The Coronavirus pandemic has brought human life to a standstill; locked inside the four walls of our home, we have started to appreciate the little things of life. Stepping out of the house has become difficult, and travelling is long forgotten.
In early July, WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on Twitter: “there will be no return to the ‘old normal’ in the foreseeable future.”
There will be no return to the “old normal” for the foreseeable future. But there is a roadmap to a situation where we can control #COVID19 and get on with our lives. No matter where a country is in its epidemic curve, it is never too late to take decisive action. https://t.co/qz4s8KWsYV pic.twitter.com/qxd3tsgAuf
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) July 14, 2020
During this tensed time, many people wanted to join their families to feel safe. I was no exception.
My journey was not a cakewalk as usual; this time, it was like going to a battle. Luckily, airlines such as ‘Indigo’ and ‘Spicejet’ were generous enough to assist stranded people like me in returning to our families’ safety. As direct flights were not available, I ended up opting for a connecting flight from Tamil Nadu to Kerala via Bangalore. Even though I knew it was going to be a long haul, meeting my family kept me going.
Airport looked more like an outer planet with people walking in protective gears (PPE), not that I was left alone. Prior to the journey, I bought myself a PPE kit containing a medical gown, shoe cover, cap and mask, goggles, a pair of gloves, a large plain sheet (two in number), and a disposal bag.
Well, safety is a must, but to be honest, I could hardly breathe and see through it! At this moment, my heart went out to all the healthcare workers, police officers and military men who have to wear these kits for 12-14 hours of their work shift. Though keeping oneself hydrated is a must, but the struggle to get out of this dress code and paranoia of getting infected by using a public toilet, I threw the thought of hydration outside the window.
During the online check-in, all passengers were advised to keep a copy of the necessary documents. Unlike the pre-corona times, which promoted more handy hard copies, the Airport Authority now allowed soft copies. But being the ‘traditional person’ I am, my brother gave me printouts of flight tickets, boarding pass (since I had already checked in), self-declaration form (filled and kept ready), baggage tags and e-pass (from your immediate area of departure to the final area of destination).
If you thought this never-ending list saw some end, let me tell you an Identity Proof is a must. I also had to download the ‘Aarogya Setu‘ app to comply with the Indian Government’s Rules.
Welcome to ‘Contactless’ Service – Inside the airport
Once bustling with people, the airport now looked so alienated. Everyone with their protective gears on looked like we were ready to board a spacecraft. But that, the new norm!
As it was a contactless service, I had to keep my documents ready beforehand to produce in front of the officials once asked. I had also noticed that Cashless transactions had gained importance. The airport officials refused to accept any payment by cash. Either GPay or PayTM or Credit/Debit cards must be used to make payment.
Each passenger was allowed to carry one check-in baggage (max. 20 kgs) and a handbag (max. 5 kgs). Though it was advised to carry luggage myself, somehow, I faced problems lifting my own luggage of 20 kgs. To my fortune, a kind-hearted porter helped me place my bags onto the conveyor belt. He turned and assured me that he sanitized even his gloves before assisting the passengers with their luggage.
The child in me jumped out, seeing the colored tapes placed on the ground to maintain the gap between each person. However, being under the watch of military officers, I decided to behave like an adult and maintain social distancing. Even the slightest suspicion would have ended me with the trouble to open my bags, as the security is on the high alert now. Everyone was given with two trays, one to place all the electronic gadgets and metal items and other for bags and documents.
Now, it was time to wait for the giant bird! Yes, of course, in alternative seats. As I didn’t have much to do, and munching was not an option considering the situation and the majority of the food courts being closed, I decided to look around to find hand sanitizer at all desks. I saw ‘Yellow Dustbins‘ at every nook and corner, which I later found out was for BIOMEDICAL WASTE ITEMS.
Before you wonder what these biomedical waste items are, they are nothing but face shields, masks, gloves, and other PPE items. At some point, I thought that at least some of us still have that caveman behavior intact, as I noticed that one of the passengers disposed of his face mask in the Food waste bin (Which is a BIG NO)
Just half an hour before boarding the flight, all my co-passengers and I were provided with face shields, masks, and hand sanitizers (as a whole packet). It is commendable how airline authorities took responsibility to ensure the passengers’ safety.
I noticed that the interiors of the airports and the airplanes were getting sanitized now and then.
Inside the Aeroplane
In the initial flight to Bangalore, the middle seats were empty. However, on the next flight to my destination, it full. Due to the large number of passengers, the cabin crew provided us with medical gowns (in addition to the other items).
After a few months of not seeing these giant birds on air, even the sky decided to show its happiness by bursting into ‘tears’ and shaking the plane into turbulence. I sat still and sang the three stanzas of the Christian Hymn, “Master the Tempest is Raging.” I maintained my calm and posture (for God only knows how hard it was to hold back those screams), knowing that we are safe in the hands of real pilots.
Finally, reaching my destination’s airport, I took out my phone to attend a call when a message popped up. At first glance, I was surprised that I got a message from the State Government; however, it was to confirm that my health check-up was over.
I was confused as I could not recollect anyone testing me at any point in time. It struck me that several airports, including the ones I had gone through, are screening the passengers to avoid the spread of the virus and detect any suspicious cases.
Out of the airport and at my home, concerned people from the Panchayat and the COVID Control Room called me to cross-check and confirm the address. They had also asked if I had any symptoms of the virus and some other questions. It was overwhelming to be at my home and then settle in for the 14 days long mandatory room quarantine.
Though the journey was troublesome, but will always be in my memory as it was something out of the normals. There are people to help out with any queries inside the airport. However, one minor slip can risk the lives of many. Let’s all be cautious not to cause trouble to our fellow human beings.