The Lost Generation!

I am writing this post with a heavy heart after seeing the deep pain and agony which my fellow Indians have been going through during the 2nd wave of covid pandemic. My heart goes out to all the people who have lost their dear ones in this pandemic. This is indeed a tough time for India and the world, and the only ray of hope was the generous help offered by more than 40 countries across the globe to my country. India indeed is grateful to all who have re-ignited the hope that humanity is still alive!

But I have also been pondering over the thought of the impact of the pandemic on our life. I know we all have been living through this and it wont need any imagination or genius mind to know that our current life is not a good one. These are definitely not normal times, and however we might call the new-normal, but for me, it seems far from normal. Because my generation has never ever experienced something like this on a global unprecendented scale. And even more worrying fact is that its not in our control as well. There is no guarantee that when would all this end!

Just few days before, we all had thought that we have won over this pandemic. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, we started watching new cases spiking up to 3 lakhs, and 4 lakhs. The daily death rate rose from few hundreds to few thousands. And with this covid tsunami, our health infrastructure got hit badly. Then watching people die because of lack of medical oxygen, or even due to leakage of oxygen was devastating. Seeing the pyres burning endlessly and the widespread fear and agony in hospitals has made me cry my heart out. We did not ever want this to happen , and yet this all happened, in front of our nation, in just a matter of few days.

Now, playing the blame game or writing for some political mileage is something I do not want to do. Yet, I feel that we as a society are responsible for this situation. Now, the question remains What’s Next?

I see everything has changed in our life once again. We are back into lockdowns, shops and businesses are shutdown, workers and labourers are fleeing back to their villages ( thankfully not by walking..), and that means, more people will slide down into poverty once again. The tech guys like me will have to spend the year working from home..sorry slogging day and night from home. Schools and colleges are closed, and exams are cancelled. I wonder what will be the future of the kids who have already spent an year at home. The college students have to study online, and without any lab or practical work, it seems that the already mediocre quality of our engineers and graduates will even deteriorate further. The travel industry has already been wiped out, and sooner or later, many others will follow the same route. And apart from all this, our health infrastructure has already been over-whelmed and God forbid, it should not collapse.

I know we all are already surrounded by the ocean of negativity, and I do not want to add another drop by writing the problems faced by us everyday. Because this is something we never wanted to happen at the first place. Yet it happened, and now we all have to face it. Sometimes, it necessary that society should look into the mirror, and see the reality.

Let me go back into history, not far before, just 100 years ago. At that time, during 1918-1920, the world suffered from Spanish flu. We all have read whatsapp posts and watched Youtube videos, on how such pandemics keep on repeating after 100 years. Well, call it pure coincidence or whatever, the reality is we are facing the similar kind of pandemic after 100 years again. And if I quote Gertrude Stein, who had called the generation after world war 1 and Spanish flu, as the ‘Lost Generation‘, not because that generation was lost somewhere, but rather it meant that they did not have any positive outlook on life, after seeing the uncertainity during those times.

Many intellectuals and writers from America and Europe had became disillusioned with the uncertainity after the 1918 war and subsequent pandemic. In France, some found solace in writing and produced some of the best fiction classics, while others in Germany and England, dived deep into the world of quantum mechanics. Russians overthrowed the Romanovs and envisioned a communist world based on the principles of Karl Marx. While on the other side of the world, the Americans self-isolated themselves from the world theatre, and enjoyed themselves in the roller-coaster ride of roaring 1920’s and stock market bubble, only to be disillusioned further after the Great Depression ushered in 1929.

Today. it wont be surprising to mirror the same trends in my generation. In the last 30 years after 1991, never has the world seen a reversal of globalization. Travel has ceased between countries, and infact, more than a visa, its the vaccine which will pave the way to enter a foreign country. The global supply chains have been disrupted, and not only vaccines, but even as small as electronic chips are in acute shortage today. America has started its journey of isolation once again, with its America First policy, and the recent quote “It’s, of course, not only in our interest to see Americans vaccinated, it’s in the interests of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated,” as said US State Department spokesperson Ned Price, not only reflects their self-isolation, but also they no longer are interested in a leading the world as they had been doing since 1991.

