So here we were, confined to our home in Bangalore, for the last 4+ months due to this COVID-19 situation. Bangalore was supposedly safer than many other big cities in India, however, we were still extremely cautious to not venture out unnecessary. With no school, no recreational activity places, no going out of the home, all th was taking its toll on our daughter Vritima as well, she was used to go out regularly and play in the park etc. which stopped altogether. She had slowly started to get frustrated, keeping her busy was a daunting task for us, we still managed to keep her busy with couple of hours of activities on terrace, and some activities at home like coloring/painting, puzzles, bit of home schooling, or helping with household chores etc.
Vritima, being her extra hyperactive self, was always on her toes and we were slowly running out of ideas to keep her occupied for longer duration. And exactly when we had started taking her out for a walk or cycling, the COVID cases in Bangalore started shooting up through the roof and we were back locked up at homes. Then came another phase of week-long complete lockdown with the situation in Bangalore and Karnataka going bad-to-worse. We had started getting restless by now, staying away from family/parents, we were always tensed thinking what would we do if something happens to any of us in family.
With cases rising exponentially, we were trying to figure out the possibilities to travel to Gandhinagar, Gujarat. I had even started to contemplate traveling by car (1,500+ KM), so high was the fear of COVID-19 infection that we were hesitant to consider air or train travel. Both, travel by flight and by car, had their own pros and cons. One one hand it was 30+ hour of drive where I was sure not to stop except fuel break with zero touch safe drive and a halt in Pune at my brother’s place, but I had to cross 3 state’s borders and the hassles of getting travel pass, necessary state govt. approvals and traveling with Vritima for 12-15 hours at a stretch was little too much to manage alone.
On the other hand, traveling by flight reduced the travel time to mere 4-5 hours but not without coming in close proximity and contact with hundreds of people. Plus, Vritima is someone who prefers never to sit quiet at one place without jumping around, touching things and her usual melodrama. We were almost convinced she will not follow any of our instructions and precautions at airport.
After contemplating for a very long time (what seemed like an eternity), we finally decided to take a risk with air travel and booked our flight tickets. We started our efforts to instruct Vritima –
‘You need to wear mask at the airport.’ ‘You must not touch anywhere and follow mom all the time.’ ‘You will have to wear face shield and not take anything off until we reach Grandpa’s home.’ ‘Do not touch anything in the aircraft.’ the instructions continued but we were still unsure how effective our words would be.
With all the fear and hesitation in mind, we started preparations for our travel. Ideally, during regular travel, we never worry about the luggage, commuting, transit, check-in, or other travel measures; but this is 2020 – the year of Coronavirus, social distancing and extremely strict guidelines and safety precautions. Hence, we had to adhere to all the safety guidelines and travel procedures. I am listing below the essentials, DO’s and DONT’s that we had to follow (hoping it will help other parents/travelers as the COVID situation and travel guidelines are unlikely to change much this year):
- Only 1 check-in luggage per person was allowed with max. weight limit of 20 KG.
- No cabin luggage is allowed except a laptop bag, ladies purse and an infant’s essentials bag.
- You are not allowed to keep the cabin luggage in overhead bins, the luggage must be kept under the seat.
- Web check-in is mandatory (unless you are traveling with an infant – you need to get your boarding pass from the check-in counter then).
- Aarogya Setu Application MUST be installed on your phones.
- Check the quarantine guidelines of your destination city/state and follow the same.
- You can print the boarding pass and baggage tags in advance, or at the kiosks in the airport. You need to tag your check-in bags yourself before handing it over at check-in counter.
- At every point (airport entry/exit, check-in counter, security checks & boarding gate), you must show your ID along with boarding pass.
- Wear your mask all the time, maintain social distancing and follow the instructions, markings diligently.
- Keep a sanitizer handy and use it whenever you touch anything or come in contact with anyone.
- Airline staff provides masks, face shield and sanitizer sachets at the boarding gate, passengers in middle row seats are provided with a PPE kit in addition to face mask and shield. You must wear the mask, shield and PPE (as applicable) before boarding the aircraft and must wear it throughout the flight duration.
- At the destination, you need to go through a thermal scan and dispose off the masks, shields and PPE kit to avoid any infection spread.
So, coming back to our travel, we had an early morning 5:45 AM flight; we were quiet sure Vritima would wake up by then, and she sure did even before we reached airport. Our fear grew manyfold by just thinking about what if Vritima doesn’t follow any of our advice & instructions we’ve been giving over the last week or so. Even though Bangalore airport authorities have ensured all safety measures, social distancing and almost zero-touch passage, the fear of unknown lingered on; making us more and more nervous as we passed through the main entry.
The facilities and arrangements at Bangalore airport were extremely good with seamless, hassle-free, and contact-less experience. The airport definitely looked different, felt like straight out of a Sci-Fi movie set, with tightened security, thermal scanners, glass shields, people with face masks, gloves and PPE kits all around, no chaos, no crowded lines, people standing few feet apart, there was an eerie calm at the airport. That, for the first time ever in 3.5 years, had an instant effect on Vritima. She seemed startled, confused and bit scared; asked for her mask, wore it and kept herself sandwiched between me and Megha. Her usual jumping feet were glued and her excitement turned in to nervousness.
Right from the entry to the boarding gate, she followed every single instruction without any fuss. At the boarding gate, we were handed over the masks, face shields and PPE kit (I was the unfortunate one to wear that and dripped bucketful of sweat the next 2.5 hours). Vritima, by then, must have already started to hate the Coronavirus for sure, put on her Jacket, mittens gloves, mask and face shield like the obedient student and off we boarded the flight.
Once in aircraft, she got a little comfortable and started her usual questions and chirping, but she was careful enough not to touch the fliers, magazine, sidearm rest or the tray table, even though fogged up, she did not take off the face shield and to our utter surprise, did not ask for anything to eat or drink the entire flight duration – now that’s a first for us parents and something we have longed all these years.
All the way till touchdown at Ahmadabad airport, Vritima was so well behaved and obedient like an angel. Now that was completely unlike our notorious Vritima Jhala we know for 3.5 years and I, once for a split second, felt like being thankful to this COVID pandemic, but didn’t. Maybe, just like everyone else, even I have started to hate this Coronavirus and the year 2020 more than ever.
And for the travel experience, this was one of the most unforgettable, most strangest and most fearful we have ever traveled in our lives. Our 2 weeks of home quarantine is over now, which I utilized to write this blog. And we are, at last, happy to be safe, healthy, and more importantly, enjoying quality time with whole family together.
Stay HOME…!!! Stay SAFE…!!!