“Coronated!” by my very own COVID dance

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When you are forced to live with someone or something, you have to learn to dance with them. Truly, it takes two to tango.

Anything and everything is easier to undergo when you have a partner suffering similarly. Pixabay / Bany MM

No one wants to have to dance with Covid. But each Covid dance is unique in itself. It’s very personal. We have to own ours. A crowned prince — or a princess, if you like — descends on you and the dance begins, alternately swaying between submission and dominance until, hopefully, our royal guest accepts defeat and disappears. I got my very own “Covid beau” recently (You may get a beau or a belle depending on your gender preference).

Before I start telling you about my exclusive journey with my beau, I must stress that there is an urgent need to have a special organisation called ‘Covid Anonymous’ where all the victims of this microscopic entity can meet up to exchange their varied and bizarre experiences. This ‘crowned’ phenomenon is sneaky. It doesn’t strike a pose in combat. It simply creeps up, catching you unawares, and says “Boo”.

It said Boo to me very gently. It didn’t scare me. This was a whisper from the Prince specially assigned to me. Was he my enemy or my friend? I couldn’t tell. He was definitely very creative. I decided to wait and see. The ‘dance’ began. It was a slow waltz at first... so tender and innocent that I gave myself up easily... my nimble self being led and handled expertly. We graduated to the elusive Tango which went on for a while with its unpredictable moves. In my imagination there was magical pixie dust being sprayed from above. (Disney-like!) A little theatre never hurt anyone, I thought, smug in my invincibility. Then, without warning, the tempo in music and dance took on an intensity... carrying through foxtrots and Latin dances. Now I knew that he had me in his clutches and I would have to play hardball to extricate myself from his vice-like grip. I resisted my urge to be pliable. I sought expert counsel from the knights in armour (read, doctors) around me. I blindly picked them from the row and beseeched them for help. The Prince had grown fangs. A slow battle ensued. He disappeared and appeared languidly, mocking us sword-wielding knights in hot pursuit. None of us knew where to strike, and we groped in the dark for a while, till he eventually weakened and shrank. The fangs fell off and he ran with his tail between his legs. Oh yes, he had a tail too, albeit well hidden from sight!

My partner and I are ‘annoying rule-followers’. We do not deviate from the path of righteousness. We exasperatingly keep at it. At least we assume so. Our pride in our steadfastness and earnestness can be perceived as an awful nuisance to some. I won’t be surprised if we are mocked behind our backs. But we have marched on together like this for many years. So, keeping to the new norms dictated by Covid was easy. We never complained. The motto was “deal with it!”. We masked and social-distanced and washed and scolded others who didn’t. We never got bored. We didn’t feel deprived. We found ways to occupy ourselves.

We gargled and inhaled saline and steam, concocted and consumed home remedies without any fuss. It became part of our daily routine... like brushing our teeth. Copious amounts of vitamins C and D, Zinc and others went in, one way or the other.

On November 10, 2020, we had to travel to Delhi for urgent paperwork. It was pre-Diwali time. The smog which had disappeared from the atmosphere during complete lockdown was back with a vengeance. Rules had been relaxed, shops had opened and people thronged the streets to buy and eat and mingle. It was a sight to behold but not to partake in.

We stayed just for two days with my cousin, got our work done and were back in Bangalore on the 13th. We were double-masked and face-geared and slathered in sanitisers all the while we travelled. We bought two aisle seats in the front on the flight both ways to avoid meddlesome middle seats. I even picked a fight with my next-seat passenger for not wearing her mask properly and not having her face-gear on. I made a mild scene, which was soon sorted out by an air-hostess.

We settled down back home with great confidence about having navigated and circumvented the Covid menace by the power of our diligence. And as we did after the previous travel stint in September for similar work, we decided to quarantine ourselves for a few days to see if we were ok. It was a conscientious decision, a civic duty if you will.

And then came the shock. My cousin tested positive and so did her husband. She had fever and other symptoms but he had none.

We waited to see what happens.