My generation (born after 1990) is not only witnessing the pandemic at such a young age, but also are concerned about whats the future is going to lay ahead. This is not just about the pandemic, as we are aware that someday, this is going to end. But the well-established channels of education, jobs and prosperity are changing. The traditional method of schooling and colleges, is not helping today. The job market is changing with industry 4.0 revolution such as AI, Blockchain and Machine learning. We are not even sure what kind of jobs will be there in 2030. In India, the quest for securing a Govt job and other bureaucracy positions is becoming more difficult and redundant due to Digitization and dwindling need of human workforce. Going to America or Europe for education, jobs and getting settled there, is becoming more like an elite dream these days due to exorbitant cost of education and visa restrictions. Bollywood has lost its charm which it once had, and infact, many celebrities have cowardly running away out of India to escape the virus. Social media has become a surveillance weapon and political ground for the so called left and right intellectuals for their endless ideological fights and debates. And amidst all this, the stock market is being incredibly bullish, as if it has escaped the conscience of ground reality and trying to imitate the roaring 1920’s decade!

After seeing all this chaos, why shouldnt we feel lost? Why shouldn’t I fear that my generation might become a part of Lost Generation? Not only because we are confused, but also we are slowly and steadily losing faith in the well-established rules taught to us. Not only in India, but also in America, Europe, this generation is less certain of a stable future and even fears falling down the high standard of living which their parents lived. No one is sure what is going to happen after 10 years. We see that the perseverence and ingenuity have successfully rowed and hovered on an oxygen devoid Mars, while on the other side, we are not even able to provide oxygen to our fellow human beings on Earth. The have’s ( like Elon Musk) are aspiring for more automation, driver less cars, hyperloop, and putting a chip in the brain, while the have not’s are struggling for just two meals a day and a decent job! This is the stark contrast we are seeing today.

For some the pandemic has showed the bitter reality that life is short, and unpredictable. While for others, it is just another opportunity to reap profits and gain political mileage out of it. Some have shown the courage to push the limits to help and volunteer , while many others continue to hide in the castles and mansions. For some it is a day to day survival while for others it is a staycation in Dubai or Maldives.

I wont be surprised if history remembers these years or this generation as the ‘Lost Generation’. Only we have to carve out our own ways to get through this, and especially for India, it is a time to keep aside all the politics, caste bias, religious hatred, ideological or ‘ism’ debates, and just focus on bringing this country out of poverty, unemployment and economic recession. We got no alternative. We cannot keep preaching to the world, that once we were superpower, or British looted us, that’s why we are still poor. Because next year, it will be 75 years of independence. We keep praising how Indian-Americans have succeeded in USA, and rose up the ranks to become CEO’s. To be honest, it is okay to have pride, but at the same time, it shows the world, that an Indian, however talented or educated might be, cannot really progress in India, with few exceptions. That’s why we still are having one of the largest brain-drain in the world. This is not something to be proud of. We have to fix this system. We have to innovate, we have to stop pulling legs of anyone who is honest and working hard for the country. We need to know that patriotism is not just fighting against the terrorists on the border. Innovating for the country, entrepreneurship with Startup India, volunteering for the NGO and social cause, voting for the right candidate and party without any caste or religious bias, playing for the country (apart from IPL) and winning medals, all of this is equally patriotic as the brave soldiers’s patriotism. Only then, will India become a better India!

© Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Copyright © 2021 AbhikNotes – Powered by WordPress.com

Debunking Covid myths!

This post illustrates some of the debunked myths for the past one year about Covid in India

Constitutional Validity of Lockdown Order by the Central Government -  iPleaders
Credits

The 23rd, March 2021 marks the first anniversary of the Covid-19 lockdowns in India. Initially, they were laid out only for 21 days, with the intention to defeat the virus, but soon it was realized that India was not isolated or even prepared enough to end the detrimental effects of the pandemic any sooner, which the world then was already suffering with. Hence, the lockdowns got extended for several weeks and even months in many parts of the country as we know. 2020 turned out to be very much an odd year in most of our lives, something my generation will not forget for years to come. A lot has been written and discussed, and hence, I won’t get into how it affected our life, environment, jobs, economy, politics, pretty much everything as we know, hardly leaving anything untouched.

