Where to even begin… Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would see something as impactful to the world as COVID19 has been. It is almost as if I am living in some kind of surreal nightmare. It still just doesn’t seem quite real. I kind of hoped that waking up this morning that I would find out this had all been some cruel April Fools joke, but unfortunately it is not.
It is insane to think that just two weeks back we were just commencing talks of a lockdown, which has now been in place for 12 days. I had thought the best option for me then would be to stay put in India, the place I know and love and wait for this to pass. Just yesterday I came to the sobering reality that it is in fact not best for me to stay here.
I have started to think about the possibility of this extending for months, which is likely considering India’s exceptionally low case and death numbers and knowing that India has hardly scratched the surface of this monster which is probably going to cause mass catastrophe throughout the entire country. It already has seen a huge impact to this beautiful country with masses losing their jobs and becoming homeless within an instant.
It has been horrific seeing the news and what is happening throughout the country, however India was exceptionally quick to implement a lockdown. Although it has not been completely successful, especially considering the number of people needing to move to their hometown to avoid homelessness and starvation, it is likely much better that it was locked down when it was to avoid that circumstance along with the high risk of more cases of the virus throughout the country.
It has been heartbreaking to see the town of Rishikesh that I love so dearly and hold so tightly turn into a ghost town. The streets that were once full of life and vibrance are now empty. Only the people who are buying groceries are out, or the people who have a complete lack of regard for the lockdown and the people within this beautiful country. Often this is foreigners, which has created an unwelcome environment for us here, even those of us who are doing the right thing and only leaving the property when we need something.
I am currently exceptionally lucky with where I am, in a hostel I am familiar with and people whom I was friends with before these drastic changes were implemented. I have a roof over my head, am fed three times a day and have countless walls I am able to create my artwork. The harsh reality I came to yesterday is that this is not sustainable. The hostel is currently operating with less than 10 staying guests and having to pay staff, rent and other overheads. I can not expect this place, my home, to stay open for months on end to ride out this virus.
In the worst case scenario, if the hostel was unable to remain open due to the high operating costs and no potential for new guests, I would find myself without a home. I would likely be able to find myself shelter, but that is not a situation that I would like to find myself in. It is simply terrifying to know that everything has the potential to be taken away within a moment. So as heavy it is on my heart, I am now looking to say goodbye to my beloved India and return back to Australia.
That in itself brings on its own sense of fear for personal reasons. I left Melbourne because I was insanely depressed, hated the life I was living, the person I had become and I was suicidal. I have the fear of retuning to the same place, falling back into the same old habits as well as having the heavy depression that falls on me during winter. I simply do not want to do it, but I don’t feel like I have any other option. I am now a very different person than I was when I left Australia, and I can only hope that this person is strong enough to withhold the Melbourne surroundings.
I know that there will be a two week quarantine period in Melbourne, which I will likely use to work to be able to cover the cost of living in Australia. I am hoping that I do not get too lost in my head being isolated for two weeks and hope that I will have a balcony to be able to at least get some sunlight. But before I am able to think of that, I first need to make my way back to Australia.
I received an email from the Australian High Commission in Delhi today with a survey for Australians stuck in India and a proposed charter flight back. I presume they are looking for the level of interest and how much it will cost them. I knew that I would be paying for my flight obviously, but one of the shocking elements of the survey was how much we would be willing to pay. The lowest option was up to $3,000. The second between $3,000 and $5,000 and the third above $5,000.
I haven’t had a real job for almost a year now, which means I don’t have a huge amount saved. I have more than enough to make my way in India, but this flight back to Australia has the potential to completely bankrupt me. I am looking at other options, but the rate in which flights are being cancelled is unnerving. There are cheaper flights, but through other airlines which may potential stop flights within a moments notice.
I have met people who have reached the airport only to have their flight cancelled while they were there. This has been a regular occurrence unfortunately. There is still two weeks until India will allow flights out of the country, and seeing how much has changed in the past few weeks, I really have no idea what to expect. There is no point planning ahead as things are frequently changing overnight.
For the moment I guess I just have to wait. I know I have to get back to Australia, and sooner rather than later. The growing insecurities of my life in India are starting to pose too great of a risk, but how I will get back and if I can afford it are my major hurdles at the moment. When I get back to Australia is when the other questions will start. Where will I live? Will I need to get a job? Will I be able to even find a job? How long will I have to stay in Melbourne? The list goes on and is completely overwhelming.
Coming to the decision to leave India has been exceptionally hard, and I have made it well known that I never wanted to go back to Australia. But never would I have been able to predict something as catastrophic as this virus which is slowly getting a choke hold on our world. I can only hope and pray that a cure will be found, the number of deaths will start to decrease, countries’ economies will not be too severely impacted and will start to bounce back, and then I will be able to plan my return to India.
For now I guess I just wait and see, but Australia, I am sure to be seeing you soon one way or another.