I had body ache and headache on the 16th and 17th. My husband had what seemed like travel fatigue for just the single day. Then we were as good as new. We felt great. Who knew that the Covid prince was making his subtle presence felt and was teasing us with a hide-and-seek game. A cough started in me. It didn’t seem unusual, as I still had no fever and had great saturation levels.

Hey, I said, it was  most likely nothing. But my close family wouldn’t let go. Children, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends ganged up on us. They relentlessly pursued us to do tests. They were like little devils scorching us from behind with their heated pitchforks.

On the 23rd, we tested positive. This was unexpected. We suddenly realised we had lost our taste and smell too. That lasted for four days. We still remained more or less asymptomatic. Oh well... this too shall pass, we thought. But my cough got worse, tiredness set in, body fatigue started. But no fever. What was this?

We got our blood checked following doctor’s recommendation. I also did a CT scan of my chest. My husband still had no symptoms. His parameters were good. My results showed alarming variations in a couple of tests. I heard that dreaded word ‘pneumonia’!

Me?? I could not believe it. Being a yoga practitioner performing various methods of breathing every day, eating right, walking, jogging, how on earth could my lungs be affected? I could still do my pranayama — anulom vilom, kapalabhaati. — in spite of the cough. Strange indeed!

I was guided to have a few tele-conferences with a pulmonologist who put me on steroids, anti-virals and blood-thinners with extra supplements. It took effect immediately. I started getting better from day one. The energy started coming back, the tiredness disappeared gradually, the infection lessened. My husband continued to be asymptomatic. We had follow-up blood tests and got cleared. Phew! Just in time to acknowledge our anniversary.

Now, after all this, do you think I am saying that the Coronavirus is a mega malady that one should live in fear of? Or do you reckon I am asking you all to disregard it and saying it’s nothing but a normal flu, nothing to fear?

I will actually come out and say loud and clear that it is possibly both of the above. I am going to be Shakespearean and phrase the following way — is it ‘to be feared or not to be feared? That is the question’.

Please do not live in dread all the time. Don’t panic, don’t hyperventilate. Just do the right thing and get on with your lives. Without wanting to scare you, I will have to add that it could still strike or creep up on you from any unexpected source. If that happens, deal with it in the best manner possible. Exercise, keep your immune system strong, and be ready for battle at any time if necessary.

Don’t be smug in your righteousness, false confidence and assumed invincibility. Don’t have a blasé attitude. Being optimistic is fine, but let it not stem from stupidity. Shake off that chip from your shoulder, if you find one there.

The best thing you can do is to be ready if or when it happens. By that I mean we should be constantly looking after ourselves, not necessarily looking over our shoulders. Every single day, every single moment, without worrying too much, keep your guard up. It’s a tight rope to walk but certainly an effort worth taking.

Seek help from friends, family and even strangers who may be willing to pitch in. Being open to assistance and support eases our difficulties a fair bit. Isolation means only physically, not morally and mentally. Be open. There is a ready relief in that.

We were very lucky in this matter. We were surrounded by loving enquiries, lots of food at the doorstep, readily avaiable groceries and medicines. Doctors, my knights in shining armour, were at hand to assist and answer questions. I could ask any silly question and it was indulged.

Has the unknown become known or has the known become unknown? The verdict is hovering between the two details. Our beaus and belles are still skirting around out there. Are they weakened? By a simple logic I believe they are not stronger, though the mystery still exists. So be aware and beware. What is life without a little enigma, right?

P.S. I know that this open, honest write-up that I have put out here in cyberspace will probably trigger speculations and deep analysis. But controversies and gossip are the spice of life. The ‘how’ and the ‘why’ and the ‘when’ and even the ‘who’ of it all will pass around like Chinese whispers. We will be dissected to pieces for what we had possibly done ‘wrong’. Go ahead. Have fun with it. But you are most welcome to ask me anything personally at malli23menon@yahoo.co.uk (or in the comments section). The answers may not be as interesting as the speculations.

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