Spring of the pandemic: People wearing masks
Spring of the pandemic: People wearing masks

Editor’s note: Wel­come to The Pan­dem­ic is Per­son­al, a week­ly series focus­ing on on how the nov­el coro­n­avirus (SARS-CoV­­‑2) is affect­ing the every­day lives of peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west. We hope to enlight­en you and reflect on what you and oth­ers are address­ing as this pan­dem­ic runs its course.

If you have a sto­ry to tell, please feel free to con­tact us.

This week, NPI Advi­so­ry Coun­cilmem­ber Rit­u­ja Inda­pure describes what her spring was like dur­ing the worst pan­dem­ic in mod­ern times. 

March 14th, 2020

It’s mid­night, and I’m at the Mum­bai Inter­na­tion­al Airport.

The line at the lug­gage check-in counter is long.

No one is wear­ing masks. I have a cou­ple in my back­pack. My neigh­bor in Pune went to the mar­ket and brought me a cou­ple of cloth masks before I left.

I plan to wear one inside the air­plane, but don’t see the need to wear it in pub­lic. I’m hyper-vig­i­lant of some­one cough­ing or sneezing.

I have twen­­ty-one hours of flight time until I reach home in Seattle!

With the lug­gage checked in, I head to the secu­ri­ty check­point which is packed with peo­ple. There are sep­a­rate lines for men and women.

I see women in shorts, in hijabs, in jeans, in sarees.

It seems like peo­ple from all over the world are rep­re­sent­ed in that line.

With infec­tion and death rates sky­rock­et­ing in Italy and Spain, the Unit­ed States has announced that it’s shut­ting down transat­lantic flights.

Amer­i­can cit­i­zens who have been trav­el­ing abroad for work, tourism, edu­ca­tion or to meet fam­i­ly are rush­ing back. In this line too, mask wear­ing is spot­ty, but the policee offi­cer who inspects us does have a mask on.

On to the board­ing area, and I find a spot away from crowds. I put on my cloth mask now as I sit alone con­tem­plat­ing my clean­ing pro­ce­dure once I sit in the airplane.

Even­tu­al­ly it’s 3:30 am, and we are board­ing the flight.

It’s a packed flight. I’ve done research on win­dow ver­sus aisle seats. I have cho­sen the rec­om­mend­ed win­dow seat. None of the air­line’s staff are wear­ing face masks or gloves. I’m scared for their health.

It’s just past 6 AM when we land at Dubai Inter­na­tion­al Air­port. It’s a long way to my next gate. So many peo­ple here. I start walk­ing towards my gate, but the way is roped off. I can get in only through a checkpoint.

All pas­sen­gers trav­el­ing to the Unit­ed States are screened for tem­per­a­ture and oth­er symp­toms of a viral infec­tion. I’m trav­el­ing alone, but feel real­ly bad for par­ents trav­el­ing with young chil­dren. Long flights with young kids is hard!

My flight from Dubai to Seat­tle is four­teen hours long. I could­n’t secure a win­dow seat, let alone a seat in a row just by myself. I’m wor­ried, but put on my cloth mask and board the plane. I sit in my assigned aisle seat next to a gen­tle­man who works as a truck dri­ver and lives in Kent.

His fam­i­ly lives in Kenya, but work is in Seat­tle. He coughs.

He is not wear­ing a mask.

We are in the air and the seat-belt sign is off.

I ask the air­line staff if there are any open seats. He says, “Why don’t you look around?” I walk around and am delight­ed when I see an emp­ty row! It’s right next to the restroom, but who cares… I can sit alone!

From the air­craft, as we cross the Cas­cades, I can see it’s a gor­geous day.

We land in Seat­tle just after 1:30 PM local time.

Mul­ti­ple inter­na­tion­al flights have arrived at Sea-Tac around the same time. There is a long line of peo­ple wait­ing to get through immigration.

No one is wear­ing masks, and we aren’t being asked to keep space between us, either. I down­load the Mobile Pass­port App, insert the need­ed infor­ma­tion and jump ahead of the line. I wait for my lug­gage to arrive, pick it up and pro­ceed to Cus­toms. None of the cus­tom offi­cers are wear­ing a mask.

I clear U.S. Cus­toms and hop onto Sound Tran­sit’s Link light rail sys­tem. In less than five min­utes, I’m out of the air­port and on my way home!

April 14th, 2020

It’s been a month since we’ve all start­ed work­ing from home. We are tak­ing it day by day. I’m used to see­ing every­one in per­son each day, so I miss not see­ing them. For each inter­ac­tion, I now have to set up a meeting.

My cal­en­dar is get­ting full.

Slow­ly we’ve start­ed set­ting up our office space at home.

For some, it’s meant buy­ing a new office chair.

Many of us have tak­en our work mon­i­tors and key­boards home.

Until now, we were famil­iar only with Google Chat, but slow­ly we all are becom­ing experts at oth­er appli­ca­tions for “live” meet­ings. Zoom, Teams, Webex…

Recent­ly a team­mate had a birth­day, and we had a “vir­tu­al” sur­prise birth­day par­ty for him! We got hold of his wife, who snuck out and got a birth­day cake.

I sched­uled a “check-in” meet­ing with him and invit­ed all the oth­er team mem­bers. Once he logged in, we sang and his wife cel­e­brat­ed with the cake!

In the four weeks since we’ve start­ed work­ing from home, I’ve seen a few kids who want to “par­tic­i­pate” in the meetings.

I under­stand their curios­i­ty and the nov­el­ty of see­ing their par­ents work­ing from home, so I had a meet­ing with just the kids! It was fan­tas­tic — some sang poems, some just want­ed to see who was on the oth­er side of the screen!

