But first line up for RT-PCR test, wait eternally for results, fill forms, download app

Young Lochinvar won’t come out of the West. He can’t just wake up and decide impulsively to go kidnap the woman he loves who is getting married to another man as we speak. He must first apply for an e-pass, then queue up for the RT-PCR test, results of which will be sent to him God knows when. Double-masked and quarantined, young Lochinvar needs a travel consultant more than romance. He has to submit to intrusive oral and nasal swabs plus test negative. No wonder he texted ‘who this, new phone’ to girlfriend.

Travel has turned iffy. You can cruise crowds unmasked but alone in a car please be masked. Can’t just book a ticket and fly off; first submit a research paper to the government – why go, go when, where to, what for? Do you really need to travel, state portals ask sternly, what’s the real reason for visit? Exit in eight days, you are told coldly, now show return-ticket. There is a typical Indian frankness to the questions – do you have fever, a cold, gale mein khich-khich? – and a touching trust in the replies, a uniform ‘no’.

Where previously one just upped and left when the mood struck, borders are no longer porous. Though the north lovingly calls us all Madrasis, we are now more aware than ever that the south is separate states. The smooth highways in between have become a series of check-posts. Each is suspicious that the other is smuggling the virus in.

With Covid statistics fluctuating from day to day, Kerala went from darling of the south to pariah, and demands no tests for landing. Return to Karnataka though needs a clean chit. Since airlines maintain a demure silence during booking of tickets, the message that you must be Covid negative complete with printed proof comes when the cab is at the door. Frantic inquiries follow. Takes days to schedule a test and for the results to reach inbox. Then the netherworld whispers about dark alleys where you can get the results in three hours. Phew!

Those driving from Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi to Bengaluru are increasingly reporting no checks; you are free to convert e-pass into paper boat. Also, try not to lose it when the airline counter fails to ask for tests results. Don’t run towards security yelling you don’t have Covid. You may board flight like James Bond with visor on, but the Aarogya Setu app knows your pet name is Pinchoo.



This article is intended to bring a smile to your face. Any connection to events and characters in real life is coincidental.


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