A prominent Kashmiri journalist’s positive to negative COVID-19 case apart, many Kashmiri families suffering the similar medical fate pass through a nerve-racking pain which often leaves them numb and quiet.
By Zaid Bin Shabir
HOURS after Farooq Wani’s COVID-19 report came positive, enforcers arrived in droves—wearing special gears and carrying spray machines—to disinfect the ‘inside and out’ of his ancestral house not far from the Government Boys High School where Farooq once won the Player of the Year award.
As Farooq’s false ‘Positive Covid report’ became the talk of the town, his woeful wife and two teenage sons were coerced to leave him all alone in one of the few corona isolation wards in an acclaimed state-run hospital.
“His [Farooq’s] report fell like a bombshell on us,” said his wife.
Living in a sparsely populated, bush covered area in Srinagar, Farooq felt the loss of hope was the central devastation of this pandemic. His family like many others had survived the ongoing conflict since 1990s but Covid-19 was vicious. It thrived in shattering dreams and hopes.
“My heart immediately trembled like a sheep when I discovered I was Covid positive,” recalled Farooq, while taking a long, manic drag of cigarette.
In a place like Kashmir, where health sector had already seen huge deterioration, coronavirus, many say, came as last nail in coffin. Its effect on the region has not just undermined health sector but also many institutions that held the society together during the trying times.
As 90 percent of the Corona positive patients in Kashmir were asymptomatic, Farooq’s neighbours had already acceded that he was infected but his strong-opinioned wife still believed that the report was another human mistake as the testing lab previously had many faulty reports.
“I was certain that Farooq’s report was a human mistake and if tested again, his report would turn out negative,” she said.
But while Farooq was losing hope in his isolation room, his home-quarantined wife and sons were striving to get him retested.
“My own house felt worse than a torture center,” said Fazil, Farooq’s elder son. “We were a strong family but Corona tore us apart. The conflict in Kashmir never felt as terrible as this pandemic.”
During a war-like situation, the tearful son continued, you know a safe place and a helping hand, but this virus had shut all those doors.
Corona had not only infected people but also instigated divisions inside families.
A normal accident in Farooq’s family would’ve drawn hundreds of their relatives but this horrific pandemic had already started to dismantle the usually tight family.
The Wanis were sure that even if their bread-earner’s report had been erroneous, they still would’ve a skeptical place among their kin.
“I was afraid that if anyone from our relatives or neighbours test positive, all blame would be on my father,” Fazil continued.
Farooq’s wife had already consulted their family doctor, who was sure that the test conducted in one of the few Covid testing labs in Kashmir was an erroneous one, and a new test was required.
After spending 48 hours in agony, Farooq’s samples were retested at another Covid lab in Kashmir’s well-known hospital. His family was anxious so were his few neighbours. Many of his relatives including his brother were still unaware to the adverse time Farooq and his family was going through.
As the new test report arrived, Farooq’s head bowed in gratitude. He was negative for the virus.
“I understand that it was all a human mistake,” Fazil, Farooq’s son said, “but what if my dad had got exposed to the disease in the isolation ward itself? What if we had lost him? What if our neighbours wouldn’t have allowed us back in this area?”
After being declared a 48-hour false positive Corona patient, Farooq was shortly asked to practice home-quarantine for two weeks. It was time for him to revive his normal life by going back to his loved ones.
But it’s been more than 25 days since Farooq and his family has stepped out of their house. The spreading false rumours among relatives, friends and neighbours about the Wanis have compelled the family to isolate themselves.
Even the basic essentials are ordered by Farooq’s wife on a phone call from the nearby grocery store.
“Covid-19 is a disease that eliminates relations,” Fazil said. “It’s the bitter truth of this virus that it brings a lot of hatred, division, fear and agony with it.”
Even though Farooq is safe from the virus now, a trauma has already derailed his normal composure.
“He’s no longer the same person,” Fazil lamented. “My dad was a funny and fun-loving person, but those tormenting 48-hours have made him too quiet now.”
- Names have been changed to protect the identity of the family.
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