Posted by Urmila Marak, Tura, Meghalaya
“Nothing would be better than getting to work from home permanently,” my parents often say these days.
I have always lived away from home since the time I went off to study in a boarding school when I was in standard VI. So the luxury of home for me was only during the holidays which was a month or two when I was studying. And that reduced to one or two weeks after I started working and after marriage.
This pandemic and the opportunity to work from home have been nothing short of a blessing for me. Last year, when the lockdown was announced, my parents would repeatedly say over the phone, “Can’t you come home and work?” “It’s very risky to live in the city with the surge in positive cases.”
Travelling during the initial days of the pandemic and the lockdown posed a great health risk for us as well as my ageing parents. Therefore, coming home was a big no-no. But six months past the pandemic, we began pondering and planning.
Planning the trip to Tura, Meghalaya, all the way from Gurgaon, in Haryana at the peak of the pandemic wasn’t easy. Our challenge was to reach home without getting infected.
Flying posed a risk as well. We had always wanted to do a road trip but it never materialised since taking leave from office was a perennial issue. And this was our opportunity. After battling between, “to go or not to go” the former won. We were like, “when we have the option of working remotely, we might as well go home, work from there and spend some quality time with parents”.
Our house help, Kim, was more than elated when we told him about our plan. He was excited because he would also be able to spend some time with his folks in his village in South Garo Hills.
After watching numerous video blogs of people who travelled during the lockdown and checking with the government authorities regarding the paperwork for testing and permission to travel inter-state, the three of us set out on October 2, 2020, with about 30 liters of mineral water, home-cooked food, ready-to-eat noodles, snacks, disposable cups and plates and loads of sanitizers and disinfectant sprays for the three-day road trip.
Our preparation for the trip began earlier because we didn’t want to eat or drink anything from outside. Hotels were booked in advance for the night halts as well as for our paid quarantine in Tura.
After travelling for 1,873 km, when we reached the checkpoint, where we were required to show our entry pass, my husband and I were asked to get our Covid tests done at the ISBT Tura, while Kim was to get tested in his district. We were told we could arrange for a vehicle for him at ISBT.
We reached ISBT at 2 pm and got our tests done. We tested negative. But there was no sign of any vehicle to send Kim home. We tried reaching out to the authorities, but since it was a Sunday, no vehicles were available. After making a few calls, we managed to get a vehicle, but the driver refused to take him since he was yet to get his Covid test done.
We tried to explain our predicament to the authorities and get him tested at ISBT itself so that we could send him home. But we were told that the protocol was to get tested in our respective districts. I started making frantic calls since we wanted to send Kim home the same day. My brother came to our rescue, and managed to arrange a car for him. We finally left ISBT at 5 pm and dropped Kim at the designated place.
That was indeed a big relief for us as Kim would also reach home around 9 pm. However, our ordeal did not end there. No sooner had we settled down in the hotel around 6.30 pm, that I received a call from Kim. His car had broken down in an isolated place and the driver refused to do anything about it. I spoke to the driver and he said they would need to spend the night in the car. After pleading with him, he started repairing the vehicle.
Meanwhile, Kim’s father along with a few villages who were waiting for him at the testing centre, left for home after they came to know about his ordeal. The testing centre was also closed since everyone assumed that he would reach in the morning.
Finally, the driver managed to get the car moving and they left the place around 12.30 am. My husband and I were on the call with Kim throughout. Asking him to call us once he reached his quarantine center, we went to bed. I was again woken up around 1.30 am by Kim. He called to say that the villagers had stopped him from entering his village, since he had not done his Covid test. So, I called the driver and requested him to halt at the border and spend the night. The driver refused.
I had to make a number of calls before we could convince the villagers to allow him entry into his village and to his quarantine center. Finally, at 3.30 am he called to say that he had reached. It was indeed a big respite.
At 6.30 am, I woke up with a jolt as my phone started ringing. It was Kim’s father. He had called to say that the village headman was furious since Kim had come without his Covid test. I convinced the headman that he would go for his test as soon as the centre opened. Finally, everything was resolved, but not before the officer-in-charge (OC) of the police station intervened. Fortunately, the OC knew my brother.
All’s well that ends well. We could finally sit down for breakfast at peace. We had the resort all to ourselves as it had no other guests except us. Our day would begin with long walks in the sprawling property before we would sit down to work. Yes, we had not taken any leave. The best part about our stay? Our lunch, evening snacks and dinner were coming from home.
Five days after our stay in the hotel, we were finally home. But it was a “no mingling” time for another 10 days, as we went for self-isolation. In fact, our 10th wedding anniversary was spent in self- isolation.
After we were home, once my mother was not well. I felt helpless as I couldn’t do anything despite being in the house. I couldn’t even go near her because I still posed some health risk to her. Only after we completed 15 days that we came out of our room sans the mask. What a relief that was!
I cannot remember when I celebrated my birthday at home with my parents. Thankfully, this pandemic gave us the opportunity to celebrate our little joys together. Taking parents out every weekend or lending a helping hand in the household chores, brings so much comfort. The feeling of being home with parents is unmatched.
Today, I am living life in the lap of nature, yet being able to work remotely from here. Waking up to the sound of chirping birds, going for long morning walks down the lane where no vehicles honk. Picking herbs and vegetables from mother’s garden is a far cry from the concrete jungle where the sound of nature gets drowned in the cacophony of human activities.
It’s been over four months since we have been home now. We watch the seasons change and my mother’s garden ceaselessly giving, our pet dog giving birth to three puppies and many more nature’s delight. I couldn’t be grateful enough for these times that have helped us to refocus on our priorities.
As we sit around the bonfire every night and enjoy the last cold of the season, I couldn’t agree more to what my parents say about getting to work from home permanently.
Cover image: Author
Story images: Author
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