The route is clear

Not……

It’s an update.

To reiterate. I’m required to leave India within 180 days of arriving every visit. Due to the virus that has been extended but I’m likely to have to leave in August. I hope they’ll let me back in

There are three obvious options: Sri Lanka, Canada and UK.

I’m openly discussing this with friends and family who might be affected or kind enough to let me stay, so that we’re as informed as we can be. I wouldn’t want to be someone who came to stay at the house or next door and not be open and honest about the risks and consequences. God forbid.

The first challenge (assuming there are flights) is getting health insurance. It’s available but there is the risk that if there are COVID 19 restrictions it might invalidate the insurance. I don’t need it for the U.K.

Sri Lanka might initially seem the best option. Shortest distance, clear polices and systems, no need for quarantine/self-isolation, open to tourists in August. BUT it might mean a domestic flight in India which I’d prefer not to do. I’ll be required to travel with a negative test result taken within 72 hours of the flight, which might not be obtainable. I’d have to stay in a government sanctioned hotel. Yuk?. I could pay any health costs directly but I wouldn’t get to see any family or friends.

Canada is a stronger contender. Means double the distance to travel than the UK, I’d have to remember how to cook, and I wouldn’t want Oll my youngest son to be tried for murder. Insurance maybe a problem and I couldn’t afford to pay health costs directly.

U.K. well clearly….
It’s a well managed place, no problems with the virus, competent leadership, no idiot behaviour and the country isn’t disintegrating. A safe haven.

I jest, of course, it provides the opportunity to catch up and be with friends and family which I feel that I need due to fragility, I would have to be 14 days in isolation so that and the risk puts a lot onto whoever is kind enough to take me in. I don’t need travel insurance and hope the Health service can cope. It does involve risky travel to and within the country.

I think you can see which way I’m leaning.

I’ve had a beard trim but no hair cut for quite a few months

what to do next

I’m sitting on our balcony with Lucie by my side. It’s time for a virtual mental ramble.

As a condition of my visa I have to leave India within 180 days of arriving for each visit. The Indian Government has extended that until international flights resume because of the virus situation. I expect the flights will resume next month and I will have to leave.

I’m finding decision making in my current fragile state, mainly due to you-know-who slipping through my fingers, a bit difficult, so talking it through with friends is a real help. 

This is part of that process and here are my options:

Sri Lanka:  It’s possible to have a short holiday there with no requirement for extended isolation providing you have a negative test result taken within three days of travel. Challenge is getting there in a straightforward way and getting the test and results in time. I’m not keen on catching domestic Indian flights. I could pay for health service. It might seem to be the most straightforward option but it’s not getting me to see family and friends. I haven’t seen my granddaughter for a year.

UK:  flights might be re-introduced in August. I could stay with friends but that’s not as easy as it sounds as self-isolating isn’t straightforward. Some friends have medical conditions that might make them vulnerable, others might not wish to see me or have the space for me to self-isolate. My son Ben, Alice and Poppy have invited  me to stay but that may prove a big burden as I’d be on the couch and its not exactly self-isolating. I’m keen to see them. I’d have access to what’s left of the health service in the UK.

Canada:  My son Oll, lives in Vancouver and as a relative of a resident I’m allowed to visit. It would be great to catch up . As with the UK I’d be required to self-isolate for 14 days. I could get another tattoo 🙂 and there are other friends to visit. He has a room but it’ll not be straightforward as I’d share the apartment and who’d cook? I’d have to get health insurance.  

I’d love to do both the UK and Canada but that’s not feasible this year too much travel creates an increased risk and frankly to do what? Sit in a room staring at four walls, twice and then again back watching walls in India…. Admittedly its time to read and write but there is the real risk of going stir crazy. As I’ve said, I’m already fragile. 

So I have to have to work out the best option.

Feel free to comment and suggest….

Next questions (more later) I have to resolve: 

What about Lucie while I’m not here?

Will India let me back in? 

toodle pip

from 

Stephen

the quarantined foreigner in Siddartha 

ID photo I’ve seen too much as I upload it repeatedly asking the immigration Police for permission to stay

Unkindness

This situation is something of an analogy.

Manjula was the kindest person I’ve probably ever met yet she’d be let down badly by people throughout her life.

I also try to be kind and considerate and I’m beginning to realise it doesn’t work well when others are insensitive, thoughtless, can’t appreciate the ‘other’ and are ultimately unkind. I know, I know I’m a naive 63 year old.

