A Saturday evening in the New Year. As usual, between two movies for a late evening-watch, we picked up Clint Eastwood-directed “Robert Jewell”, the story of a security guard who spotted a bomb underneath a bench at the Atlanta Olympics. Decided to postpone the other movie, “The Whole Truth,” for a later date. The reason? Robert Jewell was a real-life story.

We retired to bed late night on dual satisfying notes: one, that we watched a good movie and, two, that we didn’t have to get up early for the usual rigmarole – pranayama, yoga, small workouts, etc., because, after all, it is “Sunday”. But strangely, it is on Sundays that we get up early – since our ‘office’ days. Anyway.

I got up later than usual, but earlier for a Sunday, and found Aunty still on her last lap of sleep. Didn’t disturb her, but went about doing my daily chores, occasionally making deliberate noise just in case it wakes her up to give me company. No luck. Then I prepared coffee and took it to her. She was running high temperature. I waited for it to be 8.30 to ring up our family doctor for advice.

Luckily there was facility for RTPCR home-collection. Got the result by evening. Yes, Aunty had tested positive, and I complied with the medication doctor had suggested.

On Aunty’s advice I slept that night in the second bedroom. The next morning she felt a little better on fever, and came to check mine. It was high. Immediately she checked my oxygen level with Oxymeter. It was 87, as opposed to the desired 94. She rang up the doctor who advised that she better admit me to the hospital because of the low oxygen level and my age.

Aunty’s brother, staying not far away, and her youngest sister and daughter staying in our building complex, swung into action. One took charge of organizing admission at a leading hospital, the other for Ambulance with oxygen administration facility, and the third with the nitty-gritty.

In the next thirty minutes the regular morning ‘walk man’ in me is now on a stretcher being loaded onto the ambulance in full view of the fellow morning walkers whose customary greetings now turned into prayers for an early recovery and return home.

Reach hospital, and the hospital authorities refuse to admit either. Reason? “He looks hale and hearty, walking out of the stretcher all by himself, unaided,” and, “she, taking care of him much better than a trained nurse would.” During this commotion, Aunty’s brother arrived at the scene and took charge of the situation. He had already briefed the hospital authorities for the admission. Aunty’s sister and her daughter who barely chased the Ambulance all through in their car, got busy getting my RTPCR done by the hospital.

As soon as I too tested positive, the hospital admitted us both. Once we mounted the hospital bed in a twin-sharing private ward, all parameters began to show normal. The oxygen level which was the primary mover to the hospital, was now at 97, more than the normal range. And, Aunty, she had become so fit that they did not even give her paracetamol-650 mg, the standard prescription for three days, while my case history sheet got filled with details of IV fluids, antibiotics, paracetamol, CT scan, X-ray, echo…

Aunty  began attending on me whenever the nurses delayed showing up. Most of the nursing staff were from Kerala, and an easy rapport was established. Soon beyond medication and attention, the chat began acquiring different dimensions – the latest Malayalam movies, those of Mohan Lal, Mammooty, Prithviraj, Fahad Fazil, and the more recent crop.

Now it is three days in the hospital, and time to make way for other patients. We got discharged after they ticked all items one by one. The nursing staff as also the just recruited boy and girl in the food section lined up to bid us farewell, though some of there were off duty. So nice of them, we said to ourselves, as we nearly felt that we should come back again at least to enjoy this hospitality, but better sense prevailed. Nay, not for this monster Covid-19.

Back home, neighbours vied with one another to bring us food and keep it at the doorstep, ring the bell and disappear before we could open the door and take them in. Yes, safety comes first. Understandable.

Just to keep records straight, Aunty’s brother, sister and her daughter who all came to the hospital, tested positive two days later. Thankfully, now all are back in action.