Story by: Sandip Gyawali
Unauthorized mass gatherings to aid the evacuations amid Pandemic, sparkles infections inside the city, makes families apart.
It’s been weeks since the city is under lockdown, none are driving and nobody is strolling. Passerby’s are rarely seen from Madhav’s apartment. Having nothing to do productive, he is smoking a bunch of cigarettes and scrolling mouse’s cursor relentlessly is now a daily routine for Madhav. His thumbs are exercising more than any other part of his body. It’s now boring to spend time alone—which he has wished consistently for his whole life. Madhav did not want to stay here for a long time but he was Panglossian about re-opening the country too soon. So, he remained here—enjoying his loneliness, abandoning his mother. Whenever she calls him, she scolds him for not coming home. All he needs is her cwtch but not her curse. Madhav wants to go home. He wants to hug her and imagines conversing with her- I just want to say to mommy that: there is no need to scold me again, I have safely returned. But the thoughts collapse when he realizes that returning won’t be possible. Suddenly, his phone rings. It’s his mother. She is calling to inform him about the evacuation program. He talks with her and disconnects after a while. After the phone call, Madhav chuckles and ponders about it-how does my mom sense my strong urge to return? Or does she feel my agony? It’s a mystery. Again, his thoughts dispersed. The evacuation plan is organized by the municipality for those who remained stranded inside the metropolitan city. All he has to do is go to the bus station and carry the voter ID card and show it to the authority for the bus’s ticket.
Wearing his cartoonish version of PPE; cloth mask, fancy goggles and handwoven gloves, he is marching towards the bus station. With pride in returning home, he is getting chills inside his groin. He called for a cab but his call remains unanswered. After that, he decides to walk. Thrilled. Exhausted. He finally reaches the bus station. He encounters a mob there. People are everywhere, they are aiming to buy tickets. With no voter ID, people are going astray. Begging and pledging, people from the mob are desperate to go home. A woman in line curses and spits towards the ticket counter. It goes straight inside the window, covering the face of the officer. He cleans it with his hands. He calls for the next person, it’s Madhav’s turn. He pushes people to reach the ticket counter. He finally gets there and pays for the ticket. The officer informs him about the date, the bus is scheduled for the day after tomorrow. Now, Madhav is relieved. He feels as if he has won a war—the war to return home. After all this, he lights a cigarette and smokes. He is sweating because of the rush; he cleanses his face with his hand and decides to return to his apartment. While returning, he catches a bus that is destined to go near his apartment. The bus is overcrowded. He grabs a place to stand and returns to the apartment safely. Hurriedly he reaches to his room and calls his mother. He says, “Mommy, I got the tickets. Don’t you worry now? I will come home in two days.”
Today is the day before the evacuation, bags are fully packed and steadily put near the door. Madhav feels lazy and opens the television, a news anchor says; YESTERDAY TWELVE NEW INFECTIONS COUNTED INSIDE THE CITY. The news terrorizes him, he changes the channel, again he hears nothing but the rumbling of the same news. He researches more about those twelve people and finds yesterday three of them went to buy the tickets for the evacuation program; it’s the same day when Madhav went there. The bus station was overcrowded, there was no way to identify who was within the contact of those people. Now, he panics. Weeps. He hears something in the news and stops weeping. Being anxious, he lights a cigarette and smokes. News anchor says: FLASH NEWS: METROPOLITAN CITY IS MOBILIZING FORCES AND PROPELLING TO TEST EVERYONE. Suddenly, someone knocks on the door and calls “Police here, please open the door.” Police searched his apartment and found the ticket. They forcefully put him in the van and took him to the hospital, and isolated him in a dim room. Madhav doesn’t want to inform his mother about all these happenings. He calls her and tells, “Mommy, the evacuations are withheld, for now, so I will remain in my apartment safely, don’t panic I am safe.”
Days passed since Madhav is in isolation, the first test showed him negative, that’s why he is optimistic about returning home. He hasn’t smoked for days. He wants to smoke but it is forbidden there. Wandering alone, he sees something; a bird which he makes as a new friend—a sparrow—it chirps with joy and it comes daily inside his room. He gives it some grains and the sparrow eats it with happiness. They both make good company. While staying in isolation, Madhav neglects his mother’s request for video calls and tells her about the unavailability of internet connection. Daily, the nurses come inside his room and give him health updates. Sometimes, they also tell the news. One day, the nurses tell him- more than ten thousand people are now infected inside the city and about three hundred people have died. But he feels strange because he has not heard anything in the news. He wonders about the crowd he faced days ago; he goes deep about it- how many people are isolated now? How many are now separated from their families? —Who infected me? —Must be the lady who spat on the officer’s face. Where is she now? His thoughts fade away when the nurses carry him food. After the seventh day of isolation Madhav is now feeling hot, he is unable to stand, his body is trembling and aching. He is unable to eat; he has lost his sense of taste. A nurse came and checked his fever, it was 103degree Fahrenheit. Sadly, the second test showed positive. Now, he becomes numb, a nurse consoles him to keep his confidence to fight the disease. Two days later, his sickness worsened. He can’t stand and walk. The doctors speak Madhav’s smoking habit might have aided something for this worseness. Gradually, he becomes weaker and weaker, he is having trouble breathing. When the nurses tell him to stand to clear the bedsheet, he collapses to the floor. Immediately, he is taken to the ICU, and a nurse puts him into the life-support machine. Madhav can’t breathe normally, he is now on a ventilator. Numerous medical solutions were injected through his veins, including hydroxychloroquine; a probable drug curing for the disease.
The monitor is rumbling in its way, Madhav is unable to move, he wants to walk and go home. He wants to see his mother. He imagines about her, he smells home—he smells the rose, jasmine and orchids of his garden. He smells the aroma of the food that his mother cooked for him. He imagines a lot of things at once. While imagining, the intense pain of tracheostomy fades away. Lying on the bed, he is helpless, his condition worsens more, he wishes to call his mother. The hospital arranges a phone call, Madhav utters- “Mm…mom…”, his mother cries. The monitor beeps at a slow pace, his blood pressure drops, he utters something- “Mommy, I am sorry, I couldn’t make it home.”