CORONABOBS ISOLATION DAY 34 – Diary of a Self-Isolator 18.4.2020
jeanniejeanniejeannie.co.uk BLOG 20tht April 2020
CORONABOBS ISOLATION DAY 34 – Diary of a Self-Isolator Saturday 18th April 2020
I find it interesting reading how other countries and other people are dealing with lockdown.
Firstly, at a station with no trains, locked-down strangers wait weeks with no way out
Joanna Slater, Tania Dutta
NEW DELHI —The main train station in the north Indian city of Varanasi is a sprawling building that has witnessed its share of delays over more than a century of rail travel. Sometimes the waits are long, and sometimes they are pleasantly short. But it has never seen anything like this.
Inside a high-ceilinged room, a group of travellers from across India has waited in vain for more than three weeks for trains that never come.
They are parents and children, construction workers, managers, pilgrims, students, a lawyer and a marketing professional. They have one thing in common: They were all stranded hundreds of miles from home when India abruptly suspended its passenger trains, which carry 23 million people a day, then imposed a strict nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Ever since, the passengers have spent their days confined to a waiting room in a state of uncertainty worthy of an existentialist play, unable to continue their journeys and forbidden from leaving the station.
In some ways, they are lucky. The station staff, accustomed to handling more than 100,000 passengers a day, have busied themselves taking care of the fewer than 50 who remain. Those stranded get three meals a day, hot tea, a morning yoga session and nightly showings of Hindu epics on a newly mounted television screen.
But they are stuck. “Is this life?” asked Laxmi Adiman Gaekwad, 30, a mother whose three older children are waiting for her to return to their home in the state of Maharashtra, 700 miles away. “We have nothing to do.”
Millions of Indians have fared far worse under the lockdown, which began March 25 and has been extended until May 3. Workers have streamed out of Indian cities on foot, fearful of their ability to survive without jobs. Shelters for the needy are overflowing. Activists warn that many in this nation of 1.3 billion will go hungry while the economy is shuttered.
Absent a plan from the central government to help those stranded by the lockdown, local officials scrambled to improvise a response. One such official was Anand Mohan, the 36-year-old station director in Varanasi, an ancient city on the Ganges River that is one of the holiest pilgrimage sites for Hindus and draws millions of visitors a year.
Mohan and his team at Varanasi Junction, all government employees, were caught off-guard by the rail stoppage. They had just hours to prepare for the unprecedented suspension of India’s 13,500 daily passenger trains March 22, combined with a shutdown of all nonessential services. “We were just brainstorming, what to do, what to do,” he recalled. “Every damn thing in the city will be stopped.”
He is arrangeingfood from the canteen that usually serves the railway station’s own staff. With the cooperation of local administrators, he coordinated transportation for passengers whose destinations were less than 100 miles away. But that still left a group of about 50 people who were en route to far-flung destinations in other parts of India, including Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Delhi.
Some had harrowing stories. Raghu Uttam Shinde, 25, a manual labourer from Maharashtra, was traveling home from a job laying cable in the state of Bihar with 10 members of his extended family, including four children. Their train stopped in the middle of the night at a station outside Varanasi, and all passengers were ordered to get off. Shinde and his family walked four hours to reach the main railway station in the city, hoping to catch another train.
Narendra Singh Dhakre, 35, a lawyer from the central Indian city of Ujjain, made the fateful decision to stop for a day of sightseeing in Varanasi on his way back from a work trip. He, too, was stranded. He slept outside the station for a night, hoping to find a way home, and struggled to get something to eat with all restaurants shut and no taxis on the roads. Now he desperately misses his wife and two children, who are 3 and 7.
Several days into the lockdown, Mohan, the station manager, realized that his new charges were “mentally very down.” He decided some entertainment was required. He had a television installed in the waiting room and had a member of the railway staff begin holding daily yoga classes. He urged the passengers to avoid the news — too anxiety-inducing — and instead watch the multipart serials of two Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Such stories “show that evil always dies, and good always prevails if you have faith in yourself and your god and do the right things,” he said. “So that is motivational.”
The stranded passengers have fallen into a routine: yoga, followed by a simple breakfast of cooked vegetables and fried bread, then lunch, and dinner in the evening. People either sleep on the metal benches or on thin rugs on the floor as fans whir overhead. Everyone wakes and goes to bed at roughly the same time, trying to keep quiet in a cavernous room where even small noises echo. The bathrooms have basic showers and buckets to wash clothes, which now dry on railings leading to a shuttered ticket booth. There are regular medical checks, and the room is disinfected each day.
Unexpected friendships have formed, and occasional frictions have erupted, including over the appropriate volume to play videos on mobile phones and how frequently fried food is part of the menu. “We are sharing this room with complete strangers from around the country,” said Shinde, a slender man in a white polo shirt. “We talk, share our pain and our concerns. We have become a family.”
