GANDERBAL: Suhaib Mir is growing desperate for Saturday to come, for obvious reasons– On that day after more than ten months, he will be able to hug his parents and minor nieces, for whom he has fondly bought gifts from Bangaluru.
The desperation of Mir 25, is self-explanatory as he has been away from his home for past months and yet not able to warmly meet his family and relatives despite being close to them since March 21.
Understandbly, the parents and relatives longing to see him for months are equally desperate to meet him but feel helpless as Suhaib’s home-quarantine ends on Saturday.
At his home in Ganderbal town, around 30 km from Srinagar city- Mir, who pursues interior designing in Bangaluru has voluntarily chosen to self-isolate or home quarantine himself in wake of fast-spreading Covid-19 infection. He went into isolation on March 21- the day he landed at Srinagar airport from Bangaluru.
His honest act (self-isolation) comes at a time, when many Kashmiris are accused of hiding their travel history to escape quarantine and isolation even as when entire country reels under lockdown to contain Covid-19.
What has been more heartening is the fact that realizing the gravity of the situation, Suhaib in a Facebook post on March 28, announced about his travel history and subsequent isolation while appealing others to come forward and cooperate with authorities struggling to contain the disease.
“I am growing anxious with each passing day to hug my nieces and parents. I had planned to visit my cousin’s house first and take her children to my house to spend enough time with them,” said Suhaib.
His desperation and love for minor children brings him to the balcony, from where, he would send flying kisses to them almost every day. Separated by a boundary wall, his
nieces’ home is just adjacent to his home.
“I come out at the balcony to watch the children play. I can’t hug or kiss them, so I send them flying kisses and wrap my arms around my chest to get the feeling of a hug. The children warmly respond to my gesture.” he added.
Suhaib struggles to make video calls to his friends and relatives due to poor internet speed. Thankfully he has not developed any symptoms during these days but self-isolation has led to a change in his behavior. He has become a bit ill-tempered boy and shows signs of irritation, says his mother claiming that she can read her son’s body language and facial expressions.
“What can you expect from a person, who sees his family and friends after months and still feels like he is not with them, he can’t touch them, he can’t hug them and if the children cry, he can’t wipe their tears.” he asked.
Suhaib is eager to give his nieces the gifts. He is confident that they will like those gifts.
“I didn’t have to think at all while purchasing gifts because I know their choices. But now I have to wait for another four days to give them their presents.” he said.
Suhaib who had been in Bangaluru since June last year and had not returned since then, had to prepone his visit to home from April 7 to March 21, due to the spread of Coronavirus.
He has never been away from his home, parents and friends for such a long time. The preponement of his visit to the home was like an icing on the cake for Suhaib as he was missing his friends and family badly. But on arrival at the airport, he took a wise yet painful decision to isolate himself as a precautionary measure setting a precedent for others to follow.
Just after a medical check-up at the airport, his father directly took him home. A medical team called by Suhaib’s father, a community health officer, advised Suhaib to self-isolate for two weeks. The same day, health officials pasted a poster to warn people from visiting the house.
While as his family and friends appreciate his decision of self-isolation describing it as the only way to contain the spread of the virus, Suhaib feels depressed not so much because of isolation but due to poor internet speed.
“I can not watch videos to entertain myself in isolation with this speed. I can’t play online games to kill time. For how long can a person sleep? It is hard to keep watching the walls and roof in absence of high-speed internet.” he said.
For Suhaib, this is a particularly tough time because he didn’t witness months-long lockdown like situation post-August 5, when the Centre abrogated Article 370 as he was in Bangaluru.
What hurts Suhaib most is the gifts in luggage waiting to be unwrapped. And the parents are waiting for their cool-tempered son to join them at breakfast, lunch and dinner after months.
However, Nadeem 30, (name changed) who has witnessed recent shutdown in the valley still feels the 14-day quarantine period much worse and hard to spend than months-long shutdown or curfew.
“The time spent in isolation so far has been horrible. I hope I somehow pass rest of the week here and go back home,” said Nadeem, a south Kashmir resident
Nadeem was in Maharastra with a tablegi jamat (religious group) for 40 days and returned to Kashmir on March 24. Initially, he was in two minds: Whether to show up before administration or hide his travel history.
“First I thought I have no symptoms so why should I go? But soon, I realized that not going could be disastrous. So I went straight to the hospital for a medical check-up and advise.” Nadeem told ‘Curtain Raiser’ by phone.
He was kept in quarantine at a local facility by district administration with few other suspects. After spending a week in quarantine, Nadeem has not shown any symptoms but he would have to complete a quarantine period and stay for another week.
Nadeem’s son and daughter are waiting for his return to home.
“I have not even seen them yet but I see them almost every night in my dreams. Last night, my son came in my dream telling me not to bring infection home.” Nadeem said.
He wishes to have a time machine at his command by which, he can fast forward a week and come out from quarantine to meet his family. But he is proud of his decision.
“I think I did a good job by reporting before the administration because I am not the only one with a family. I had to do this for my many people around me besides my own family.” he added.
Nadeem sometimes feels boredom because he has no idea how to keep himself engaged with an activity. He doesn’t have a smartphone and therefore no means of entertainment.
“In the absence of any other activity, it is really hard to spend time here. For how long can one sleep. Most of the time, I stare at these creamy looking walls, which sometimes turn white if you keep staring at them.” he said.
Desperation to meet his family amid mental duress in quarantine at times forces him to escape from the place but the dreams stop him.
“One evening, I almost made my mind to escape from this deserted place as I don’t have any symptoms but soon I realized my son had come in my dream asking me not to bring virus,” he said.
“The next morning, I wept bitterly in washroom as I somehow heard my daughter telling me to come out of the washroom as she had to pee.” emotionally charged Nadeem said in a muzzled voice before he hung the phone.
After repeated attempts to talk to him again, he finally attended the call but broke down.
“I pray nobody goes through what I have been going through in these trying times. My children knew, I was coming home on March 24. But now almost every day, I helplessly lie to them on one pretext or other on home-coming. This is what hurts me the most.”