Krithika Natarajan was travelling. The Coronavirus struck. Lockdown happened while she was visiting India. She had to get home to Geneva. Here’s her story.
“It was 8:10 am, an hour after the LX-8919 flight had landed at the Zurich airport. I was still inside the flight. A few minutes later, our row number was called out by the airport personnel and I disembarked from the only flight that had landed in Europe at this hour. The airport had gone eerily quiet, it was unusually less crowded. People walked slowly in small groups. My eyes caught a known face at a distance, waiting for me anxiously by the doors of the departure gate.
It felt strange not to get the usual warm welcome back hugs upon my return to Switzerland from India. Only tears of joy rolled out from my eyes when I finally reunited with my children.
This was the much-awaited moment, after dodging myself away from the COVID-19 virus that had spread itself like a forest fire to almost all the places that I had travelled to through this evacuation operation.”
I had started my day with my usual prayers. The previous night had been tough. I’d been awake for the most part of the night, a little disturbed, awaiting my COVID-19 RT-PCR test results.
That morning, some people in the apartment block might have been shocked to see a man dressed in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) enter our home in India on the 3rd floor. Within a few seconds, he took the throat swab and it was all done. It felt like I had crossed the first 5 km of a marathon race, knowing that there was still a long way ahead of me.
COVID-19 test results finally arrived via email. I quickly scrolled down the email to read through the results. My chances to fly back home – to Geneva – had been 20-80 until then. Now, with these results, they shot up to 70-30. I immediately emailed the results to my doctor to confirm if I had read the results right! I was anxious. My precious little ones were excited, knowing that finally, I had a good chance to fly back.
I started communicating with the Swiss authorities who were assisting me with the repatriation efforts. I felt happy that my prayers were being answered. Another 9 days to go.
Days went by fairly quickly. On some days, I was more restless than on others. There were some unexplainable feelings – feelings about leaving my parents behind, joys about joining my children and husband in Geneva. Mixed feelings. On one half of the day I would feel happy and fresh, and through the other half, sober and grim.
In the last 100 hours in India, where I had gone to visit family, I truly felt god’s grace upon me.
My travel back to Geneva entailed journeying from Chennai to Kochi via Bengaluru by road. I stayed in Bengaluru for two nights, before heading for a 12-hour road trip to Kochi. Vehicles were being stopped at each check post on the way. But thanks to the Swiss consulate’s assisted operation, clearance was quick.
While being screened for body temperature at the Valayar post in Kerala, I stood there – not surprised – when they asked me to step aside after having detected high body temperature. I had been very nervous, and excited. And I knew the slight blip in temperature was because I had been sipping hot water. Nothing alarming. I had my results with me. I stood in the shade for a few minutes – and then went for second temperature control. Yes, the coolness of shade had taken care of that.
I heaved a sigh of relief once I was inside the Kochi airport – after screening. With each passing moment, I began to realise that my journey was getting ‘more real’. I felt quite fortunate to return on the last repatriation flight from Kochi.
When I look back, what really got me this far was nothing but ‘hope’. After 14 days of self-quarantining, I can safely now say that I have protected myself from the virus through this journey.
My travel map between 02.03.2020- 25.04.2020 is a testimony to this.
“GVA(CH)- QR- MAA(TN)-PGT(KL)- TSR(KL)-MAA(TN)-BLR(KN)-COK(KL)-ZH(CH)-GVA(CH)”
Quite a journey, through which I also made good friends with compatriots.
During this unprecedented period of lockdown when the world was facing the wrath of the Coronavirus, it was quite difficult to stay positive. At each step, I considered my ‘what-if’s’ – and that was quite challenging.
I had adopted new lifestyle changes in the last 50 days, a period during which I spent in self-quarantine most of the time. It was through the tunnel of grace, love, courage, risk and focus that I traversed from one home to another.
In every person I met, I sensed positive vibes and strong connections. This included the taxi driver who enabled me to reach my destination on the first day of my journey back to Switzerland. When I got dropped at the hotel in Chennai, he revealed that he had stepped in as the driver on behalf of his friend.
My thanks to Silvana-Frey Rengli, Sebastian Hug, Syed Ibrahim, Solomon George from the Swiss Consulate for enabling this travel and immense gratitude to my entire family for their care.
About the Author
Krithika Natarajan has been living in Geneva with her family for over a decade. Born and raised in Chennai, she loves travelling and has visited over 25 cities in the past year. She is a Bharathanatyam dancer/performing artist and takes online dance classes for a number of enthusiastic learners. She is a mother of two, and her husband works for WHO/UNAIDS.
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