On 7th of May 2020, I underwent testing for COVID-19 at a BMC testing camp near my residence. I got myself tested as I had spent a considerable amount of time on field reporting on Coronavirus developments in nearby slum establishments along with assisting NGOs in the distribution of essentials to daily wage workers, and the families of those struggling to make ends meet.

Panic set at the moment I had gotten myself tested. Suddenly, the grim reality of contacting the virus hit me. Until then, being personally affected by the virus felt like an abstract concept. I had taken all the necessary precautions during my journalism assignments. I kept soothing and reassuring myself with the thought, “I am young and that I will not contract the virus”. However, despite my best efforts at trying to put up a brave face, I was scared. The anxiety of not knowing my fate was killing me.

Was going out on assignments worth it? Is my work even appreciated? We reporters are the subject to critique and snide remarks, did I really have any obligations towards the truth? These were uncomfortable questions which crawled their way into my headspace. I spent the next day battling thoughts of my uncertain days to come and as destiny would have it…my tests came back positive.

I tested positive for COVID-19

After I received ‘the call’ from the BMC official confirming my ordeal, I was oddly put to ease. At least now I finally knew what was going on. My family, on the other hand, broke down in tears and were inconsolable. Looking at their despair, I tried my best to lift their spirits, without breaking down myself. I remember the last meal I had at home before leaving; its memory helped me brave through everything that was set to come my way.

The Karve Nagar (Kanjurmarg East) quarantine facility experience

I was taken to the Karve Nagar (Kanjurmarg East) quarantine facility in an ambulance. I wasn’t very hopeful at the start but then things took a positive turn with the passage of time. Everyone at the facility—doctors, nurses, helpers, patients—were scared. There is this sense of uncertainty that loomed and it was killing us all from within. The first couple of days were very rough, but then we found the key to beating the virus—relationships. In the centre, I befriended other COVID patients and we walked shoulder to shoulder out of the battlefield.

A handful of the staff went the extra mile towards making the lives of the patients a little more bearable. This kept our morale high and gave us a sliver of joy in our lives’ worst moments. The doctor who was assigned to our facility in the latter half of my stay there, used to bring things to eat for patients as the food at the facility was almost always inadequate, undercooked, and never arrived on time. On some days, we were also graced by insects in our food.

On some days, we were also graced by insects in our food.

Overworked departments coupled with bureaucratic bottlenecks created delays in testing as well as the delivery of results. Countless patients had to stay in the facility long after their recovery because of the sluggish operations. I for one had to fight my way to get my reports back from the testing centre.

I beat COVID-19

And after 13 days of staying at the quarantine facility…I beat it. I beat the virus! I was allowed to go back home to my loving family. And all I can say is I’m a ‘new Gaurav Sharma’ in this ‘new normal’. And I know that we are all going to beat this virus and then years from now it’ll just be folklore. Because the real vaccine is what we all have within us—humanity.

Karve Nagar (Kanjurmarg East) quarantine facility