Published: 26th March 2020
I clapped for myself on Janata Curfew: Why this Glasgow student quarantined herself in a Kolkata flat
Pritha Sen, hailing from Kolkata, currently, a student at the University of Glasgow takes us through her journey from the airports to being self-quarantined at home. She explains why it is important
Being in quarantine is not cool. Everybody is super scared of being there.
Even in this mayhem, however, there are some who are going out of their way to protect humankind. Pritha Sen (24), a student at the University of Glasgow in Scotland and a resident of Kolkata, has been in self-isolation since March 20 because she returned from Scotland on March 18. She quarantined herself in two cities — Bengaluru and her hometown Kolkata. She is completely fit and healthy until now and she was not asked by any of the airport authorities to isolate herself. Yet, she did just that and she requests each one of us to co-operate so we can get through this together.
We spoke to her on March 23 (3rd day of self-quarantine) and she still hasn't shown any symptoms. Pritha tells us about her entire journey from Glasgow via Bengaluru to Kolkata, what checks are in place at airports, what to do in self-isolation and how everyone around her is dealing with it. Here's her inspiring journey:
At the Glasgow airport
How it all began
I had no plans of coming home at this time, but we were sent home because of the outbreak. All our classes, submissions, projects have been made online. So, it wasn't quite different there as we were under lockdown in Scotland. It is the same here. Typically, our faculty are not allowed to suggest to us if we should go home or not, it completely depends on the students. But discussions on campus before I returned suggested that Scotland might be 10 days behind Italy. So if we still have the chance, we should go back home.
March 18 - Bengaluru Airport
My flight landed at 8.50 am. On my flight to Bengaluru, I was given two forms by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. I had to fill it with details like where I began my journey, my destination, which seat, my India address. I had to give them 28 days of my travel history. It had questions about whether I had been to Europe and if I had any symptoms. I had first written my Bengaluru address as I thought they wouldn't let me fly for 14 days and I would be kept in isolation at Bengaluru.
When we stepped out of the aircraft, we were told to form a queue and our temperature was screened via the gunshot test. There they asked me again where I came from, then one of them asked me where Glasgow is? So, I smiled and replied that it's in Scotland. They asked twice if I had visited Spain, Italy, or anywhere in Europe over the last 28 days. They also asked if I have any symptoms or if I had come into contact with any person who had symptoms to which I said 'nothing that I know of.'
Then they let me go. I asked them if I was allowed to travel to Kolkata or whether I have to self-quarantine in Bengaluru? "No, it's not mandatory if you don't have any symptoms," the officials told me. I do not know what they are saying now because the situation has become even more grave. I had even enquired if I should get myself tested, but they advised me not to as I didn't have any symptoms. They literally told me not to go for a test — maybe it is because people are crowding unnecessarily as everyone is in a state of panic and fear. They also said that you could contract it if you go to the hospitals because the exposure rate is high in such places. On March 18, when I stayed in Bengaluru I was in self-quarantine. We have a flat there and my friends had got it cleaned, and gave me supplies for 14 days. But I didn't have to stay there, thankfully.
March 19 - Kolkata Airport
I was travelling from Bengaluru to Kolkata. They checked me at the airport exit — they were checking every passenger be it domestic or international. March 20 is counted as the first day of quarantine as I travelled to Kolkata on an aeroplane, which might have put me at risk of contraction. In Kolkata, my parents have two functional flats facing each other, so I am staying alone in one of them. My family stays in the other one. Only my parents are coming to my room (with masks and gloves on) to give me food. I have a separate plate, bowl and glass for myself. I am washing my dishes in the washroom attached to my room. I have a separate broom and a mop for my room which I am cleaning on a regular basis. I have been following all WHO and Ministry of Health guidelines that a person in self-quarantine is supposed to follow.
I am really scared because even on the 8th or 9th day symptoms begin to show sometimes. I have a lot of submissions to do. So I am studying and working. Otherwise, I speak to friends over a call or video chat. I am even video chatting with my parents and grandmother who are literally in the opposite flat. They do sometimes come and stand at the door to speak to me. On March 22, the day of the Janata Curfew, I even clapped for myself a bit as I thanked the health workers who are fighting this from the frontlines.
March 23 - Waiting, working, watching
The police came to conduct a check at our house. I have no idea why. My father wasn't there and they chose to come at that time, maybe they thought my mother would give in to their whims. They asked her to go down and speak to which she said she won't as she isn't doing anything wrong. The thing is my grandmother is extremely ill, she has had severe bronchitis, and my father is taking care of her at home. He didn't want to get her hospitalised and put her at even more risk. People in the neighbourhood saw him getting into the house with a lot of medicine. So they spread rumours that I have Corona and so he got the medicines for me. They even said that we don't want to reveal that I am very sick so I am locked up in a room and nobody can even see me. Police told us 'We have to come because it's our duty to check.' They left after that. But the neighbours have also told the household help that if you work in that house, you won't get hired anywhere else. We have two nurses attending to my grandmother, I am worried that they might leave too because of all this. They know the truth but if they are forced to leave we will fall into great trouble.
What about academics?
The university has taken all the examinations online. It is scheduled in May. Most students have gone back home so they couldn't decide on a fixed time zone for everyone, so they have made it a 24-hour open book test. They have cancelled the UG first and second-year exams. But 3rd and 4th year and masters courses, the exams are online.
Aren't you bored?
Our generation is kind of used to this lifestyle, we binge-watch series sitting at home all day. It is still okay. I can watch or read when I want. I have my books, laptop, internet to give me company. I have also been getting an automated call from the Ministry of Health, asking if we have symptoms. Then we have to provide a response, which is followed by a doctor's voice that says everyone doesn't need to crowd hospitals if you have some symptoms, you can self-quarantine at home and deal with it without panicking.
Most of the people in the country have been complaining about the facilities at our airports and that proper checks are not being conducted. However, Pritha has a different opinion, "I am pretty satisfied with the airport facilities, India is doing pretty good I would say. Lockdown is the only option, there's no other solution to this pandemic."