Back to school had never been exciting for me. I never like being interrupted from my relaxing and entertaining routine I usually spent in summers. However, this year was different. No one can deny the fact that when you are forcefully and unexpectedly parted from your best friends and then locked in your house with nothing to entertain you the whole day other than counting the number of ants that walk the wall in an hour, you would love to go to school.

The most exciting and memorable activity I did this vacation was listening to the press conferences of the education minister, especially his conference on September 7, and was delighted to hear that I would finally get freedom, although partial, on September 15. The moment he announced that the schools would open, I was on my feet rushing to my father’s room and asking him to take me to the market so I could buy the essential items.

In an hour or two, I was back at home with all the new essentials scattered on the bed, but still 178 hours were left. Finally, I was pleased to wake up on the morning of September 12 with only three days left. But who knew that fate had another test for me, I had a sore throat and cold! I could not believe how I sounded. Suddenly, I realised what this meant - they would not allow me to enter the school premises!

Despair and unrest paralysed me. I had never felt so helpless. I knew that I would never be able to reach my friends, even if I did, the moment I would open my mouth, they would humiliatingly kick me out of the school. Minutes were ticking past as I worked out my next step.

The decision I took was a harsh one. Now, once I look back, I realise it was unimportant in reality and I laugh at myself. Anyways, I decided to harshly treat my body for the next two days to expel whatever virus I had. Nebulisation, medicines and clearing of nose after every half hour were what I did. Now let me tell how irritating this method was.

The worst thing about nebulisation was that you had to take it with the fan turned off. And believe me, in five minutes, my body was dripping with sweat and all my clothes were wet. And I had to nebulise after every hour. And I would blow my nose so forcefully that internal bleeding would start, but I was determined to expel the germs inside me so that I could go to school. About the medicines, taking tablets a number of times a day is never a pleasant experience.

Soon, it was September 15 and still my nose was runny, my throat was sore and my voice was hoarse. However, I decided to go to school. I was so cautious that when the teacher at the gate asked me which class I was in, I ignored him as if I did not hear him. Soon I had to talk with my friends. When I spoke, they felt that my voice had changed during the five-month gap, phew! And for the teachers, I only talked to them when they asked me a question and for that, I would speak so slowly so that the hoarseness in my voice was not so obvious.

When I went home, I realised how the suffering of trying to cure myself during the previous two days had gone in vain. I was now running a fever and couldn’t go to school for the next few days. At least it was not the dreadful coronavirus, but just a regular flu. I will never forget this year’s back to school experience.

Published in Dawn, Young World, October 17th, 2020