Srinagar: My journey to the quarantine center is akin to going on an emotional coaster ride.
I am a teacher in the government school at Leh, Ladakh.
In March, I resumed school after a seven-month-long gap since August 5. I had returned to my family last year amid the lockdown. Life underwent a sea change after this.
I actually counted days, months and seconds to feel the chalk dust on my face and hear the happy noises of children in the classroom.
The day finally arrived. I was back in school on March 5. The smiling faces of my students made me beam with joy.
However, the happiness was short-lived. On the evening of March 7, I was checking the notebooks of my students and a message flashed on my phone.
The administration of Ladakh had announced a complete lockdown in the wake of an increase in COVID-19 cases.
I froze for a minute and it took me a while to gather myself. The next ten days were difficult.
Nobody dared to move out. The barrenness of the region became more prominent by the eerie silence in the town. The only sound heard was of the howling wind.
It was on the afternoon of March 18, I landed at Srinagar Airport. No sooner had our plane touched the airport, I along with my fellow passengers were separated from the crowd.
An official informed us that we will be quarantined and he left in a huff. Four hours passed like this and we kept on speculating about the quarantine centers.
At 4 pm, a bus came and we were ferried to Hotel Heemal at Boulevard Road, Srinagar.
“Mat pooch ki kya haal hai mera tere peeche”, this is how I describe the next 14 days of incubation period.
No sooner had we arrived, a motley group of women staged a protest outside the hotel. They demanded they we should be disallowed from staying there. In their opinion, we were sources of the deadly virus.
However, the administration took them into confidence and our stay continued.
I was inside the room for 14 days. My only connection to the outside world was a small window of my room. The picturesque Dal Lake from the window appeared to be as distressed as I was. The only movement on the roads was that of the patrolling government forces and policemen.
My three-year-old daughter’s frequent question on phone: “Aba, ghar kab aaoge”, left me in tears every time she called.
On March 31, my homecoming finally turned into reality. Yet again, I was left with a bittersweet feeling.
As I entered the gate, my mother rushed out to hug me. However, I stopped her midway and advised her to maintain social distancing.
She nodded her head in agreement and tear rolled down her face………..
…….As told to Hirra Azmat