I’m now isolated, in quarantine at home, the street is blocked by fencing on either side of my house, the washing machine is disconnected, I’m unable to shop. Lucie is confused and I can’t walk her. I’m disrupted.

Sowbhagya who works for me is also in a difficult situation quarantined with a sticker on her door confined to a postage stamp house separated from her son.

On the positive side I am in a comfortable home, received home deliveries, stocked up the freezer, Lucie is a street girl and can figure things out. I am extremely fortunate, there are people in terrible situations and have been for months. I should complain less and be sensitive to their situation.

This situation is however completely unnecessary and could have been avoided with a little thought and care.

Two weeks ago the owner asked if they could use the downstairs house for a couple of months. I readily agreed as we have no guests in the current situation. I use it but can manage. There’s one of me and counting the ground and first floor house it’s four bedrooms, library, two lounges you know the sort of thing. Help others, share it out.

The five members of family: grandparents, parents and daughter were living in an apartment in Bangalore and were concerned about the increase in the spread of the virus. At least one of them has underlying health conditions, and the elderly are from a vulnerable group. Once we discussed a few conditions primarily about looking after my stuff and complications about shifting the washing machine plus getting confirmation this was a temporary arrangement (many of my friends were suspicious it was a con to get back the houses) but I checked that one out specifically.

It was a hard thing to do emotionally. Manjula died a year ago. This is our home. She moved and properly set up the Mysore Bed and Breakfast when we took over the downstairs house around eight years ago. But I could so I should help. They could exclusively have the downstairs house with me and Lucie upstairs, separate entrances etc.

They moved in ten days ago.

The adult son of the owner who I deal with now informed me after six days, he’d been tested positive for coronavirus and would go into isolation in hospital.

The rest of the family and I were tested the next day. It seems that the only one other who tested positive was his daughter and she’s now with him in hospital.

Of course it’s just one of those things we have to deal with the best we can, everyone around the world has the same challenges. However, we’ve spent almost three months in lockdown being careful not to get the virus. That care paid off as we’ve had no cases in our layout Siddarthanager, until now, that is.

Now we have what seems to be a completely avoidable situation. Were they suspicious that they might be carrying the virus? Probably, otherwise, why go for a test the day after arriving?

If there was a suspicion a test should have been taken before shifting from Bangalore or gone to their isolated rural farmhouse rather than completely disrupting our lives.

It’s a practical problem but was quite an emotional pull letting them use the house. Manjula’s room was downstairs and for her last few months we created a lovely set up for her. This was her place I was letting go. I’d asked for her picture, the one on which we’d placed flowers every day for a month and then every month to be left on the wall. I discovered they’d taken it down and stuffed it in my storeroom down there. It’s now upstairs with five other pictures of her so maybe a bit over-the-top.

It’s now reflected, when I said at the beginning, kindness met by at the very least insensitivity, to me and my situation and to Manjula even after she’s gone. People don’t care for others enough.

The world is in a sorry state, we just don’t care. The virus, climate change and our responses are actually symptoms of that malaise.

Our world becomes smaller

Lucie couldn’t believe it. She’d adjusted to our road being closed because a neighbour was positive. Walking up and down the street, escaping via the park, squeezing through the railing at the road end. She could manage.

Now they’ve shifted the fence to enclose just our house and the neighbours. So Lucie’s patch is small and access to the park tied up.

I completely support them rearranging things so the whole street isn’t inconvenienced. But we’ve been tested and presumably found to be negative. We can only assume that as we haven’t heard from them.

The owners son Manu and his daughter who’ve tested positive are now in hospital.

We’ve spent three months being really careful. I’ve only been out to walk Lucie and cycle in the morning. So how’s this happened?

The owners family called me two weeks ago. The grand parents are elderly at least one with underlying conditions, Bangalore was getting more incidence of the virus, the dad was working from home and daughter not returning to school before September.

If it was available could they come and use the downstairs house? After some discussion mainly about looking after my stuff, (furniture, art, Manjula’s significant picture) I agreed. Happy to help out where I could.

Of course we didn’t expect to have the virus brought into the building (downstairs house). We just have to deal with it. Poor SB is quarantined in a small house and we have this hassle here. We’ll manage and try minimise the risk.

There is however two very annoying things.

He must have thought he may have had the virus before he came here otherwise why get a test the very next day. Thoughtless? Uncaring?

We’ve avoided the virus in the whole layout for months. Now it’s here some people will think it’s down the foreigner …… that’s annoying.

Manjula and I always tried to be kind, helpful and positive. I’ll leave the last word to Lucie.

