I’m down, but not out

In early April, the coronavirus cases were at an all-time low and we were reporting from Janakpur, and the surrounding border region for two episodes of Himalmedia’s Saglo Samaj weekly tv magazine program.

But we did not know that the surge in India was already beginning to affect the Tarai. After we returned to Kathmandu, we found out that our fixer in Janakpur had tested positive for Covid-19. All of us at Saglo Samaj on that trip quarantined for a week.

None of us showed any symptoms, so we got back to work, this time to report on the second wave that had by then started to affect Kathmandu Valley. The number of cases was doubling every three days, and the number of fatalities nationwide was shooting up.

A day before the lockdown was to go into effect on 29 April in Kathmandu Valley, we made a round of hospitals to film long queues of people who had either come in for a PCR test or the VeroCell vaccine. From the way they were crowding, it looked like they had forgotten about physical distancing.

Next, we went to the capital’s main bus park (pictured). It was filled with people thronging the ticket booths to get home before public transport stopped. Alas, it looked as if half of them would be taking the virus with them to the remotest corners of Nepal.

Several people in the ticket queues had no masks, or if they did were wearing them around their chins. Some had their masks dangling from one ear lobe, as if it was an amulet to protect them from the disease. This reminded me of my time in Janankpur where people were also not the least bit concerned about following safety measures.

I had followed all safety measures, wearing masks and even a face visors when we were in crowded areas. I never left my room without my sanitiser. So I was a bit surprised when I started feeling fatigue and got a slight fever. I tested positive.

On the fifth day, my body started swelling up, I lost all sense of smell or taste. I had an unfamiliar cough, and it kept me from sleeping. My chest hurt like someone was pinching me.

I measured my blood oxygen level obsessively. I looked at the potted jade and money plant in my room and it was reassuring that they were supplying me with additional oxygen. Alone in my room, I tried to keep my spirit up.

My editor told me to rest, and told me I could finish my report after I got better. One part of me wanted to just rest, but another goaded me to work since there was no risk. After all, I thought, I am down, not out.

I am feeling better now, and writing my report helps me forget about Covid-19 and let my antibodies get on with the job of defeating the virus. Work has also helped keep my morale high, since I am communicating about the risk and impact of the pandemic.

I hope to meet you all soon in another episode of Saglo Samaj.

Anita Bhetwal