Rekha Chandra
Rekha Chandra

‘Neighbours questioned, ostracised daily’: Kerala journo recalls home quarantine ordeal

Journalist Rekha Chandra went into quarantine in her apartment in Kozhikode on return from Chennai a few days ago.

It is disheartening to read Rekha Chandra’s post on Facebook. The journalist with the New Indian Express put an elaborate post on social media on Saturday recounting her ordeal of being in home quarantine after she returned to Kozhikode from Chennai.

In the post, she pointed out how her neighbours’ hostile attitude towards her caused her severe mental stress every day, and why society needs to be urgently sensitised on the behaviour towards the COVID-19 patients, the recovered individuals and those in quarantine. More than that, she asked the Kerala government to sensitise the public.

“While it is repeatedly said that one need not panic but be vigilant against COVID-19, our society in Kerala is only used to ostracising people with the disease, viewing them as culprits, hurling stones at them and if needed, beat them to keep them away,” the post read. She called such an attitude towards any person affected by COVID-19 — those in home quarantine, those who completed the quarantine time, infected and recovered patients — not only worrisome but more severe than the COVID-19 infection itself.

“It has been six days since I reached my flat in Kozhikode and I have been going through severe mental pressure from the moment I arrived in Kerala. When I got down from the car, many residents in the apartment building were peeping through the windows. When I looked at some familiar faces, they drew the window curtains close, as if they saw a despicable creature,” she said. 

According to Rekha, when she informed a neighbour about her return, the person questioned her, asking her why she returned to the building when there are government-run centres. “Why should I go to such centres when I have a facility of my own. Another person, who does not have home-quarantine facilities, would lose a bed at such centres. But then, my neighbour doled out a litany of excuses to send me away from my flat,” she wrote.

On the second day since her arrival, Rekha got a call from another neighbour, asking if she had registered with the state government. “Don’t they realise that it is not possible to come by flights without registering (with the government)?” 

Scores of questions and suggestions followed like not opening the door of the flat irrespective of her needs as there are children in other flats.

It didn't stop with that. Rekha’s neighbours complained to her landolord, claiming that they are afraid to continue in the flat as she was residing in the building. Her landlord, in turn, responded to the neighbours, stating that Rekha has more awareness about the situation as she is a journalist. 

The neighbours even allegedly warned the sanitation worker who collects wet waste from the flat about the situation. Since she was in quarantine, Rekha did not keep her wet waste outside the door. But she was not aware of the waste disposal procedure for those in quarantine. 

“When I contacted the health inspector, he told me that individuals in quarantine should not generate any waste as they cannot compel the sanitation staff to collect waste from such people,” she said, adding, “I am surviving with minimum food, not even bothering anyone to bring grocery items.” 

“Being in quarantine for 14 days, without meeting anyone, is mentally exhausting. Irrespective of how bold I am, I lose it at times, as I have to go through this kind of mental stress every day,” she said in the post. 

She also spoke about a similar experience her friend is going through at Payyoli in Kozhikode.

“We are being portrayed as someone who committed a serious crime in front of residents, friends, government officials and health workers. Over the days, I have been thoroughly convinced why a Malayali nurse, who was infected with the virus in Delhi, and Bineesh, a native of Kozhikode who was about to return to the state, took their own life. The state of mind of Malayalis living in Kerala has transformed to the level that it can push people facing multiple problems to suicide,” she concluded, urging the government to urgently sensitise the public. 

Several people responded to Rekha’s post, criticising the public for being less sensitive at this time, while some of them are even violating lockdown norms. 

“Those who ostracise people like Rekha are the ones who jostle at supermarkets and chicken shops even at this time. I don't know what kind of sense and realisation they have of this pandemic,” read a comment by Dipu Kurup.

"We should learn from Non-Resident Keralites on approaching COVID-19 patients. They treat them like roommates, bringing them whatever they need, ensuring they have food and medicine,” AM Najeeb Sudheer said. 


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