Now, as its been an year since the lockdown started, and even though India is not having nationwide lockdown, unlike few countries like UK and Brazil, but the worrying fact is that the coronavirus is spreading again. Many are calling it as second wave, or even third wave, many of us do not agree which wave it really is. But the fact that inspite of the lockdowns, and even after vaccines are available, its quite worrying that the virus is not in control yet, in many parts in India, especially in Maharashtra, which is one of the worst affected states.

Having observed the pandemic and its effects over the year, there are many questions and even myths which were brought up and even circulated using the ubiquitous social media. During the initial few days after March 23, 2020, when the number of covid cases were comparatively less in India, people willingly played the role of self-declared experts and pundits, and tried to explain the low number of cases due to a myriad reasons. Some of which include, ( with my personal experience)

  • Its because of our beloved PM Narendra Modi and the nationwide lockdowns which he laid down quite early in India.
  • Because India has a hot and dry climate unlike the cold and brutal winters in USA and Europe
  • Maybe, because our Indian food is the best in the world! We don’t eat meat, we eat cooked (overly-cooked) food, add spicy masala’s, avoid burgers, coke, or pizza unlike Americans who live on such foods, and hence, our immunity is high due to the healthy food consumption.
  • Someone even said that because India is a spiritual land, and hence, the mystic powers of meditating monks and all religious practices are protecting us from the virus.
  • Because India is not very clean country, with polluted air, unclean water and dirty roads, hence, Indians have developed the immunity after living for decades in such relatively unclean surroundings, as compared to America or Europe.
  • I even heard that India got saved because we have been practicing social distancing naturally for years, with our habits like doing ‘namaskar’ instead of shaking hands, avoiding touching, hugging, kissing or being close to each other consistently unlike western culture etc. I found this to be hilarious!
  • And finally, India had a milder form of covid virus, as compared to the extremely mutated and fatal ones in America, UK and other countries.

Looking at some of the above reasons, I am sure many of us might have thought them to be ludicrous. Because the fact that even if they were true, still India has the world’s third largest number of covid deaths, after USA and Brazil. Let us debunk some of the above myths or so called explanations given last year.

