A couple look back in amusement the fear they felt in confinement

A notice outside a shop informs people to stay at home during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, at Kalighat market in Kolkata, on April 16, 2020.

A notice outside a shop informs people to stay at home during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, at Kalighat market in Kolkata, on April 16, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

So near, and yet so far. That turned out to be the case for an elderly couple from Kolkata who, upon their return from Australia on the night of March 21, were taken straight to a quarantine centre that was almost a stone’s throw from their home.

Debajyoti Ghosh Roy, 69, and his wife Baisakhi, 63, are now back home and can afford to look back in amusement at the nearly two weeks they spent in confinement in unfamiliar surroundings, but the overriding feeling is that of fear — back then and even now.

“When we get to hear that most people dying of COVID-19 are senior citizens, we feel scared,” said Mr. Ghosh Roy, who and his wife had gone to Hobart to spend time with their son when they realised India could soon be under lockdown. He hastily booked tickets and the two first flew from Hobart to Melbourne and then to Singapore, where they had a layover of nearly eight hours.

“At Singapore airport we checked into a day room. Across the wooden partition was another Bengali man who was constantly coughing. That scared us. I even ran into him twice in the washroom and kept a safe distance,” Mr. Ghosh Roy recalled.

They landed in Kolkata at 10.45 p.m. on March 21, and it was around 3.30 a.m. that they — along with the other passengers — were put in buses and taken straight to the yet-to-be-inaugurated campus of the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute at Rajarhat, the township where they live and which is not very far from the airport.

“After basic medical examination we were sent to a hall on the sixth floor. We carried our luggage. The hall had been partitioned into many bays; our bay had 10 beds. We occupied two of them and a Marwari family took another five. We became friends,” Mr. Ghosh Roy said.

Mrs. Ghosh Roy added: “It felt like a three-star facility, if not five-star. The sheets and blankets and towels were all brand new, so were the buckets and mugs in the bathroom. The food was vegetarian but very good.”

Three days later, however, they were told that they would be moved to another location because these beds would now be needed for those who showed symptoms. So several of those quarantined here were again put into a bus and taken to a nearby residential apartment block belonging to the National Building Construction Corporation. Here they were lodged in a three-bedroom flat, each bedroom assigned to a couple and the hall to four single men.

The Ghosh Roys remained confined to a bedroom for nine days. “There were no curtains, so the sun would be coming in in the morning. To make matters worse, I had carried only warm clothing to Australia, so I had to keep wearing them,” said Mrs. Ghosh Roy.

Mr. Ghosh Roy killed his time reading books on Kindle: he finished two books each by Arthur Hailey and John Grisham. The couple also watched Bengali films on Amazon Prime and Zee5. And while the husband read, the wife would be on phone with her many sisters and nephews and nieces living in Kolkata.

On April 3, they were asked if they would like to go home. “I called up our housing society — they were more than happy to have us back. But the other inmates were not so lucky, their societies asked them to return only after they had spent 14 days in quarantine,” Mr. Ghosh Roy said.

“We were put into an SUV and brought home. It doesn’t make much of a difference because it is like moving from one lockdown to another. But still, this is home, and I am at least able to make occasional visits to the market to buy groceries. We are also able to have tea of our choice, something we missed during the quarantine,” he said.

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2020 9:03:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/a-couple-look-back-in-amusement-the-fear-they-felt-in-confinement/article31356629.ece

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