Thiruvananthapuram: For two weeks, Bharath Sathyajith has not stepped outside a hotel room in Kerala’s Palakkad town, where he is staying with his parents and sister. But the 14-year-old but hasn’t complained even once.
The reason: he is both elated and relieved to come back to his homeland after battling a harrowing month of pandemic-driven panic and bullying in Oman, where he was born and lived with his parents until last month.
Bharath came back along with his mother Dhanya, father Sathyajith Krishankutty and sister Gowri on a flight from Muscat on May 9, and was put in mandatory quarantine at a local hotel. Despite the abrupt separation from his friends and the familiar environment of his school — he studied in Class eight at the Indian School in Al Maabela in Muscat — Bharath is happy.
“I feel more safe in Kerala now. It is a role model for the whole world,” he said, referring to the efforts of the state government to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease, though experts have expressed apprehension over the low rate of testing in the state. Kerala has reported 795 cases till date.
In Muscat, which has more than 5,000 cases of Covid-19, Bharath often faced bullying that intensified when some of his classmates found out that he was returning to India. In contrast, he finds Kerala — he would visit his grandparents every year during summer holidays — quite calming. “I love the countryside than hustle and bustle of the city. I love to run after calves and swim in village ponds,” he said.
Sathyajith Krishankutty, an automobile engineer, moved to Muscat in 2000 and steadily rose through the ranks in a private firm. But he met with an accident in February and started looking for an opportunity to shift base back to Kerala. “The accident came as a blessing in disguise for me. It helped me to get into the first flight,” Bharath’s father says, adding that he is planning to open an auto garage in his hometown, Palakkad.
Bharath, who will go to school in Palakkad once classes resume, now spends most of the day playing board games, chatting with friends from Muscat and listening to his mother’s collection of Carnatic classical music.
At times, news of the rapidly progressing pandemic and memories of his friends bother him.
‘Watching the news is disturbing at times. But at the same time you need to know what is happening. I was upset leaving my school and friends. But my father said in life you have to face such circumstances,” he said. He idolizes his father and wants to become an automobile engineer.
The two weeks in the hotel have made Bharath realise the value of freedom, he said. “Free movement was curtailed, playgrounds were cordoned off and we were forced to cover our mouth and nose. But this discipline brought other dividends also, clean air, water bodies and little garbage around,” he said