  • First of all, PM Narendra Modi and his government did take a pro-active and brave decision to lockdown the country much before the number of cases were detected. This was thought to be quite a prescient move. And it did pave off for sometime, as India did not see any rise in the number of cases for the next 2 months, after lockdowns started. But the irony is that as soon as lockdowns were lifted, the cases escalated. On one side, the Modi praisers had lauded PM’s decision to lockdown the nation, while later the opposition and Modi critics started mocking him and the government for having shown the world how a failed lockdown looks like! Well, the rise in number of cases later were inevitable considering the number of people flying back to India from abroad, high population, dense cities, and that lives of millions of Indians depend on jobs for which they cannot work from home. Also, the poor medical infrastructure in rural areas led to surge in the number of cases, which happened when the lockdown was harshly imposed over night, which led to the exodus of millions of workers and labourers from cities to villages ( walking all the way..), thereby carrying the virus to the remote areas. Many experts agree today that the way the lockdowns were imposed could have been better managed and coordinated.
  • Hot and Dry climate: This turned out to be a myth as we see many countries all over the world including those in hot and dry areas have covid infections. How can we explain Brazil to be the second worst affected country in the world, if it has the most hot and humid climate with the vast Amazon forest? Infact, in India, the worst affected states are Maharashtra and Kerala, which are faraway from cold winters of the north!
  • Indian food: Well, even though the food intake is quite different than western countries, with Indian food having a lot of varieties and being more healthy, yet none of the evidence suggests any relation between food and virus. Our food might increase the immunity, but that will be too generic reason to elucidate. Also, over the last few years, the way Indians eat food has changed a lot, especially due to the american influence.
  • India as a spiritual land: This is one of the most uncanny reasoning I had ever heard. Also, its very Indian in a way. Because often we Indians like to relate everything that happens in the world to some kind of astrology, mysticism and supernatural powers. However, it is true that India is a holy land, having millions of ardent religious followers, and monks living in the mountains. The family culture is exceptionally strong and Indians are very religious at heart. But that doesn’t mean that this good karma will save the nation. If it was really there, then how can some of the most horrifying cases of rapes, murders, caste based violence and corruption happen in this holy land. Metaphorically, I like to relate this to the holy Ganga which is pure where it originates (Gangotri), however it gets polluted when it reaches the ghats of Varanasi and Bengal. Why? Because the people pollute this sacred river! This habit to surrender ourselves by praying to God, sadhus and remembering ancient history, has led to the degradation of science and rationalism in this country today.
  • Inbuilt immunity: Well, I do agree to some extent that this might have made us stronger when it comes to immunity. Having lived in USA and India, I can relate both the worlds. I saw how safe and isolated Americans live, staying indoors, with centralized ventilation system, visiting doctor for every small illness, consistently taking medicines and pills, eating frozen & raw foods, breathing only filtered air etc. While on the other side, Indians are used to eating outside food which is never frozen, but always fresh. We are used to polluted airs and water, very few air conditioners in our houses, and avoiding visiting doctors by home treatment of minor illness using ayurveda and herbs.
  • Natural Social distancing: I find this to be untrue. Because even though, we usually avoid direct touching or hugging others as western culture exhibits, but considering the number of people living together in India, like joint families, and even traveling in local trains, buses and public places, its difficult to avoid contact with other people. But its a miracle that some of the worst crowded places in India, like Dharavi slum in Mumbai, for which many feared that it will be terribly affected, actually turned out to be covid-free, or less affected by covid. Hence, its hard to say, if any naturally social distancing helped India. But as per guidelines, social distancing is a must to follow, inspite of any local conditions.
  • Finally, India having a milder form of virus is debatable. Even though it is proved that UK and other countries have much deadlier mutant of virus, and India did a good job in shielding itself from those deadly mutants. But still the danger of those mutants entering India has not subsided yet.

Hence, looking back at one year, and having read, talked about some of the above questions and myths, this post briefly summarizes what Covid has taught us and even debunked some of the myths. But the virus has not gone yet. As per universal recommendations, we have to wash our hands, practice social distancing, avoid crowded places, get vaccinated as soon as possible, and stay at home to avoid the spread of virus.

I hope things get better soon, and lets be rational and open-minded regarding any myths and reasoning based on the local situations.

© Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Copyright © 2021 AbhikNotes – Powered by WordPress.com

Welcome 2021!

Never before has the world so eagerly awaited for a new year to commence!

Today, while writing this post on Dec 31st, 2020, I am contemplating all the events that have happened in 2020. And there is no denial of the fact that the world got changed in 2020. It looks like after Steve Job’s legendary launch of Iphone in 2007 which changed the world, Covid-19 became the next thing which turned our life upside down. And today, we all are eagerly awaiting for 2021 to usher in. We are sincerely praying that 2021 turns out to be a better year,which will restore peace, happiness and stability back in our life. I do hope the same!

But at the same time, as Gurudev Ravishankar said in his talk today, that this pandemic showed the other side of life. We all crave for good, and happy times. We forget the difficulties and problems in life when everything is stable, and under our control. But this pandemic showed us how things can go out of human control rapidly. This year showed us how important and short life is. It made us realize the simple joys of life such as staying with family, having a stable job, and even going out for a walk. The world saw how difficult it is to live under lockdown. We all usually read or watch movies of the soldiers and freedom fighters who suffered enormous hardships in fighting against the enemy, be it against the Nazis in Europe, or against British rule in India. Only when we all underwent the hardships of living under lockdown, we came to value the importance of true freedom. Until the pandemic occurred, we all had taken the freedom imparted to us lightly, but now we atleast have got a glimpse of life without freedom. That is why, people have even started thinking about the cruelty to deprive poor animals of their freedom by keeping them in zoos and amusement parks for our entertainment!

