KASARAGOD: FFor Gafoor Pallikkal (54) -- a watch seller in Dubai -- time ticked the slowest in the last two weeks. He was quarantined in a single room at the General Hospital after testing positive for coronavirus disease on March 21.
He never got to see the face of a human in the past 14 days. Once every day, a doctor and a clean staff came to his room -- but both covered from head to toe in the white personal protective equipment.
The nurses never entered the room because he suffered from no symptoms. They would place food at a chair outside the room, knock the door and leave. He would take the food in, and replace the plate after cleaning it.
"It was the loneliest period of my life," said Gafoor, who worked in Dubai for 32 years.
On Friday, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced in his daily evening bulletin that 14 persons in Kerala recovered from COVID-19 infection. Gafoor was one of them. "I want to tell everybody now in quarantine and hospital. If I survived at this age, you all will. Just hang on," he said.
Gafoor said there was a lot to do in the 8ft by 8ft room. He spent a considerable amount of time scrubbing the glass tumbler. The stubborn stains held on to the glass for 14 days, said Gafoor, a stickler for cleanliness. He also kept cleaning the loo attached to his room. He did it despite the cleaning staff coming every day. "I did not want to give any space for the virus," he said.
When he was not clean, he found solace in the company of Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. "I finished reading his Pathummayude Aadu," he said. 'Pathumma's Goat' is a humorous novel written by Basheer in 1959. He also read up T Padmanabhan's 'Prakasam Parathunna Oru Penkutty, a collection of 12 short stories.
He also tried out the exercises recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). "I used to do a lot of pushups and squats in the room," he said. He used the mobile phone only to check WHO videos.
Gafoor created a scare in the town before testing positive, but the district administration is partially to be blamed.
He sells watches and other electronic gadgets in Al Sabkha, neighboring Naif, in the Deira region of Dubai. He returned home on March 10.
On March 11, he went to the General Hosptial because he had a fever. The COVID help desk took his number and asked him to go home. The staff said an executive would get in touch with him.
No one did for two days.
During these days, he attended the engagement ceremony of his niece at Malik Dinar Mosque. "He shook hands with almost all his guests," said a prominent politician. "But none of them tested positive," he said.
To be sure, neither Gafoor's wife or his daughter, a microbiologist, or his son, an aviation management executive, tested positive for COVID. "His is lucky. So are we," said the leader.
Gafoor, a bronchitis patient, then went to Mangaluru to meet his regular doctor. "It was the doctor who insisted I test for coronavirus," he said.
He gave his samples at a private hospital on March 18. On March 21, he got a call from the Mangaluru Hospital saying there was a problem. "The person did not elaborate. In 30 minutes, I got another call. The person asked me to come to General Hospital," he said.
When he reached there, he was quarantined. Now he is back home, but still quarantined in his room. "I can get out only on April 15," he said. "But now at least I am home. I will survive," he said