Music director and composer Kingshuk Chakravarty was recently on a multi-generational family vacation in Sri Lanka. While travelling in a time like this could be a tricky affair, he spoke to us about how he pulled it off, the challenges he faced, and the dos and don’ts of travelling abroad right now. By Kumar Shree
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Q) You’ve just come back from a holiday in Sri Lanka. Please tell us about the on-ground situation there.
When we landed in Sri Lanka, it seemed quite calm. Our research showed only one positive Coronavirus case in the country at that time. However, as the days passed, I could sense the panic. Our driver was our primary source of information. He seemed concerned but was well informed. Our last day in Colombo was the scariest, the hotel was checking temperature of guests, and the entire hotel staff was wearing masks. That’s when we took a step back.
Q) Tell us about the safety measures and precautions taken by the Sri Lankan government, and the general public that caught your attention amidst this global crisis.
When we entered Sri Lanka, they were thermal scanning all passengers. It was just a camera placed on the walkway–nothing dramatic. Over the next week, we travelled through the entire country and there were no visible signs of any panic. On the sixth day, our driver told us that two more people were tested positive. That’s when I saw a change. Our hotel in Colombo was on its toe, and all the guests were being screened. The situation on our way out, particularly at the airport, looked urgent. Way more people had their masks on, and a bunch of cleaning staff were sanitising the place.
Q) How was the journey back to India? Did you face any quarantine-like situation upon landing here?
Well, I had read all kinds of messages on WhatsApp, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. We were asked to fill a health declaration form, which essentially asks you to confirm your travel history and declare any symptoms of the virus. Upon arrival, a medical officer took our temperature and asked us about any symptoms and travel history. They stamped the form, which was to be given to the immigration officer, who lets you in.
Q) What was your source of inspiration for travelling to Sri Lanka at such a time?
This was a family holiday, which was planned four months ago. We checked all the travel advisories, and no one had a problem with Sri Lanka. So, we decided to just go ahead.
Q) Did you specifically pack keeping the current situation in mind?
Hand sanitisers and masks were the only addition apart from what I pack for other trips.
Q) Having seen the situation in Sri Lanka, do you think there are any precautions or measures Indians can take to curb the spread of the virus here? Is there something that you feel we are not already doing here?
It’s a novel virus, and we don’t know how it will behave. I think the Indian government has taken some positive steps, and now it is up to the people and our response that will dictate how the virus fares in India. If you think you have a virus or THE VIRUS, it’s really up to you to stop it from spreading. Self-isolate, take proper rest and look after your diet. Sri Lankans seemed far more logical, sensible, and educated in their approach. While I was there, I didn’t hear anything that I would call misinformation. Ever since I got back, I have just been hearing one preposterous story after another on the news, and social media. Even my maids are saying all kinds of things. This is dangerous, and we need to ensure that we spread the right information to the ground level.
Q) Were any tourist destinations closed down in Sri Lanka because of the current situation?
Q) How safe is it to travel with the elderly folks at this point in time?
Knowing how the Coronavirus affects the elderly was the biggest guilt playing on my mind throughout the trip. Both my parents and my in-laws were travelling with us. We tried our best to follow all standard precautions, but the fear was always there. It is not the best thing to have on your mind while travelling.
Q) Where would you travel after this scenario clears up?
I’d like to go and watch Sting perform live. I’ll just pick the most convenient city from his tour calendar and make a holiday out of it.
Q) Given that you’re recently back from an international trip, do you think people are overreacting? Is the ground reality different?
Nope, I don’t think the world is overreacting at all. Italy and China have shown us why.
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