 days.
That is why in a village called Chizami, located in Nagaland’s Phek district, the village council has come up with a way to work around the quarantine blues: a quarantine centre that functions as a ‘creativity’ hub.
“We are not even calling it a Covid-19 Quarantine Centre, but a Covid-19 Creativity Hub,” said Wetshete Thopi, an Assistant Professor at Patkai Christian College (Autonomous) Dimapur, who is now the convenor of COVID-19 Task Force in his village.
According to Thopi, 24 huts were constructed on May 25, just ten days before the first batch of returnees arrived in Chizami, a small hilly hamlet of about 3,000 people. At the entrance of the centre — located on a football field of the GM Government High School — hangs a large banner, which reads, “Covid-19 Creativity Hub”.
“While returnees have the option of undergoing home quarantine, many homes in our village are not conducive for proper quarantining,” said Thopi, “That is why we created this centre, constructing the bamboo huts ourselves.”
In Nagaland, ever since the lockdown in March, district-level Covid-19 task forces have swung into action to streamline administrative processes in collaboration with the government during the pandemic.
“Each district has a task force, under which there are sub-divisional task forces, and so on. The high-powered state committee is in touch with the district administration and task forces regularly for updates,” said Mmhonlumo Kikon, Government Spokesperson, MLA & Advisor to the Government of Nagaland.
“Our main task is to oversee the quarantine of the returnees,” said Thopi, adding that the village council collaborated with NGO North East Network (NEN) for the initiative. “We provided them a relief kit. Along with dry rations like tea leaves and sugar, we included stationery,” said Seno Tsuhah of NEN Chizami, “They are all young, energetic people, most who were working in the hospitality sector. So we told them they could scribble anything they like — a poem or painting.” If they wish, they can submit their work to NEN, post quarantine. “We will publish it all into a booklet later.”
Since 1999, the Nagaland chapter of the NGO has been working in the field of womens’ reproductive health in Chizami but now has branched out to mobilise thousands of women from the unorganised sector in Phek, Dimapur and Kohima to master livelihood skills such as weaving, as well as agriculture.
From the centre, Dezo Naro, a student who had returned from Shillong, said that the creativity hub felt like a “home away from home.” “The natural setting felt like a perfect space to unwind the stress of a wearied returnee.”
Thopi said that that the intention was not to give anyone heavy work, but to encourage them “to keep busy, writing poems, or making any kind of art, while confined within their own huts.” “They also have the option of gardening in little patches outside their huts,” he said, adding that there are nine people currently at the centre.
While Nagaland has 341 active Covid-19 cases, Chizami village has not reported any so far.
“The point was to create a positive atmosphere in the centre,” said Thopi, “Months of lockdown and quarantine have taken a toll on mental health, so we thought let’s make this quarantine centre a place for creativity, positivity and productivity, as opposed to one which would be abhorred.”
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