Having suffered the dark side of life after pandemic, we have started realizing how few things we really need to live a good life. We understood that we can live without eating outside or even buying expensive clothes or gadgets. Because these fancy clothes, makeup or gadgets won’t save our life, but our good health, good food, calm mind and having loved ones staying together will save us. Due to this pandemic having engulfed the whole mother earth, never in history did it happen that we all (humans) became united. Until 2020, we had always biased each other, and made every attempt to separate each others by building either physical walls ( be it Berlin Wall or Trump’s wall), or virtual walls ( made of racism, casteism, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation bias etc). But 2020 made us realize that events like pandemic does not differentiate between us on any artificial grounds. So, in a way, we can also say that 2020 brought humanity together, atleast for fighting against pandemic!

Besides, in 2020, many of us saw how beautiful this earth is! This is because one of the sideeffects of pandemic turned out to be fresh air, with zero air pollution. For ex: This led to viewing of Himalayas from hundreds of miles in India, which was not seen due to high pollution in air for the last several decades. Hence, even though 2020 was a dreaded year for most of us, however this year turned out to be very special for nature observers and climate watchers, due to huge change in climate and nature pattern which had been severely altered for all these years due to human activity.

Himalayas visible from India as nature 'heals' during coronavirus shutdown  - National | Globalnews.ca
Ref

Similarly, due to no traffic and thereby zero sound pollution, it made wild animals curious to sneek in the cities to find out where did 7 billion people disappear? Here are some pictures which captured this once in a century nature’s phenomenon.

A civet cat has been spotted roaming on the streets of Kozhikode in the State of Kerala, India on 27 March, 2020.
Ref
A kangaroo hops through empty streets during the lockdown restrictions in Adelaide, Australia, April 19, 2020. South Australia Police/via REUTERS
Kangaroo running on the streets in Australia
A fox is seen in Downing Street, London, April 29, 2020.  
 REUTERS/Toby Melville
A fox seen walking on the streets in London https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/nature-reclaims-public-spaces-during-loc-idUSRTX7EJ1H

Hence, finally, as I complete this post, 2020 ended and 2021 has begun. Many of us are praying for 2021 to bring happiness and stability in life. Indeed, 2020 was a rough year, which will never be forgotten by my generation. Historians love to find patterns in historic events, and I being a history buff, consider 2020 to be a year which changed our way of living, just like the historic years of 1989 ( when Berlin Wall fell which marked the beginning of the end of communism), or 1945 ( when WW2 was won after the fall of Nazi and Imperial Japanese). As US President elect Joe Biden said in his victory speech, “This is a time to heal in America”. I feel this is a time to heal for the entire world. May 2021 give us enough room for us to heal, come together for humanity, collaborate for just causes, break the barriers of racism, gender bias etc, and work towards achieving global peace. I know this might sound grandiose, but atleast we can start taking one step ahead….

I am ending this post with this realization, that afterall, we did won(successfully survive) in 2020, and have entered a new year, with new hopes and new surprises as well……

The pandemic that cost an election!

Not long before, I had written a post https://abhiknotes.com/2020/09/26/trump-and-2020-elections/ about US elections 2020, and compared the Trump and Biden’s pros and cons to win this election. Though I had not endorsed anyone, but somehow, I felt that the chances of Trump to win this election were slightly more than Biden inspite of the pandemic, recession and systemic racism.

But I was wrong! After seeing the 4 years of Trump Presidency, after having lived in Trump’s America, and even having suffered the unjust immigration policies he had initiated, I had come to an understanding that time has changed, and dictators like Trump are being supported by America. I had misunderstood Trump’s aggressive and autocratic governing to a shift in global political movement, which is also being embraced by many countries like Russia, China, Brazil, India, Hungary, UK, Israel etc. I have elaborated all my assumptions in my blog post.

But as I said, it all turned out to be false. After Biden’s victory, and seeing how America had stood behind the just cause, the righteousness, I am more than happy to welcome a beginning of an era which had unfortunately come to halt in 2016. This event has reiterated the belief in me that truth always triumphs! That honesty, decency and taking everyone along yields a long lasting victory than crooked behavior, indecency and selfishness. I am re-learning the fact that unifying force is always stronger than forces which promote divide and rule tactics.

