Jan 2022

Today, we are on Day 3 of our self-isolation quarantine after my parents, and her nurse tested positive from COVID-19 on Saturday. The other maids and our driver tested negative, and so did I. I sent the other maids home and restricted the driver’s movement to only purchasing supplies. The first two days were crazy busy with everyone getting used to the new schedule and living arrangements, and I was groping my way in the dark, sometimes literally, trying to figure out things in a home 1that I had left twenty years ago.

I’ve cordoned off the area to their rooms. Initially, I kept a simple desk to restrict the site that we are now referring to as ‘*Lakshman Rekha*’ (uncrossable line or DMZ for this post). I have had to subsequently reinforce this barrier by pushing our oh-so-heavy armchair and battening down the hatches with an eclectic assortment of whatever heavy I could find around the house. It looks like a kid’s fort and, in other circumstances would be hilarious. Why the reinforcement, you ask?

My dad has dementia and, according to his psychiatrist, whom I met on Friday, is developing signs of Alzheimer’s. That makes things exponentially tricky since he has no idea why he’s being asked to stay in his room and not cross the DMZ. Yes, we have patiently explained to him that he has COVID, should mask up, and have even provided him with the paper copy of the report when he doubts us. That settles him down for a bit, only to have the same conversation an hour later. Understandably, his daily routine has been disrupted, and he hasn’t yet accepted the new reality. But it is causing stress and frustration on both sides of the DMZ.

On the first night, taking advantage of our flimsy ‘simple desk’ barrier, he had wandered to the dining table and the kitchen and was trying to serve everyone food at 4 am. It would be maddening if it weren’t so sad. I had to spend the following day sanitizing everything I thought he had touched. I handled the paper plates that he had touched with gloves.

Hence the reinforcement. He has tried repeatedly to breach the DMZ, and like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, he doesn’t forget, ironically, the weak links in the barrier. Earlier this morning, I found him on the unallowable side of the DMZ 2 , and he couldn’t climb back across when asked to return to his room. I had to coax him to step aside and, armed with gloves and masks, managed to temporarily dismantle the barrier and let him get back to the other side. Thus, the stalemate continues, and the North and the South face each other to keep the virus at bay. I have learned from the experience and have a new plan for tonight.

Aside from keeping him inside the room, I’m also arranging for meals because I don’t want to start cooking in a kitchen I’m no longer familiar with 3. My parents have a cook who comes in the morning and cooks for the day. She tested negative but could no longer come inside our home. Thanks to friends and other contacts, I found plenty of options for home-cooked meals delivered by households that cater to renters and for hospital patients 4.

One of them delivers breakfast (“don’t worry, pay us later”), another one provides lunch, and then there’s always the option of ordering from a restaurant. The driver and another ex-office acquaintance buy the food with the cash I give them and have it delivered since I don’t have an Indian SIM card on my phone 5. I make the morning and evening tea/coffee and serve some snacks that I managed to rummage from their panty.

My cousin placed an order from London for a local chicken grill place called Barbecue Nation 6. Peri-Peri Tangdi (drumstick) and some chicken kebabs later, we were too full to eat our rationed-out dinner. So back in the fridge that went. I’ve already placed an order at a local joint for chicken biryani, so that’s something for me to look forward to in otherwise uneventful days.

I wrap up my night with calls with my wife and brother, updating them on the day’s events and musing about handling such situations with both of us more than eight thousand miles away. Let’s see—one step at a time.

  1. Well, technically it isn’t the same home. My parents demolished our original bungalow and built a new one on the same site. [return]
  2. see photo above and imagine how he did it. He’s 71. [return]
  3. Mise en Place is very important to me. [return]
  4. Unless it’s a big hospital in a major city, ones in India do not have a cafeteria. People living around the hospital often set up a small business to provide home-cooked meals. [return]
  5. never felt the need to have one…until now. [return]
  6. In India, barbecuing is essentially grilling. [return]
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