Sally

Sally is one of those guests that you’ve no idea when they first arrived and keep popping up so much you wonder if they ever leave. She’s clearly become besotted by India.

Sally is a creative who works in broadcast media in the UK on one of the most iconic soaps as Costume Designer. But can turn her hand to many things: design, textiles, writing, costume making, continuity, tours, and her beautiful home and garden, all while supporting her mum.

I’ve lost count how many times she’s been to visit and has now set up her own business providing carefully curated textile travels in south India. She’s also on Facebook and as Textile Travels

On Manjula’s first holiday to the U.K. we had an amazing adventure with Sally and her partner Mike in a narrowboat adding travel along the canal to Manjula’s list of great experiences in our all too short time together.

We have a lot in common, not least that we both recently lost our loved ones. Recently she’s taken the lead in helping us design a patchwork quilt and appliqué banner from Manjula’s clothes that will soon appear at Mysore Bed and Breakfast.

I look forward to her return and the way she’s going think she’ll spend more and more of her year in India.

Sally is a diamond gal (what does that mean Stephen? Your writing is supposed to be improving – the gentler Ed) officially now ‘family’ and has joined those who’ve returned here to provide incredible support over the most difficult time in my life.

Thank you Sally

Test form

Here’s my coronavirus test form. The name’s wrong but that’s to be expected, it’s listed that I have symptoms when I don’t (a contact, my neighbour, tested positive so that’s why I’m here) and I had throat and nasal swabs, again not properly indicated on the form.

We’ve not been informed when the results will come through.

I’ve now discovered that my neighbours samples were originally lost so it was almost a week before he got his positive results and taken to hospital.

Our testers with biohazard suits.

If only I’d learn

People, mainly men are gathering on the street corner.

One is clearly very senior. I can tell from the way he’s bossing everyone around and then he turns to me. Instructions spew forth.

For a moment I forget I’m in India. I ask who he is. He refuses to tell me. Name? ID? He orders me into my house.

I slowly begin to recall I’m in a land where civil servant doesn’t mean civil and doesn’t involve service. It symbolises I’m above you, do as I tell you and don’t question.

The reason for all this?

Our neighbour has tested positive for the virus so our street is now closed off, clamped down and we’ve been tested.

I understand the situation and will comply with the restrictions because it’s for our common good but why do we have to tolerate this sort of attitude?

I need to know my place. Coming from northern working class England where we don’t do deference isn’t easy and is no preparation for this.

I could say it’s this sort of attitude —, (I’ve saved you the tedious details), the hierarchy, do as your told, no questions asked — that helps lead to authoritarianism. But then I look in western countries. I include the US and UK where we’re brought up to challenge and officials can be quite a lot nicer but still we have to tolerate tin-pot dictators.

Where are you Manjula? I need you

Why does the foreigner

Save that old stuff

The neighbours think I’m bonkers and a joke.

Art work from every place in India is throughout the house. They can sort of understand that, but it’s not practical or functional.

Why save the wooden wheels, the cart sides, painted chairs?

I remember as a child, the horse drawn wagons, workshops repairing wheels and tailors in every town. They’ve all gone now.

We still have them here but they’ll go. In the eight years of mycycle tours the number of wooden ox carts being made at the workshop we visit has decreased by over eighty percent.

Hopefully some will recognise what is happening and work to preserve the heritage…, fab city, life affirming trees, characterful market, .. beautiful colourful women, skilled artisans there so much wonderfulness. , Otherwise in future years the neighbours will remember the crazy foreigner and realise he was right and understand what they’ve lost.

New things

My good friend Faizan introduced me to the Mysore Storytelling Network. A lovely group of people working to promote storytelling. I’ve joined a couple of their meetings to help where I can in creating the foundation. Here’s our last agenda.

I’ll try develop a reading and storytelling project as an example of MAnjula giving.

Here’s why the New Yorker think this is important:

“Storytelling is the oldest form of entertainment there is. From campfires and pictograms—the Lascaux cave paintings may be as much as twenty thousand years old— to tribal songs and epic ballads passed down from generation to generation, it is one of the most fundamental ways humans have of making sense of the world. No matter how much storytelling formats change, storytelling itself never gets old.

Stories bring us together. We can talk about them and bond over them. They are shared knowledge, shared legend, and shared history; often, they shape our shared future. Stories are so natural that we don’t notice how much they permeate our lives. And stories are on our side: they are meant to delight us, not deceive us—an ever-present form of entertainment.”

From New Yorker 6th July