I had read a book about Trump, and in that book, the author had mentioned that Trump is a person who never backs down, that for him, victory is the end result, and whatever it takes to achieve it. He has no rules, or principles or morals. and that for a narcissistic, self gratifying buffoon like Trump, the end justifies the means. Unfortunately, seeing the new trend of dictatorship governments all over the world, I had come to accept this false and erroneous behavior exhibited by people like Trump. But again, as I say, I was naive, and now, thanks God, I have learnt a lot in the past 4 years.

As all the scriptures in the world say, we cannot escape our karma. That karma hits back, always. Trump might have won in 2016, but it turned out to be a pyrrhic victory. Because he was not fit at all to be the President or leader. The leader who deserves doesn’t divide and rule. He/she doesn’t attack the opponents. So, we can now comfortably say that the phase of 2016-2020 was an aberration in US and world politics. And I hope it remains so in coming years.

But I have also learnt from this political episode that I should not jump to conclusions or speculate any results. Anything can happen in politics, and politics is not everyone’s forte. Many political pundits failed to predict 2016 results, and so did many this time as well. So, I would hesitate to say that this victory for democrats would usher in a revolution for America, and that good days will be back. It wont happen instantly. Trump has gone, but Trumpism might stay. This is because almost 48% of the US voters have favored Trump. The roots of division and ruling which have germinated and sprout in the last 4 years , patriotism at the expense of globalization and liberalization, banning immigration, promoting systemic racism, ongoing threat of China to America isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

But the good thing that this election brought out is that no matter how charismatic, famous or rich the leader( like Trump) might be, if he/she has no morals, no principles, no concern for the people, if he/she does not work for the betterment of the society, if he/she does not take everyone together, which includes people from all races, color, caste and religion, then they won’t last long. It also brings out the importance of experience. That to do anything, experience is the best teacher, and no one can be qualified or become expert overnight. Trump had no experience of politics before 2016, and this has proven the fact that only deserving or qualified can do the job well.

But the most important thing is that Trump failed miserably in combating the pandemic which was the only work he had to do. He not only underplayed the pandemic, but also displayed arrogance and lack of responsibility for the millions of people who suffered and died in US and other parts of the world. Though he did not cause pandemic, but he became a self-inficted victim of pandemic, for which he stands as a culprit in not taking the right decisions for the welfare of the people. For which, he had to pay the price by losing the election. Hence, this pandemic has cost him an election!

One thing quite noting is that this phenomenon isn’t limited to America only, but can be extrapolated to other countries of the world as well. Today, we see many countries having elected leaders with dictatorial mindset or autocratic behavior. Trump’s defeat will be a good lesson for all those to remind them that they have to work for the people, else the same can get repeated in their countries as well. Thus, concluding this post, I wish to say that at the end, truth, decency and justice always triumphs!

Travel during corona times!

Finally, the day came for which I had been contemplating. I started my journey from US to India on Aug 18th, and landed in Mumbai on Aug 19th. Traveling during corona times is indeed dreaded by most of us. And so did I. But I had taken the decision to return back and so I kept my decision firm. It wasn’t an easy move, but some changes are never easy and also, I believe that sometimes, it becomes necessary to bite the bullet.

The travel by Vande Bharat mission was not the best one, but still considering the pandemic situation, I would say the airline authorities did a very good job. I had been quite used to air travels for business in the last 2 years, but this air travel during pandemic was unprecedented in itself. Earlier, the only three things we need to do at the airport were check in, baggage dropoff and security inspection ( with immigration as another for international travels), that’s it. But now the list has few more add-ons such as temperature checking, 6 ft social distancing, frequent hand washing and sanitizing, and thermal screening. This is like the new normal for air travels now.

Even inside the flight, the job of cabin attendant has been reduced to just escorting the travelers to their respective seats, and keep the food/water on the seat beforehand. The always cherished hospitality by the cabin attendants and air hostess ( in particular) has become a part of history now. No longer are any drinks served, not even hot tea/coffee. Known for their elegant uniform, hospitality and courtesy, today, the stewardess have to wear the nurse uniform with dress, apron and cap. Ofcourse, this is the need of the hour, and in no way, does this demote the role of flight attendants. But the charm and sophistication which used to associated with air travel has been replaced by seriousness and fear of safeguarding ourselves. I hate to write this but nowadays flight journey feels like a flying ambulance!

