He expected COVID-19 to knock on his door, and it did.
Ananda Raj, 22, from Kerala, India, was not surprised when his teary-eyed parents told him that his test results for COVID-19 were positive. Why?
As a Relationship Manager in a local bank, It was mandatory for Raj to be physically present to witness clients sign home loans. He also had to meet clients 3-4 times before closing deals, which increased the risk of him contracting the virus. “It was inevitable,” he said.
One Friday, Raj came down with a seemingly innocent flu. By the end of the weekend, he had a high fever of 38.3 degrees Celsius, accompanied by intense headaches and fatigue like he never experienced before.
He went to the hospital to get tested and was diagnosed COVID-positive the next day.
Raj remained composed when his family broke the news to him on the day itself. His parents were horrified, though. Were they going to lose a child to the pandemic?
And what if it was not just Raj? His sister, who has cerebral palsy, is more vulnerable to the virus due to her weaker immune system. Moreover, even with quarantine, there might be a chance of transmission of the virus via their mother who is taking care of them. Hence, they have been taking safety precautions very seriously, avoiding all contact and even placing meals in front of his room for him to collect.
Likewise, the state itself – Kerala, is also bent on reducing COVID-19 transmissions as much as possible. They have been lauded throughout India and the world for its efficacy in controlling the outbreak. According to Raj, the government has been shelling out funds and even converting medical colleges into hospitals to cope with the situation. Their containment effort was evident, seeing how efficiently everything was handled, and how people were able to get access to help easily.
“They are doing an amazing job,” Raj exclaimed, sharing how well he is taken care of. For instance, he receives 6-7calls every day from the dispatcher, hospital, police station, main state inspector, and government’s mental counsellor to ensure all safety protocols are being met and that his holistic well-being is fine.
“They even have another person who calls me to ensure everyone else has been doing their job by calling me. That is the level of efficacy they have,” Raj said.
In addition, he received a pulse oximeter and a thermometer to personally monitor his health, while a banner was placed outside his house to warn passers-by and encourage them to stay safe. Being a naturally cheerful and optimistic person, Raj’s mental state was not heavily affected, and whatever bouts of loneliness he might have faced were dissipated as his colleagues, superiors, and churchmates called him regularly to give moral support. Still, being strictly bedroom-bound took a toll on his mental health.
So how did Raj handle his in-room quarantine? From learning a few songs on his guitar, mastering a deck of cards to reading books to his heart’s delight, he found time to enjoy the simple little things he wanted to do but he couldn’t pre-COVID-19. Given the abundance of free time due to quarantine, he was also able to ponder about his life choices. “Should I be doing more? Should I take a drastic step?”
“One of my regrets would be not doing a lot of things,” he said when we asked if death had ever crossed his mind. “Nobody would know I existed after 50 years. I didn’t leave a mark, I didn’t help many people, I didn’t make a big difference in someone’s life, that was scarier than death.”
“I might be COVID-positive, but through this, I am ‘positive’. I am sorry for the bad joke, but really, through this diagnosis, I started to think so much more about the small steps I can take to make a difference. And I hope to do even more with my life.” he said with a grin.
Raj has recovered from COVID-19 within a week of his interview with Stories of Asia.