Heading down the tarmac

Our first days in Orchha were carefree, enjoying the peaceful and friendly atmosphere. Then things began to change. The news filtered in slowly how serious the virus was in Europe. A German couple who we’d planned to share a car and driver with to visit Bundi in Rajasthan decided to cancel. The state authorities were making it difficult for tourists to enter. All the while, fewer and fewer tourists, foreign and Indian, were coming to Orchha.

Marion and Jorgen, concerned about their aging mothers, felt compelled to return to Germany early. We still wanted to go up to HP and wait it out in the mountains until May 2nd.

When we learned that not only was the palace no longer open to tourists but even the temple doors were closed to pilgrims and local worshippers, the writing was on the wall. It was painfully evident that we had grossly underestimated the seriousness of this disease. Suddenly, cars were driving around town, warning people over loudspeakers about Coronavirus. In India, the virus is considered a disease of foreigners or Indians who had been outside the country. Now, a few of the locals looked at us as if we were the virus walking down their street. It was time to leave.

Before we booked our railway tickets to Delhi, we made the time to visit my favorite place on the edge of town – a brook bordered by wheat fields and distant monuments. The only sounds were the trickle of water and birdsong and a cow munching grass. A moment of peace.

Back in town, the streets seemed quieter than usual, the traffic less. Hotels and restaurants were almost empty. How long can they stay open with no tourists or pilgrims? We said goodbye to our Kashmiri friends who were considering closing their jewelry shop early and heading back home.

Around the temple, closed but still lit up at night, we saw the poor and homeless sitting on the ground, still being fed by a few kind souls.

Sadly, we returned to an eerily quiet Delhi but with the good fortune of having family, Ravi and Swarn, in Gurgaon who were brave enough to host us for three days. We tried to keep our distance, staying mostly in our room, but by the end of our stay they were sitting and eating with us. Meanwhile, Marion and Jorgen were not so lucky, staying in a hotel in Paharagunj, Delhi where shops and restaurants were already closed and there was nothing to eat.

As soon as we arrived, our host said we should take the first available flight home. I was still attached to the idea of taking a bus and escaping to HP. Gerard took seriously the advice and easi;y convinced me we should go as soon as possible. We didn’t want to wear out our welcome. Unable to reach the online booking agency or airline to cancel our existing flight, we spent all afternoon trying to find a new flight home. Finally, Emirates via Dubai, with an eight hour layover was our best option. Landing in Newark we’d go through customs and screening, before flying up to Boston.

Wanting a walk, I persuaded Gerard to visit the nearby malls – one was closed, the other was almost empty, shopkeepers standing around idle. The few people out and about were mostly wearing masks. With news of the virus spreading, Modi was dominating the airwaves, talking firmly about restrictions including shutting down the metro in Delhi. That evening, we learned that Himachal Pradesh was not allowing tourists to enter any more. Without knowing it, we’d made the right decision. As of now there’s been no confirmed virus cases in less populated HP and maybe, with the shut down, it can stay that way. On the morning news, it was announced starting May 22nd, there will be no more international flights. Our flight was scheduled for the afternoon of the 21st. A narrow escape.

I was relieved to finally leave for the airport, well ahead of time. With long lines of equally anxious passengers, all wearing masks, we entered the fray. After hours of hanging around, as the plane went down the tarmac, Gerard counted over 50 planes lined up idle. A fellow passenger told us that Emirates was suspending all operations world wide starting now. We could be on their last international flight. During our layover in Dubai, we were amused to see groups of Asian passengers covered from head to toe like Hazmat workers…maybe they were the smart ones. We arrived in Newark to find our flight to Boston canceled but had no problem rebooking on one four hours later. There was no real screening…none in Newark or Boston…So now it’s up to us to self isolate for two weeks and take our temperatures daily. Our house sitters kindly shopped for us before they vacated and a good neighbor promises to leave food on the doorstep.

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18 thoughts on “Heading down the tarmac

    • I am so glad you are home with no scrapes so far. Good friends and neighbors are everywhere! Love is flooding the world. Can you believe what it has taken? Amazing. Sending you so much love. Get the paints out Gerard….good time to make pictures! I have been thrown into digital madness making lessons for children online as of Wednesday. Busy from the couch!
      Bobbi you will no doubt be writing and writing and writing and writing as only you can!
      BIG LOVE!
      Love Supreme……

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  1. So glad you made it home safely and followed your instincts. It’s pretty quiet here.schools closed for rest of year, restaurants doing take out only. Other than supermarkets and drug stores it’s like a ghost town

    Be well you two.

    Love you

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  2. Really glad to know that you made it safely out of India without difficulty or expense, I was wondering how you would make it back home.

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  3. It’s really a shame that your trip was cut short. Glad that you made it back safely. Stay safe and well. Hopefully, we will all be back in India next year with the CV just a sad and unpleasant memory.

    Take care, Cindy

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  4. So glad you made it out when you did. A young friend was doing a program with elephants in Sri Lanka and made it back home, too – From Sri Lanka to UAE to JFK to BOS and then a bus to Concord. No screening whatsoever upon returning… just a quick glance at her passport. A virtual hug to both of you.

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  5. That is quite a story Bobby! Look forward to catching up with you guys when things calm down a bit. Hope you are settling in nicely in Boston.
    Much love,
    Eric

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  6. Wow wow wow GRACE 🙏🌎💕✌🏽
    I’m sooo happy you got home today!!!!!!
    I’m enjoying the quarantine and find I’m never bored. I walk exercise and read. Oh yeah I’m eating well 👌🏼🤣💫✨😷
    Love you both
    Jackie and Bruno

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