The Vande Bharat mission has been doing an incredible job of bringing back Indians who are stranded abroad, or want to return back to their country. After my registration and booking on the website, I was told to sign an undertaking which stated that the decision to fly is my responsibility. When I reached the New York airport ( which was quite empty), I underwent temperature check, and they noted down my temperature on the undertaking document. After the usual formalities, I was again thermal screened at the gate before boarding the flight. Inside the flight, as I mentioned before, we were already provided food, water, masks, hand sanitizer and face shield. Everyone was seated with alternating seating inside the flight. The flight was non-stop due to the restriction to not land in any other country. Hence, the journey was long – 14 hours and hence everyone knew that it was not going to be very comfortable. Moreever, no in-flight entertainment was provided which made the journey somewhat monotonous.

Thus, after 14 hours of arduous journey, I landed in Mumbai. Again, we were thermal screened and then began a long and slow process to reach home. It took me 8 days to reach home after I landed at the airport. Meanwhile, a lot of things had to be taken care of, which included successful exiting of airport after immigration, travel arrangements and quarantine accommodation details to be given to the officials. Even at the airport, all the airport authorities and govt officials were inspecting and watching us so that we do not leave the airport before competing all the required formalities. I had to book a taxi/cab to go to Pune ( my hometown, which is 3 hours drive from Mumbai) after I got an e-pass with the police verification completed. Luckily, my father had already acquired the permit for this travel, and so this saved me some time of hassle at the airport. But at the exit gate of the airport, I was again asked about the taxi details, and the officer requested me not to exit the airport until the taxi driver arrives. Then, he took the taxi driver details from me, and contacted him over the phone. When the taxi arrived, he personally escorted me till the taxi, to ensure I did not meet anyone apart from the designated driver.

It was raining, and the monsoon season had ushered in. While traveling to Pune, I saw some of the most beautiful scenic beauty in the Ghats, especially in the Lonavala-Khandala region. Then after reaching Pune, I had to meet the Govt officials again to check the availability of hotels for my 7 day quarantine stay, which were designated as isolation centers. I selected one of the good hotels in Pune, and stayed there for the next 7 days. I had to carry all the bags with me to the hotel as I was not even allowed to drop my bags at home, which was not faraway from the hotel. The most important thing is that I was not tested for Covid during or after my 7 days stay. When I inquired about the Covid test, I was told that it was optional and I had to pay out of my own pocket. Even the isolation centers were quite expensive, and the bill was charged to my name. I wish they allowed Covid testing at the isolation centers ( as they were supposed to be meant for). No wonder why India is seeing the highest Covid infection rates in the world, and the nexus between govt officials and hotel/isolation center authorities cannot be hidden!

Finally, after this once in a lifetime pandemic overseas evacuation travel experience, I came back home. I was nervous about a lot of things as I had witnessed during and after the travel, but on the other side, I was delighted to be at home, in my country, with my family. Fortunately, I was not showing any symptoms related to Covid and after completing another 7 days home quarantine restriction, I was free. I did learn a lot during this travel. After seeing two countries which are equally affected by this virus, and seeing the troubles people are taking to reach and stay close to their family, or loved ones, I started realizing with mixed emotions, that however this pandemic might have changed our life, but the virus is a lot weaker in front of human strength, determination and courage. Kudos to the brave, hardworking pilots who are working so hard to fly tirelessly day and night to reach us safely to our destinations. Hats off to the flight attendants, airport authorities, taxi/lyft/ola drivers who inspite of the risk of virus infection, are working hard to keep the daily operations running smoothly.

The virus might have locked us down in our homes, but it hasn’t locked down the humanity within us. We will surely overcome this pandemic, and we can hope again, that the travel in future won’t be driven by fear or for evacuation purposes, but with happiness, joy and leisure. Good times are not faraway!