“I will never forget these people,” he added. “The day we say goodbye, I will be very sad.”
In recent days, a few of the passengers have managed to arrange transportation home with the cooperation of local officials, quietly circumventing the lockdown. One passenger from Delhi was taken to a hospital Tuesday for testing after he interacted with a family who had approached the station and appeared ill.
Meanwhile, inside the station, the signboard listing the upcoming departures is blank. Freight trains chug past the deserted platforms. The news that India would extend its lockdown until May 3 came as a bitter blow for those inside the waiting room. Dhakre, the lawyer, was heartbroken at the thought of being separated from his wife and children for several more weeks. “But then I realized that the situation is not under control,” he said, “and this is the need of the hour.”
Secondly, Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth in Nepal briefly wrote.
I’m at Tribhuvan International Airport waiting to board the last repatriation flight from Kathmandu bound for London Stansted.
The lockdown for those of us with a dependable income and spacious accommodation is fine, except imported wine and good beers are becoming difficult to find. Small vegetable shops have been allowed to open and some supermarkets trade for a few hours a day, but we seldom know what will be open when, and what stock there will be. There ARE plenty of loo rolls, though.
Generally, short local trips on foot or by bicycle are allowed but very few vehicles may travel – there are no taxis operating. I haven’t been asked for ID but Nepalis often are. Those who are unable to work are hurting and we’ve come across huge queues of people waiting to receive handouts of rice, lentils and soap.
Since I am here with my husband, things were fine for us and we have socialised a bit with our nearest neighbours only. It is tantalising not to be able to be out and helping. I have though been contributing to a new local website aiming to dispel myths and misinformation and reassure people – because there is fear on the street.
When we took the Embassy bus to the airport today, I was shocked to see rows of blue UN tents laid out near the sports stadium – these will be used to isolate people with symptoms suspicious of COVID-19. So far, only 16 cases have been confirmed.
I’ve been surprised that people here are observing the lockdown so well, although lockdowns aren’t unusual in Nepal; they happen often due to political strikes, the Indian blockade, and of course the earthquakes are still a bitter memory.
Read Dr Jane’s Wanderlust articles or follow her on Instagram
Our day starts falling into a routine which will become tedious and I started working on ideas to liven things up watch this space, hopefully. So, how did the day size up:
- Cold and wet so no sitting out in the sun
- Writing my Blog and book
- Sorting my daughter & son in laws Photo Memory Book – They are both 40 later in the year this book will celebrate that fact.
- Searching for enlightening things and goals to set to keep lockdown interesting.
- I have seen quite a few writers interviewed who say they have dried up in lockdown. Not so me. But I can’t seem to get down to reading. I searched for a good book for a couple of hours yesterday, without success. I love a book I can sink into which takes over all my senses and emotions. I just can’t find one
- Shout and laugh with Daughter and grandchild at the border. Only one grandchild today.
- At same time good to converse at a distance with our great neighbours. They, always good for a laugh too.
- Granddaughter Freya sent us a beautiful video of her reading us a bedtime story – “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”
- Armchair TV travel with Tony Robinson in Seattle then to Jasper in Canada – Brilliant.
- We also watched a superb documentary about ‘Only Fools & Horses’ on Yesterday channel. There were many extracts we had not seen before. The programme emphasized the brilliant writing John Sullivan with little nuances we as the average viewer were not aware of.
DON’T FORGET TO LAUGH EVERYDAY ESPECIALLY WHILST IN ISOLATION
INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE FOR THE DAY
“Hard times always lead to something great.” – Betsey Johnson
Happiness is…seeing Only Fools & Horses on TV
GRANDAD’S ONE LINER JOKE OF THE DAY
Outer Mongolia – One of the few places where your navigation can say, “Keep straight. Prepare to turn right on Tuesday morning.”
Love is…feeling younger as you get older
TOTAL STAIRWAY TO EVERST CLIMB CHALLENGE
DAY 14 16 Times – 144 Feet Cumulative Total 2,025 Feet
TRACK OF THE ISOLATION DAY
HORRIBLE LITTLE NUMBER
Country Confirmed cases Deaths
1 US 759,696 40,683
2 Italy 178,972 23,660
3 Spain 198,674 20,453
4 France 111,821 19,323
5 UK 121,173 16,095
6 Belgium 38,496 5,683
7 Iran 82,211 5,118
8 Germany 145,742 4,642
9 China 82,747 4,632
10 Netherlands 32,838 3,697
Uk deaths yesterday 596
Global cases Updated 20 Apr at 07:47 local
Confirmed 2,404,249 +74,710
Deaths 165,234 +4,517
Recovered 624,725 +29,496
©2020 Phil M Robinson