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Covid and a creative mind

For the last three months, Mali, aka Maalavika Manoj, has had a hectic schedule, given the forthcoming release of her album, Caution to the Wind. But now she’s gone from planning a tour for the album’s release to figuring out how to release it in a staggered manner.

That’s because she is recovering from Covid-19 infection that has left her with little stamina for aggressive publicity since she woke up with a mildly dry throat on Thursday, August 27.

“It felt different from the scratchiness announcing the onset of a cold,” says Mali about that day. On Friday morning, when she was to step out for her first recording in five months, she had severe muscle and joint aches. By Saturday, she also had chills and a fever of 101.2. On Sunday morning, the last day of the lockdown in Chennai, Mali got herself tested for coronavirus.

Within six hours, the testing centre phoned to tell her she had tested positive.

“A part of me was just thinking it was a dream, because I was sleeping when they called,” she says.  

The circus begins

Now Mali had to go through the process of trying to figure out where she got it from. Her father had been out of town, and her brother and mother (who is in her 50s) had both tested negative. So Mali must have caught the infection from her house help, who had returned from her hometown on the outskirts of Chennai a few days earlier. The lady had had a cold, Mali recalled, and had quietly made her way through a whole strip of paracetamol. When she was tested, her result was also positive.

Mali now had to phone all the people she had met while presumably carrying the virus, including her aged grandparents (her grandmother later tested positive). And then she started receiving calls herself, from municipal officials to tell her she needed a doctor’s certificate for home quarantine.

“The certificate had to come specifically from a hospital dealing with Covid cases,” says Mali. “They kept threatening to send a van and take me to a Covid centre if I didn’t. But to get the certificate, I would have had to step out, which would not be safe for others.”

Fortunately, a doctor Mali had once actually sung with at some point, helped her get the certificate. But they couldn’t get a similar certificate for their house help.

“She had milder symptoms than me. Yet, the corporation officials insisted we drive her to a government Covid testing centre,” says Mali.

Fake or not fake?

Since she was the only other Covid case in the house, Mali volunteered to drive the lady to the hospital. But the officials insisted her mother to go along as well, so off they went in the car, “keeping windows rolled down and sitting as far away from each other as possible”.  

When they got to the centre, officials insisted that Mali’s household help be taken to a Covid centre. “My mom saw the survey form that the people who had come home had filled out,” says Mali. “It said the house wasn’t well-ventilated though we have windows all over, and wasn’t fit for isolation. This, when they hadn’t even stepped into the premises. A lot of people don’t have the privilege of home isolation, but we did. And incidents like this may make people think that Covid is a fake virus and refuse to be tested,” she adds.  

All is well (sort of)

Was she scared? “Yeah, when they kept saying they would take me away. And when my 74-year-old grandmother tested positive, it reminded me of the movie Contagion.”

Mali’s grandmother is now observing home isolation and Mali is symptom-free too.

“I feel like I’ve aged 10 years in a week. The actual illness wasn’t as bad as the amount of drama surrounding it,” says the 26-year-old who is looking forward to being Covid-free by her birthday on September 16 (her 14-day quarantine ends on September 13), meeting her dad and grandparents, and sharing a drink with them.

“I think we will need it,” she laughs.

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From HT Brunch, September 6, 2020

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