It was somewhere in February 2020 that my granddaughter sported a “Big sister” T shirt proclaiming the birth of a sibling. My daughter in law was to deliver in September 2020. All was rosy and nice. Carona was then a virus somewhere in China. It was China’s headache, nothing to do with me in Belgaum. Came March and a janata curfew was declared. In all good faith I rang the bell like a true patriotic Indian.
Then came the lockdown. I enjoyed that too. I had a paid holiday after a very very long time. Almost after my maternity leave this was the holiday I was having maybe in thirty odd years. I made the most of the lockdown. Satisfied my art and craft cravings, my writing cravings , cleaned the house and rearranged it. All in all it was a time well spent. Initially it was supposed to be for fifteen days then it dragged on. This time it was work from home. online classes , webinars etc. With international flights cancelled a nagging feeling crept in. But still September was far away.
May and June zipped by. There was news of Vande Bharat mission flights being flown to and fro to facilitate stranded Indians on either side of the ocean. It was still not clear about the eligibility criteria.
July made me nervous. There was no clear picture of the flights. In the video chats with my son’s family it was evident that they were having a tough time. With a toddler, work from home and no domestic help it was an uphill task for them. Here I was with nothing to do, of no help to anybody. News of lockdowns and seal-downs from Bangalore and Belgaum was unnerving. I just wanted to get away from Belgaum but also afraid to travel in Covid times.
During the fourth phase of Vande Bharat mission my travel agent said tickets are available. But it also meant I had only four days to pack and travel to Bangalore and fly from there. There was another hitch , the agent advised me to carry a covid test report. Getting a covid test done in Belgaum at KLE hospital would mean giving an open invitation to Carona. I spent a sleepless night. To my greatest relief there was no test done for asymptotic people.
Packed some clothes. My son said just get your passport and other travel documents and come. We can buy your clothes here. Meanwhile the agent said that the flight has been rescheduled from 26 July to 30 July. Some breathing time. Wrapped up everything and drove straight to Bangalore airport from Belgaum. I wanted to avoid human interaction as much as possible. With only a bathroom stop on the roadside, it was straight to the Bangalore airport.No masalas packed, no laddu for my granddaughter, no gifts for anyone. My sole aim was to reach San Fransisco without any hitches.
I reached Bangalore airport three hours in advance as the usual protocol for international travel. There was social distancing followed in the airport. There were crosses marked ,the only places where one could stand or sit. We were asked to sit outside for an hour and then let inside. Before letting in we had to show Aarogya setu app. It had to be green. Thermal screening done, a couple of forms to be filled and we were let in.
There was heavy confusion at the counter. Some Air India flights had been rescheduled, which were not reflected at the counter. So we were made to run up and down between the counter and Air India office at the airport. All running around with the mask and face shield. But the ground staff was very courteous and helpful. It took them two hours to sort it out. It was nearly time for the gates to close. I was tensed. Security and immigration done, we were handed a bag containing mask, face shield and sanitizer sachet. I went running to the gate. Passed through and sat on my seat. I thought I would not make it. Inside the plane, we were given a bag of eatables and two bottles of water. This was the first leg of the travel Bangalore to Delhi. The three hour flight we had to wear the mask and face shield.
There was a three hour layover at Delhi. Out of which we spent one hour on the runway because there was no bay empty. Getting out of the plane we were met with some ground staff who herded us saying “ San Fransisco wale follow me. Idhar Udhar matt ghomo.” We were taken in a procession to the next gate for boarding.Another ground staff said “San Fransisco wale? chadado enhe..” Meaning take them for boarding. Since the time was short we were made to run. Multiple security checks, health checks and we were put on the plane. The middle seat was given a ppe suit to wear. The sixteen hour flight I sat with the mask and face shield on . Opening it only to drink and eat. No food was served. Some juice bottles and snacks was given in a bag. Luckily I had packed curd, beaten rice and laddu. Even though it was business class except hot water nothing was served. Landing in San Fransisco , immigration was a breeze. Seeing my grandchild I forgot all the tensions that I had had for the past month. A week’s quarantine and got myself checked for carona. The negative report was the best report I have received.