A ‘sanctuary’, according to Oxford Dictionary, is a place of safety. That is what our homes were, till 14th March. The rush of students leaving the hostel premises in droves was a sight to behold. The air was charged, crackling with the joy of students eager to go back home. I will never be able to forget that day even if I try to. That evening, the Dean of our college had announced, amidst the hushed whispers of the gathered masses, that they would be closing down the college in view of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19. People were thrilled to return to their houses.
Butterflies stormed in my stomach, as I looked back at the hostel for one last time, glimpsing its looming building from the green foliage, little did I know that that memory would remain in my mind, my solace in a world crumbling under the strain of a microscopic organism. Our microbiology textbooks portray coronavirus as a friendly flu virus with little mortality rate. But the one we are facing now is probably the armoured version of the virus, equipped with a tank.
The first week of my journey home was spent recuperating from the physical and emotional black hole called college. During my second week, my daily schedule got ruined. I couldn’t keep up, I had no motivation to do anything, much less, study. Every day felt like a month and every week seemingly stretched for forever. Youtube, video games, television and even books can keep your attention only for so long. Especially when it is done, daily, monotony takes root.
Time stood still as my brain idled, like a car with a broken engine, unable to start. I went through the motions of the day, studying whatever I felt like, whenever I could. Nothing was working out. I was depressed despite being physically active. For a whole week, I did not step out of the house.
Then came 20th March. I was recently diagnosed with PCOS and was instructed by my gynecologist to take medicines daily. I had completed the full course of my medication and as per her instruction, we’d decided to travel to her clinic on that day. So, donning our individual masks, we started from our sanctuary.
After having not stepped out of the house for almost a week, I felt everything better. The wind rustling through the leaves, lifting my hair off my shoulders while we zoomed down the empty street on our two-wheeler; the sky seemed bluer, more icy in colour; the world felt brighter, full of life; butterflies frolicked around blooming flowers and birds zoomed around in the sky. So, to have experienced all these, you will have to imagine how deserted and quite the road was.
Barricades blocked the main roads but we braved through them. The saying, “The sun hits differently when it’s illegal”, is definitely true and I can attest for that fact. We felt guilty while traversing the empty streets. It felt like we were living an apocalypse. Everything felt more real, the messages to stay home hit hard. We vowed to stay home after that.
Our return journey wasn’t that nerve-wracking. It was after 5pm and almost everyone was back on the streets, loitering around on footpaths, walking, jogging, going about their daily activities as if the health of all the immuno-compromised people were not at risk. We were disgusted but we knew better than to comment. We were in the exact same situation, up and about in the streets failing to adhere to the curfew.
Since that day, we haven’t stepped out. We have remained in this supposed sanctuary of ours, feeling more trapped by the day. Our mental state deteriorating, our patience for each other wearing thin, but we are definitely glad to be alive. One thing that came as a savior during these distressing times was my friends and of course, the online classes. It almost feels like we are attending real classes, restoring a sense of normalcy in this otherwise, rapidly fading world. The assignments are a chore though, but we cannot complain now. We know what it feels like to do nothing for too long. “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop”, an apt saying by Chaucer, especially in this situation.