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Raju Ganapathy



Raju Ganapathy


Track, Test: A COVID Thriller

Track, Test: A COVID Thriller

7 mins 244 7 mins 244

Track, Test and Treat: A COVID Thriller


Somewhere in Kerala

Nambisan got up with a body ache all over and ambled his way to the bathroom. When he made his cup of tea, he felt a bit feverish too. That is when he decided to call Varisu his friend and a local health worker. Varisu quickly connected him to a doctor who said he might be infected with COVID and said he would send over some one to collect a sample for testing. A day later Nambisan tested positive and was advised quarantine for two weeks. Varisu organised his food and drinks daily.

A few days later Nambisan was not feeling too well and called Varisu who arranged for an ambulance. The ambulance came in the next hour and took him to a government hospital near by where a bed was already earmarked for him. The hospital had no issue about oxygen supply. After a week at the hospital, he was sent back home and advised to take rest for a few more days. Once again, he was tested for COVID and the result was negative. Nambisan went to the temple and offered a puja. His friend Rajan said why thank god, but you must thank the health system set up by the Kerala government and Shailaja madam, the health minister in charge. 

Kerala model had become world famous and Shailaja madam a familiar picture in the news media the world over. Shailaja madam had said track, test and treat is the mantra we follow here at Kerala. 


It was a Friday evening one of the busiest times at the Kochi airport. Next flight to land was the one from Hyderabad. Sunitha and Krishnan, a young couple boarded the flight from Hyderabad. They had been to a friend’s wedding, a small affair of close friends and families. COVID protocols were forgotten in the merry making. They had a niggling doubt if they had done right in going for the attending and forgetting their COVID protocol. They needed a negative RT_PCR test to enter into their home state to avoid any quarantine upon entry. They had tested themselves the previous day. Their host had arranged it. As they boarded the flight, they heard a ping in the phone and when they opened to see the message the test result had come and they were found positive. Dismayed and shocked though they had no symptoms. They were wondering how to escape the Kerala security and avoid quarantine. 

They stood in the queue where the officer was checking the RT_PCR report. Both looked at each other helplessly. They were behind an elderly couple when the lady ahead fell unconscious. A commotion broke out. Sunitha tugged at Krishnan’s t-shirt and they were off like an arrow released from the bow. At the exit of airport Sunitha whispered something to Krishnan and they parted ways at the exit. Krishnan hurried towards the incoming road to the airport and Sunitha hurried towards the exit road. 

John Watson, special officer on duty got a ping as he was watching the queue. Before he reached out for his mobile on his desk, he noticed the elderly lady fainting and a commotion had broken out. It took a good ten-minutes for the commotion to settle down and then he remembered the ping. He was alarmed to see the mobile message. It was from his counter-part from Hyderabad airport. It mentioned that a young couple by the name Sunitha and Krishnan had tested COVID positive and were entering Kochi airport by the Hyderabad flight. Oh Shit! Cursed Watson and he realized in the commotion anything could have happened. His fear proved right. He immediately alerted the airport staff but they could not find any such couple. He then asked Preethi to reach out to Taxi drivers that had departed in the last twenty minutes or so. Preethi knew that it would take nearly one-hour to call all the taxis and enquire about the couple if at all the couple were still travelling together. 

Watson quickly looked at the CC-TV camera. The couple were sure standing in the line and he could see them breaking out when the commotion started. But once they exited the airport premises they got lost. He thought taxis were the only way to track them and hoped Preethi would do her difficult task well. Preethi had requested him that she leave on time that morning as she had to look up her ailing mom, a weekly visit. Now this emergency had come up. 

Preethi called up patiently taxi after taxi, no luck so far, half an hour has already gone.

Krishnan hurried to the main road and noted Sunitha too had reached the exit side of airport. He stopped the passing auto and said Kochi jetty bus station. He picked up Sunitha and they argued in the rickshaw about whether they would go to Perumbavoor, her home town or Pattinamthitta his home town. Finally, they settled for Pattinamthitta. Auto driver Suresh enjoyed the young couple’s tiff as they used Malayalam interspersed with English swear words. 

Preethi finally gave up her tracking after nearly one-hour and told Watson about her failed attempt. Watson then let her go home and suggested to take a taxi which he promised to reimburse. Preethi thanked him as she would be only half an hour late as Taxi would cut her commute by thirty minutes. 

Watson was tense already. He needed a cigarette and some clear thinking as to the next steps. As he lit his cigarette at the tea shop on the main road, he asked Nair, the tea shop owner whether he had seen any couple or even a lady waiting at the road. In fact, Nair had noticed Sunitha and admired her good looks. He also noticed that an auto had stopped to pick her up and the driver Suresh who was an acquaintance waved at him. He had noticed that a man was already sitting in the auto. Nair also gave him the auto’s number. Watson then provided the details to his assistant and asked for the auto to be located. 

It was after fifteen-minutes when Suresh the driver had called Watson upon instruction by the traffic police. He said that the young couple had argued about Perumbavoor and Pattanamthitta and finally decided to go to Pattanamthitta. Soon constables were at the bus station trying to locate the couple, an impossibility thought Watson. He was right as one of the constables had called that they were so many buses to Perumbavoor and one or two buses had already left for Pattanamthitta. They are trying to call the bus conductors to get some details. What if they were seated separately? thought Watson. It also occurred to him then the smart couple had set up Suresh, auto driver. In effect they could be going anywhere in Kerala.

Indeed, that was the case. Sunitha and Krishnan were proceeding to Vadakancheri and were seated separately in the bus, the way Watson had thought. Krishnan alone got down at the stop before reaching Vadakancheri and Sunitha got down at Vadakancheri and walked her way to home. Krishnan reached by auto soon after. 

They quickly proceeded to wash up before opening their biriyani packet brought from Hyderabad. As they finished dinner, they got a phone call from the lab that tested them at Hyderabad. The man apologized profusely for the mix-up in their report with somebody else. He said both their report was negative. Sunitha and Krishnan jumped at each other in delight and kissed each other in happiness and relief. 

Watson was tense by the time. His luck was running out. He knew tracking the couple was like locating a needle in the hay-stack. His boss would roast him now as he was already looking for an excuse to transfer him. Watson was becoming too efficient and gaining good reputation in his job. Watson thought of what happened to Shailaja madam. He once again trotted to the tea shop and lit a cigarette. That was when his phone rang. It was his counterpart from Hyderabad who informed him of the mix-up in the reports.

A much-relieved Watson threw the cigarette down and hurried to his office and called off the search. He then left for home like a bullet on his Royal Enfield. His dinner was waiting at his door step as was the practice. He opened the tiffin box and poured himself a double of the 8 PM whisky and added some ice from the fridge. He switched on the TV to see the PM shedding crocodile tears while speaking to front line COVID warriors. The whisky was doing its job as it entered the system of Watson and he was feeling warm and relaxed. The sight of PM shedding tears made him laugh out loud. He picked up the tissue and wiped the tears from his eyes too. Laughing heartily always filled up his eyes. 

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