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Old Hindi serials, Ludo, faith in God saw this Indian family in Beijing through 100 days of lockdown

Trees had blossomed into a spring green, everyone on the street was wearing masks and, inside shops, customers were cautiously maintaining distance between themselves.

indians-abroad Updated: May 09, 2020 16:14 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
The Arora family during an earlier holiday in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam on a holiday.
The Arora family during an earlier holiday in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam on a holiday. (HT Photo)

Amarpreet Kaur Arora and her two daughters stepped out of their apartment in eastern Beijing on Friday after 105 days of self-imposed quarantine because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Beijing looked different.

Trees had blossomed into a spring green, everyone on the street was wearing masks and, inside shops, customers were cautiously maintaining distance between themselves.

Amarpreet had beaten her husband Satyendra Singh Arora in the number of self-imposed locked down days in their 120-square feet apartment: Arora had to step out of home after 88 days in late April when the school where he teaches opened for senior students.

Coronavirus outbreak: Full coverage

The husband-wife duo had last, and hurriedly, gone out to shop for essentials on January 23 – the day when the central Chinese city and the first Covid-19 epicentre, Wuhan, was locked down, triggering a wave of panic across China about the outbreak

“We were determined: We did not want to go out,” Arora, who teaches information and communication technology at a reputed international school, said.

Just days before, Chinese officials had confirmed that the novel coronavirus could be transmitted between humans.

“Honestly, we were very afraid,” Arora, 44, said.

Beijing wasn’t put under a lockdown but was under severe restrictions to contain the outbreak.

The family decided to stay back in Beijing and not head to India because as Arora himself explained: “What was the use of becoming carriers?”

So, the family of four stepped back inside their two bedroom-one-study apartment on the seventh floor and, quite literally, locked themselves up – except to dispose garbage down the corridor once a day.

Survival and sanity depended on calibrated online shopping for essentials, uninterrupted internet service and help from the Chinese staff of the apartment complex willing to do their bit for this Indian family.

Despite the problem of language, the Chinese staff brought the deliveries right to their doorstep.

From February 3, it was online teaching for him, and online learning for their two daughters, 15 and 12; all three maintained the normal school hours.

Physical exercise meant 15000 steps – 18000 steps daily: The sitting area, the bedrooms and the kitchen were their walking tracks.

The days often merged into a blur, beginning at 5 am and ending at 10 pm daily.

Entertainment for the family was a mix of old Hindi serials like “Taraak Mehta Ka Oolta Chasma”, movies on the weekend and the good old game of Ludo.

Arora, who is from Dehradun, said he had to strictly regulate the daughters’ screen time because of the number of hours spent on remote learning.

“They also practised ‘shabad kirtan” (singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib) every evening on the harmonium. We connected with their teacher on WeChat video,” Arora said.

It wasn’t easy and cabin fever did strike.

“We fought occasionally”, Arora laughed.

It was also faith that saw them through.

“I do believe in God,” Arora said.

Now that a sense of normalcy has returned to Beijing, the Aroras are possibly waiting to clear another minor record – invite someone home for the first time since January 23.

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