On the 21st, the borders to Himachal Pradesh’s borders closed. There were no declared cases as of yet, so I basked in the idea of isolation… within our beautiful state. I was holding a little class of five, with Norzin, and her friends Sangmo, Kunga and Rignam, whose schools had closed. It was a first for Norzin, who has been homeschooled all her life save for a short stint in the village school, to have more than two pupils in a class, and she loved it. We read books in English, played vocabulary games and talked about geography and Early Man. It was soon apparent that the regional border closure was a serious matter; parents going to neighboring Uttar Ranchal to pick up their children were turned back and no one was getting through. We spent the week shopping for more essentials and continued to stock on jam and coffee.
On Friday night, we heard two people in our district were confirmed positive one just down the hill, a Kotwali bazaar shop owner’s mother returning from Dubai. We decided to go into lockdown from the next day, and canceled all the usual visitors; nannies, cleaning woman, nurse, and the children coming for classes. That first day was strange, suddenly, it was just us, the extended family of twelve in two adjacent houses, and we readjusted with a feeling of duty, convinced this was the best we could do, and that we were lucky to live as we did. I began calling around, first my sisters in France and the UK and reconnected with elder cousins in various countries, then people around us. Tenor was deputed for the purchase of all perishable goods shopping and we made a run for the local general store to stock up on yogurt and dal. Sunday was to be a nationwide lockdown, from 6am to 9pm, interrupted by a mandatory cacophony of banging of pots and pans at 5 Pm, a show of solidarity to the medical workers. No one banged pots in our area, or we are too far from each other to hear it, but sarcastic remarks abounded, mixed with social media calls for providing them with protective equipment instead. Some rumors had it that this was a one time, 24-hour attempt at stopping the virus. We were relieved when it grew into a lockdown, and by the next morning we knew what we were in for; police on the roads, the hill we live on divided into sections, transportation to a standstill.
Within a day or two, we had turned inward, dividing all the house duties and keeping the children positively occupied. I realized that even after having greatly reduced my travel, how disconnected I was with my own environment and how much my mind had fixated on the outside, on matters that now gradually receded and appeared increasingly irrelevant. We organized ourselves for cooking and cleaning the house and dealing with waste. Baby D has her online school, Norzin classes with me and Yiga spent the first few days exploding in tantrums taking solace cuddling with Dechen or licking to bowl with the chocolate cake mix. We figured she was getting homesick, asking about her father, and enchanted by the cow that wandered into our garden. She must be missing the walks on the pasture with her nanny and her dzomo (yak/cow hybrid) that delivered milk from the source.
Three days ago, an elder Tibetan man coming from the US died of the virus in a Kangra hospital. The police complained that no one respected the norms and imposed a curfew. Now there will be lines for food during the few hours during which it is lifted, which defeats the purpose. In a way, I appreciate the precautions taken and hope they will stop the virus and avoid a possible disaster. The world stopping gives me a soothing feeling. We are lucky to be where we are, for the moment, though I think of all those who remain cramped in small spaces. We took it all from granted and this running everywhere finally is going nowhere and ruining the planet. Even here, the sweeping view from our terrace is clear again, just like it was twenty years ago.