This is my final post on the six weeks spent in India. It brings me up to the post I made on March 17th, written on the heels of what felt like at the time, a snap decision to flee India, cutting my trip in half, and cancelling my onward tour of Pakistan. Torn between “fight or flight,” I agonized over whether I could fight back the fears of an invisible disease and continue to enjoy an idyllic beach resort, waiting out what had to be just another wave of flu like SARS or H1N1. India was a hot, tropical country, right? Not exactly flu-type weather.
Or would I give in and take flight? Me, chicken out? Would I succumb to the minute-by-minute terrifying news that was gnawing at my stomach, while giving credence to the feelings of fear creeping up over my shoulder with each overheard cough?
Looking back just 100+ days ago, a time span that now feels like years, I reflect on what a shock it would have been to see what lay in wait down the road from my carefree beach shack. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the metaphorical tsunami that was about to hit, and the detritus and debris that would continue to rise around me even today, with no ebbing in sight.
I was excited to be in India for Holi, the ancient Hindu celebration also known as the “Festival of Colors.” While most “Hallmark moments” don’t hold much allure for me, and in fact can often times make me resent the sentiment, Holi is a day I can get behind. It’s a celebration signifying the resurrection of spring, of good triumphing over evil. It’s a joyous festival where people come together to celebrate life, let down their hair, and live it up while everything and everyone gets covered with vibrant colors.
The Holi festival begins on the evening of “Purnima,” the night of the full moon. Bonfires are built to symbolize purification from evil spirits. The following day is the actual festival where people of all ages come out to play with clouds of powdered color, water guns, and parades.
I had been looking forward to Holi, researching the best destination to celebrate. I had even bought my pack of “colors” from Adil’s stand back in Mysuru. I couldn’t wait.
But as time approached, the fear factor was spreading fast. Holi fell on March 10th, just six short days before I would make the mad dash back to the USA. By that time, a sense of caution and nervousness seemed to fall over the little village of Palolem, and I began to question “should I stay or should I go?” Between reading the headlines and wondering if I was hedging my bet, the coming of COVID definitely put a damper on the party. Given the theme of Holi, the triumph of good over evil, it seems ironic in hindsight.
So it’s been 109 days now since I boarded that Qatar Airways flight in Goa bound for DFW. I never considered for one second that it could be my last. Now, looking at the mess we find ourselves in, I wonder… Not only are we being swept out to sea in a tsunami of COVID cases, our only lifeboat is full of politically divided oarsmen, all rowing furiously in opposite directions. And due to our inability to see, let alone steer, we have now been denied access to landing on foreign shores. I can’t believe this is what has become of the USA.
I’ve said we are all going to come out of this COVID conundrum with our own brand of PTSD that has ripples throughout the rest of our lives. For some, it will be the crushing ache that comes from not being able to say goodbye to a loved one. For others, it will be the irreparable losses done to a career or life savings. I am so fortunate not to have befallen to tragedies such as these.
But grieve, I do, nonetheless. The more plans are suppressed, the more they well up in my thoughts and dreams. I have constant flashbacks of places I’ve been, hikes I’ve hiked, experiences I have enjoyed. I read travel articles. I watch travel vlogs. I daydream about places yet to be explored. I have even started an affirmation list. “When the virus leaves, I will….” It’s a list that grows daily in hopes that one day, I can once again turn my dreams into reality.
“You normally have to be bashed about a bit by life to see the point of daffodils, sunsets and uneventful nice days.” ~ Alain de Botton