March 16. The last day of the final exams. I went to school armed with a mask and a hand sanitizer, as a precaution against….you know, the coronavirus. But I hadn’t given it much thought, as I was writing my final exams, which are pretty important, obviously.
I completed the exam 10 minutes early, and the moment I put my pen down, immense relief started to flood my senses, a feeling that I hadn’t experienced recently. Excitement about what lay ahead during the vacation overwhelmed me, and that was all I could think about till the time came for everyone to go home.
I bid my friends goodbye, knowing we’ll see each other soon because of the extra classes for class 10 that were bound to start within a few weeks. When I reached home, still excited, I took a moment to glance at the morning newspaper that lay unfolded on a chair in the veranda. The first page was filled with headlines like “Confirmed COVID-19 cases rise to 144”, and “Two more confirmed cases reported in state”. Though Kerala was the first in India to have a confirmed COVID-19 case, I never thought it will affect us, and that everything will go as quickly as it came. But the days that followed highlighted the seriousness of the situation, and it became clear that things weren’t that simple.
The pandemic shouldn’t be underestimated and we should take as many preventive measures as we can. At present, our government is working hard to control the spread of the virus. With the 21-day lockdown in the country, the roads and streets seem lifeless. All shops, schools and public services are closed except those which are essential. This has affected our lives, but we have to remember that it is for our own safety.
Presently, Kerala is going through a health emergency, with more than a hundred positive cases, and exponential growth in the number of new victims each day. Though no cases have been reported yet in the city where I live – Thiruvananthapuram - I could say that my vacation is not… um… going to be the way I expected it to be. It was kind of strange that I was able to experience a 'historical' event, which people would learn about in the future, but it also created a feeling of anxiety in me and my family as we were unsure of what lay ahead.
It has been a week since the front gate of my house was last unlocked. I now understand why social distancing is one of the most effective ways to stop this virus from spreading. But luckily, my parents planned ahead and bought the supplies that we’ll need to sustain ourselves during this period. Still, I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to meet my friends as we had planned, and that I couldn’t even hang out with my neighbours. Also, it was clear that my extra classes and all the preparatory tuition classes will have to wait. It affected me and my friends, because as much as we wanted our vacation to last long, class 10 was the most important stage of our educational life. My school is planning to start online classes, but it hasn't been finalised yet.
And, of course, when you have to stay at home for a long time, something that’s inevitable starts creeping in and filling your mind: BOREDOM. But, I recognised the seriousness of the situation, and I found ways to occupy myself, instead of bothering my parents who are stressed about the current situation. I spend time reading, writing and painting. I also help my parents with the daily chores, as the maid cannot come. I also listen to music and watch movies with my brother. I keep in touch with my friends online, though it’s not the same as meeting them in person. I often watch news updates on the television with my father. I see policemen supervising the roads and streets, and punishing those who stepped out unnecessarily. I found it annoying that people are still defying the rules, putting themselves and others in danger.
At the same time, I feel proud of our government and our doctors, as well as all the others who are selflessly trying to end this pandemic. It makes me feel how thankful we should be towards them instead of complaining about the problems the coronavirus pandemic has caused in our lives. At the same time, I feel really bad for people like construction workers whose lives depended on their daily wages. Thinking about them makes me feel how lucky I am to have a roof above my head and enough food to sustain myself. I also wonder how it will be for the victims of COVID-19 and their families. I hope a cure and vaccine will be found for this disease soon.
But, in the meantime, it is our duty to help our government prevent this disease from spreading. Social distancing and good hygiene are the easiest and the most effective ways to do it. Even if you are a teenager like me, you can contribute by keeping yourself and your surroundings clean, and by distancing yourself from others. When we protect ourselves, we protect others too, even though not directly. Wash your hands as often as possible, and by washing it, I mean, wash it properly with soap. Though this is something we hear almost all the time, there are still many of us who don’t understand how important it is.
And, don’t worry if you feel anxious and insecure, because, remember, you’re not alone. I’ve learnt that the only way we can make this end is by helping each other. The virus doesn’t discriminate, and nor should we. The world may seem like a computer that’s shutting down, but we can be like the antivirus software. We should be optimistic, and remember that this too shall pass.
Bhadra Rajeev is a class 9 student of St Thomas Central School, Thiruvananthapuram