I do wor­ry about how kids will react once the par­ents start going back to work. Will they become too attached to their par­ents and not want to go back to school?

May 14th, 2020

The Sam­mamish Y Advi­so­ry Board con­tin­ues to have its month­ly meet­ings. They con­tin­ue to pro­vide babysit­ting and oth­er ser­vices for essen­tial work­ers, but are closed as a gym. COVID-19 has impact­ed this non-prof­it on mul­ti­ple fronts.

How­ev­er, even with the reduced staff, they con­tin­ue to engage with the com­mu­ni­ty by call­ing and check­ing in on seniors and pro­vid­ing meals.

I con­tin­ue to be engaged in con­ver­sa­tions about how to sup­port the com­mu­ni­ty in their men­tal well-being needs.

With the stay at home order in place as a result of COVID-19, the rate of domes­tic vio­lence and sex­u­al abuse is on the rise.

For young peo­ple who live in homes where they feel threat­ened, they are unable to report or talk to some­one they can trust.

This real­ly weighs on my mind. How­ev­er, it was encour­ag­ing to hear at the KCSARC (King Coun­ty Sex­u­al Assault Resource Cen­ter) Hon­orary Board meet­ing that coun­sel­ing ses­sions are tak­ing place via HIPAA‑compliant video calls.

API Chaya, which pro­vides cul­­tur­al­­ly-rel­e­­vant vio­lence pre­ven­tion efforts and mul­ti­lin­gual sur­vivor ser­vices, has its twen­ty-fifth anniver­sary com­ing up!

It’s a dif­fi­cult time to do fundrais­ing. The stock mar­ket is down, peo­ple are feel­ing fraz­zled. I hope to ral­ly my friends and encour­age them to do their best.

I filed to be a precinct com­mit­tee offi­cer in my state leg­isla­tive dis­trict. Help­ing elect pro­gres­sive can­di­dates is some­thing I want to con­tin­ue to do.

Since I’m on the East­side Democ­rats Fundrais­ing Com­mit­tee, we’ve been brain­storm­ing ideas on whether to change the date of the fundrais­ing din­ner (we had a fab­u­lous event at the Sno­qualmie Casi­no last year), or move it to an online event.

For the third month in a row, the Sam­mamish Munic­i­pal Plan­ning Com­mis­sion meet­ing has been can­celled due to COVID-19.

(Almost!) June 14th, 2020

Ear­ly in the morn­ing, I dropped off our son at work.

In late Feb­ru­ary, he start­ed work­ing at a local QFC store and since he is an “essen­tial work­er,” he has con­tin­ued to work.

He has stayed healthy and it’s been inter­est­ing to see the pro­gres­sion of not being required to wear masks to now sport­ing a rain­bow col­ored mask!

All his class­es at Run­ning Start at Belle­vue Col­lege are online, but in talk­ing to him and his peers, they real­ly don’t like online classes.

He miss­es going to the gym, play­ing vol­ley­ball with his friends and hang­ing out with his jazz and band mates at school.

My daugh­ter is fin­ish­ing off her finals for her junior year of college!

She was look­ing for­ward to a study abroad pro­gram in Ghana this sum­mer, and is dis­ap­point­ed that it got cancelled.

Online class­es are not the same as in per­son, and labs are impos­si­ble online!

She is healthy and care­ful with social­iz­ing, but also joined in the march­es sup­port­ing Black Lives Mat­ter last week.

Over the week­end she’s attend­ing a teach-in on how to cre­ate a more equi­table soci­ety! I can’t wait to have her home in the summer!

Our dog now looks presentable.

She has­n’t been groomed since March, but she got a nice hair­cut last week.

My hus­band and I are still tak­ing turns cooking.

Wednes­days are “fend for your­self” days. We get super-cre­a­tive and cre­ate con­coc­tions from what­ev­er is avail­able at home. Fri­days and week­ends, we order from our favorite local restau­rants. We all now wear masks when we go out.

Mom and Dad in India are doing okay. It’s been hard on them with Dad’s dia­betes and him not being able to exer­cise regularly.

At times, get­ting fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles was also a prob­lem. Mom has learned to order online and is expect­ing her fresh fruit and veg­etable bas­ket on Sunday.

I can’t believe it’s been three months since we’ve all been work­ing from home, stay­ing home and not socializing.

Inter­na­tion­al trav­el is not yet at full capacity.

Many flights are not avail­able for non-essen­­tial trav­el. My work col­leagues are get­ting into a rhythm of work­ing from home.

Many appre­ci­ate not hav­ing to sit in traf­fic and dri­ve long dis­tances to work.

Some are get­ting lone­ly and would love a chance to be around peo­ple. We’ve put tremen­dous ener­gy into our fundrais­ing efforts, and peo­ple have been both com­pelled to sup­port caus­es for a bet­ter com­mu­ni­ty and gen­er­ous as a result.

I’ve gained an appre­ci­a­tion for sim­ple things like tak­ing a walk in the neigh­bor­hood or writ­ing a note. I’m grate­ful for heart­felt con­ver­sa­tions with friends with whom I’ve not con­nect­ed in years. I’m thank­ful for my friends who’ve shown resolve and con­vic­tion in stand­ing up for what’s right and for their values.

I’m in grat­i­tude for the com­mu­ni­ty that uplifts me, holds me account­able and inspires me to be a bet­ter per­son every sin­gle day.

Adjacent posts

One reply on “The Pandemic is Personal: Rituja Indapure on how COVID-19 has changed everyday life”

  1. Covid19 affects the whole world bad­ly. But, we can say that it is our per­son­al fault to make it more promi­nent and spread­able. We did­n’t care and now we are fac­ing all these issues.

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