My first world passport didn’t help me in COVID times
In the beginning of 2020, I envisioned myself spending the summer in the province of Lisbon in Portugal sipping margaritas and having the time of my life. Unfortunately, the corona pandemic put a premature end to my hopes.
The first time I realised the extent of this pandemic was the day after I threw my 18th birthday bash in a high-end club in Singapore. Luckily for me if I had not thrown my party that very day, I would not be able to enter a Singaporean club because the very next day all clubs in Singapore were ordered to shut down due to the formation of a corona cluster. I was relieved that I was able to experience the renowned club culture of Singapore, so much so for being an adult.
Due to the severity of the virus, all my classes in college were moved online, and I completed my semester all while sitting in my dorm room. Finally, after a month I had finished all my online classes as well as online exams and I was prepared to go back to my hometown, Hyderabad- India.
As commercial air travel was suspended, my only chance of going home was the repatriation flights organised by the Government of India. I eagerly waited for my tickets along with 20 peers from India. As mails with confirmation started coming in, the dorm adorned a festive aura. One by one all my 20 peers had the tickets in their inbox. I waited eagerly as I was confident mine would come in presently…
The day went by, and I did not receive any communication, leave alone the ticket. The next day, I enquired about the flight from the High Commission of India in Singapore, I was informed that OCI Card Holders would not be considered for the flight as the repatriation flights were meant for Indian citizens only, not OCI card holders. I was devastated, more so thinking of the despair my parents would experience. Even though I was born in New Jersey, USA, and stayed there for 6 years, I had spent majority of my life in Hyderabad, India; I considered myself more Indian than American. Not that I did not enjoy the advantage of traveling to any almost any country without a visa. I had never regretted having an American passport, but in the situation that I found myself during the, pandemic it was more of a bane than a boon.
Let’s cut to the chase, all my friends had left for their respective abodes, I was stuck in Singapore for a month in my dorm room where Netflix and booze were the only things that were keeping me alive. My dorm room was an extremely small room which was equipped with a bed, a cupboard, and a study table. Depends upon how you look at it, for I did have the entire dorm to myself; no one to compete with for anything at all, an eerie silence.
After an entire month (which seemed to me like eternity), I had attained special permission from the Government of India thanks to the relentless efforts of several politician family friends, which allowed me to board a repatriation flight back to Hyderabad. It had not ended yet, when I landed in Hyderabad, I spent a week of institutional quarantine at a 5 Star hotel where I probably over utilized the luxury amenities which I lacked back in Singapore. I raked up quite an amount in room service bill as I feasted on and filled my stomach with scrumptious food prepared by the best chefs in the city of Hyderabad. Yet I missed meeting people as I was not allowed to have direct face to face human contact with the outside world or in this case outside my hotel room.
After the longest week of my life, I was back at my lovely home where I spent time with my family and enjoyed those home cooked meals that I so very much missed in my college time in Singapore. As I was contemplating the situation that this pandemic has put us in, I realised that I was seeing only the negative aspects of this pandemic and not the positives. For instance, my father who would spend most of his time in his office, now spends quality time with the family. The board game “Monopoly”, which had been stored in the attic for over 3 years, has found a new leash of life as the family bonds over it literally every night.
Also, I started learning to cook which allowed me to prepare my meals myself rather than tiring my mother with demands to make delicious repasts for me. For me personally, cooking became therapy, it allowed me to safely satisfy my gourmet needs as restaurants were closed due to the severity of the pandemic. This pandemic not only served as a detox from the outside world, but it has also taught me to appreciate life more.
All thanks to online classes, another semester is nearing completion. As 2020 draws to an end, I look back and think of what a year it has been. The lessons learnt will stay with me for a lifetime.