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Dhaka Tribune

Covid-19: Fear hit me on the train home

Initially pleased by the time off from university, the gravity of pandemic sank in for the 25-year-old when he caught a train to his hometown 

Update : 03 Oct 2020, 08:48 PM

Safwan Ahmed, a 25-year-old final year BBA student of Brac University, left Dhaka to be with his family in Rajshahi about a week before Bangladesh went into lockdown to contain the Covid-19 pandemic in late March. Initially pleased by the time off from university, the gravity of the pandemic truly sank in for Safwan when he boarded the train to leave the capital on March 21.

Brac University called off classes due to the pandemic on March 17, and Safwan waited five days to see if they confirmed a reopening date before leaving for his hometown. 

“At the beginning, I was not really worried about the coronavirus pandemic. I was watching the news and I saw that people were leaving Dhaka every day, but I was happy that I would get to spend some time with my family,” he told Dhaka Tribune.

“However, the fear finally hit me when I got on the train to Rajshahi. It was very crowded and 90% of the people were wearing masks and had hand sanitizers. That was when the reality of the crisis really sank in,” he said.

As the weeks passed, the pandemic weighed on Safwan more and any joy of being home was lost to being trapped indoors.

“I was basically just sitting at home for three months. I had a job, but my contract was not renewed because of the pandemic. Being forced to stay home without anything to keep me busy did not help my mindset,” he said.

Safwan finally got some respite from the ennui when he landed an online marketing job at twice his previous salary of Tk10,000. Furthermore, Brac started online classes on July 1.

“Starting work again really helped give my mental state some sense of stability, and it helped with the rent for the house in Dhaka,” he said.

Safwan used to share a three-room flat with four roommates in Mohakhali. Each of them would pay Tk7,500 a month.

However, they stopped renting the house when it became apparent that the university was unlikely to open its campus again this year. Safwan tried to reach an arrangement with the landlord that would have allowed him to keep the house on for less rent, but no agreement could be reached.

“After sorting things out with the landlord in August, I once again had to take a train back to Rajshahi. This time, I was terrified from the beginning that I may bring the coronavirus back to my family but, fortunately, we are all healthy,” he added.

Safwan said he is adapting to life in the new normal, but the need to constantly be glued to a screen is proving to be more difficult than imagined.

“I am having to spend more than 12 hours a day on digital devices, between work and my studies. It is very strenuous for the eyes and I have been getting headaches and shoulder pain from hunching over the laptop and phone,” he said.

Now, Safwan is worrying about what will happen once he finishes his last semester.

“I have to try to get an internship (as part of the academic process) from next month. For this, I must return to Dhaka as most offices are open on a limited scale and they prefer it if people go to the office and work. I will have to be cautious, but I cannot fall behind,” he said

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