‘Due to RWA’s Apathy, I Couldn’t Be With My Pregnant Daughter’
We reached the society and were hauling our luggage into the lift when a man appeared and began shouting rudely.
The health risk associated with COVID-19 is not the only threat we face. The apathy and high-handedness exhibited by some in positions of power, has been tougher to come to terms with. Recently, my own experience has only intensified my belief.
My husband and I were to return and settle down in India in June, after having lived in the UAE for the past 30 years. My daughter was expecting her first child, so we planned to come down to Manipal, where she was working as a surgeon.
In March, when flights to India were cancelled, we were forced to re-evaluate our plans, while my daughter headed to Bengaluru to join her husband and his family.
Over April and May, our attempts to get a seat on a repatriation flight or even a chartered one proved unsuccessful. Our flat lease was valid till June but leaving the UAE was proving impossible.
‘Regret Missing My Daughter’s Delivery’
When the third-phase of flights was announced, and there were no options for Karnataka, we took an impulsive decision and booked tickets to the nearest city — Kannur. We were, however, already late.
Four days before our scheduled departure, our daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I am still ridden with guilt for not being able to be with my daughter when she needed me the most.
Despite the once-in-a-lifetime circumstances we find ourselves in, it will be hard to get over this feeling of having failed her.
Before our departure, my daughter had attempted to inform her society of our plans to serve our home quarantine in her flat and pack up her stuff, since she would be vacating.
Many calls and emails were sent, but she didn’t get a clear response from the Resident Welfare Association (RWA) board members.
Confusion Created Over Daughter’s Flat
On 12 July, as we were headed to the Dubai airport, we were dealt another blow when we learnt that her apartment had been sealed by local authorities.
With an unresponsive RWA, she had no option but to book a hotel. We landed in Kannur at 8 pm and after completing our formalities, we started for Udupi, reaching the hotel at 3 am.
The next morning, with a four-day old baby to take care of, my daughter began frantically trying to figure out her flat situation. After dozens of calls, it became clear that her flat was, in fact, not sealed but the adjacent one was, since a resident had tested positive.
When the authorities had come, they had asked the RWA members who lived next door, to which the members had coolly replied – “no one,” without bothering to check my daughter’s plans.
So, the authorities had sealed the corridor leading to both flats. She also finally managed to get in touch with an RWA member, who told her that we could only enter the society after getting a stamp from a particular clinic in Udupi.
After a few hours of sleep, we headed for the clinic. The staff there were as clueless as us and directed us to a helpline number, from where we were directed to the District Tehsildar’s office, which also proved futile.
Finally, after hours of calling the helpline and shunting between Manipal and Udupi, we were asked to quarantine in a government institution.
Even though my daughter’s flat was available and the government’s rules mandated home quarantine for international passengers over 60 years, we had no option but to move to a small, unkempt motel converted into a temporary government facility.
On our first day back in India, we had found ourselves caught between an inefficient state and an RWA fiefdom.
The next morning, on 14 July, we were told that the health authorities would come and take our samples for the COVID-19 test. They came around 2 pm, and once they were done, we asked about the stamp. They replied that someone else would come with the stamp.
After waiting for a few more hours, someone came and stamped our hands. It was illegible apart from the word ‘HOME’ in large letters.
How the Building Society, RWA Behaved
We were relieved and thinking our ordeal was over, headed for my daughter’s society. Her baby was six days old and I was feeling bad that instead of us doing something for her and our first grandchild, she was the one exerting herself so that we could stay at her flat, just because it would be safer.
We reached the society and were hauling our luggage into the lift when a man appeared and began shouting rudely. He screamed at us and told us to come out. We also lost our cool and a quarrel erupted.
Luckily, a few more residents came by and suggested we sit and talk things over. Throughout our conversation, the RWA members kept insisting that they had passed a resolution on such-and-such date stating that no outsider would be allowed into the building after 7 July.
We told them that my daughter had had conversations with board members and had even informed them via email a week ago, to which the screamer-in-chief replied, “Yes, we received it but didn’t reply,” as if that somehow absolved him of all responsibility.
They then tried the patronising approach, by lying to us that our flat was sealed. When we told them that we were aware that it was neighbouring flat which was sealed, they replied “Wahan par corona hai” (there is coronavirus there), in the same tone one would tell small children “Wahan par bhoot hai” (there’s a ghost there).
Since most of them were doctors, I inquired whether the virus was known to pass through walls, and how useful were their draconian rules when residents were contracting the virus anyway.
Then, they tried emotional manipulation, by suggesting we were putting their children at risk. We said that sitting in the lobby and fighting with us wasn’t exactly helping either. Had they had allowed us to go to our flat and stay inside for 14 days, the risks would have been far lesser.
When we showed our documentation and stamps, one of the members outrightly said that he didn't believe them. He even suggested my daughter had bullied the authorities into letting us leave the government institution.
We were shocked and couldn’t believe that educated people would resort to doubting the existence of an entire state machinery, just to defend a set of random rules they had come up with.
One of them made a few calls and said that he had ‘found out' that senior citizens were indeed required to quarantine at home, but they would not allow us until we furnished the negative test reports. We tried to reason that the more we stayed out, the greater the chances of us getting infected.
We even tried to point out that even though our reports could be negative, we might have contracted the virus because of the place we were staying at. None of this made any sense to them. We had no option but to head back and await our reports.
‘Tested Negative for COVID-19’
Between taking care of her newborn, figuring out government rules, fighting with the RWA members and worrying about our wellbeing, my daughter was on the verge of an emotional breakdown.
After three days of waiting, our reports came on 16 July. Thankfully, by the grace of Allah, they were negative. We shared it with the RWA board members and after ensuring we had their blessings, headed for the society.
After some more waiting in the lobby and signing of documents, we finally entered the flat at 1 pm, four days after landing in India.
There are millions who are dealing with way more serious implications of the pandemic.
We are extremely fortunate to be safe, and are proud grandparents to a healthy and beautiful baby girl. However, I do feel that all efforts to fight this virus will be of no avail, if we do not act with empathy and humanity towards other human beings. These are the biggest tools we have at our disposal, and if ever there was a time the world needed them in full force, it is now.
(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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