This ended up being one of my stranger trips to India. I had gone with a purpose, a purpose that consumed a lot of my mental energy during the trip, a purpose that was largely unfulfilled. I spent almost all of my time at home, and around home, mainly because of the coronavirus, the only exception being the visit to the IIT campus. While in town, I met up with only one of my friends. I also ended up doing quite a bit of physical work around the house. Not the usual circumstances I would say.
And then I fell sick towards the end of the trip. I was concerned about the possibility of not passing the coronavirus test, a requirement to be able to fly home. While I recovered from my fever early enough to be able to take the test, I still had to deal with shenanigans at the testing lab in terms of the availability of test results. Thankfully, the test results were negative.
I could not sleep well the night prior to my flight. It gave me the opportunity to take a couple of street pictures in front of the house in the night.
This is not the way the place looks during the day. The junction in front of the temple is usually filled with people and vehicular traffic.
I flew out of Chennai the next night. I went through the airport processes just like I had done many many times before. I tried to be patient with the process. It was a comical scene when the security officer informed me that I had something metallic in my pants pocket. I searched around and found a One Rupee coin that had somehow escaped my attention at home. Fortunately, the officer did not make a further fuss about it.
The flight out of Chennai appeared to be full. They gave us face shields to use for the duration of the flight (in addition to usual masks), and some of the passengers who were sitting in the middle of a set of three occupied seats got what looked like hazard suits. It was really pointless, considering the discipline on the plane. The guy next to me sprawled out into the seats on his two sides, proceeded to remove his mask and face-shield for extended periods of time, and coughed a phlegmy cough occasionally. I leaned away. I was happy when this flight ended.
My mood changed when I stepped on to the tarmac at Hamid International Airport in Doha. The sun was rising over over the Persian Gulf. I had gotten into the back of the bus taking us to the main terminal, and I was facing the back of the bus – the right direction to see the sunrise! My got the camera out. The other passengers must have considered my actions a little loony. It was half-way to the main terminal on the bus when I felt an very clear lifting of a weight off my mind. I had stopped thinking about the unfinished business at home in Chennai, if only for a little while.
Hamid International Airport turned out to be a super-efficient setting for a transfer. Going through security was an actual complete process, with the support from the staff causing the least anxiety. The airport itself was laid out nicely, with a lot of open space. I could relax and catch up on what was happening in the world.
The flight from Doha to Washington, DC., was very comfortable. The flight was not full, and the seats seemed to be more comfortable than on my first flight. The flight attendants were top-notch. The crew seemed to be dominated by Filipinos. I was still dealing with some unfinished business from having fallen sick in Chennai. I was peeing very frequently. An aisle seat facilitated movement in this regard. But a flight of 14 to 15 hours is still a challenge any way you look at it. They did take care of us well, fed us nicely, and kept us hydrated.
One would have thought that having made my way back home, I would finally be able to relax and try to get back into the scheme of things. That was not meant to be. The first night I walked around the house in a daze looking for the bathroom, still thinking that I was in the place I had just returned from. My mind concocted imaginary passageways. I was still somewhere else.
I then fell sick once again, this time quite seriously. Perhaps I had never healed completely from the previous attack. Or perhaps my physical and mental state left me vulnerable to catching something else. I had a high temperature and I lost all appetite. This particular attack required a trip to the Urgent Care Center, and all kinds of lab tests being ordered to rule out different tropical diseases. The nights of jet-lag and fever in the meantime have been taking me back to India in my dreams. I am still wiped out. Thankfully things are improving, although slowly. We still are not sure what I caught, but at least you now know why I have not blogged for a while.