Life in India during COVID-19
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Darien resident Deepika Saksena and her son Rahul have been staying with relatives in Uttarakhand (UK), India.
Over the next few weeks and months, Deepika will be sharing her insights and experiences in India with The Darien Times. She’ll talk about what her life is like day to day, as well as what she’s doing and learning.
Deepika came to India in early March, “first to spend time with friends and relatives in Punjab, and then to attend a yoga retreat I had organized at my cousin Sangeeta’s summer home in the North Indian state of Uttarakhand,” she said.
“My husband Sunil was scheduled to arrive two weeks later and we had plans to spend two weeks together in New Delhi,” she added.
When the the pandemic hit, their family plans changed drastically. Sunil canceled his trip and Rahul, who had been in India since November 2019, joined Deepika in UK.
Soon after he arrived, the country went into a strict lockdown state imposed by the Modi government, to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“The U.S. government is organizing some charter flights back to the U.S. from India, but rather than taking the risk and being a burden on the U.S. health care system, we have chosen to stay here until things settle down in the New York area and it becomes somewhat safe to travel by regular airlines,” Deepika said.
Since that time, she has been living in UK and staying with Sangeeta and her 29-year-old son Udai, at their 95-acre property, which they have named Devanya (“Land of the Gods.)”
“Devanya is close to the famous town of Nainital, in the Himalayan foothills. We are living in a recently restored 200-year-old bungalow-style cottage,” Deepika said.
She said she’s “deeply disturbed and distressed” by her enforced separation from her husband — who is quarantined in Darien — and prays he remains safe.
“But since there is nothing we can do to change the present situation, I have decided to make the most of my time here,” she said. “It is truly a piece of heaven and if circumstance so permits, we may be able to persuade Sunil to spend a couple of weeks here before we all head back.”
Deepika was born in New Delhi, India, and spent her early years in Northern India. She migrated to the United States after high school and graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle.
She’s a retired software engineer and systems architect and currently a co-chairman of Darien’s Pollinator Pathway.
Sunil, a retired New York City banker, is very active in the Darien Men’s Association.
Rahul, a Darien High School graduate, is a human rights lawyer who is taking some time off. He had spent a few weeks vacationing in Goa and traveling around India, followed by a 10-day silent meditation course in Punjab.
The couple’s other son, Ravi, is a pediatrician in a heavily infected area in Brooklyn, N.Y, according to Deepika.
“He is a front-line doctor whose duties have expanded to the care of adult corona patients who have overflowed into the children’s wards,” Deepika said.
The couple, who previously lived for some time in Bombay (now Mumbai) and also in Singapore, moved to Darien in 1985.
In Devanya, Deepika and Rahul are early risers.
“I wake up at 5:30 and go for a long walk to the top of the mountain every morning while Rahul meditates. After breakfast, we check out progress on the development and the farm,” she said. “After lunch, I go for another long walk with Sangeeta. Sometimes the boys join us. Evenings are spent chatting with friends and family in the U.S. over WhatsApp video, and playing card games or scrabble with Sangeeta and the boys. I’m in bed by 10 p.m.”
They have a cook and house attendant, as well as construction and farm workers, all of whom live in the village close by. Since there have been no reports of the coronavirus in the area, Deepika she said she feels quite safe living where she is.
“Rahul and I feel incredibly lucky to have landed here for the corona lockdown,” she said. “We worry about what’s happening to our family, friends, and neighbors in the U.S. and India.”
News back home
Deepika said her entire family agree that she and Rahul should stay in India until the pandemic abates in New York, and the airlines have established a regular schedule. They believe that might happen sometime in June.
“We are monitoring the news back home with our relatives here, all of whom are perplexed that the wealthiest country in the history of the world was so unprepared for this,” she said.
Deepika continued: “We are increasingly realizing that the way of life we have here — long walks, yoga, meditation, organic subsistence farming using age-old techniques that respect the balance of nature — is the way to live, even after these lockdown days.”
She added that she is enjoying mango season, which extends from May to September.