PATNA: Life as we know it, is on hold. Those locked down with their families can always share the brunt; not so for some students stuck in far corners of the country away from home.

“I had to be here for an online placement exam on March 22, and since the connectivity here is better I thought once I am done with this, I’ll go back, but then with the lockdown, I couldn’t,” says Soubhik, a final year graduate student from Kolkata who is stuck in Asansol where he goes to college.

Others tried getting back home but couldn’t because of the rush. According to Vikas, who is also in Asansol and tried to return home to Hajipur, Bihar, “I tried going back, but the trains were jampacked, and many were even getting cancelled, so I was unable to get a reservation.”

There are also some who didn’t make travel arrangements for fear they would contract the virus and infect others. “I didn’t try to return because somewhere I know the consequences of this. I might put my life in danger along with more than 10, 20, 30 other people, especially people I know,” says Rishiba, a Delhi University student who hails from Dehradun.

With a lot of people dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety in this time of trouble, students say that being alone, away from their parents, has added to their anxiety. “You see, there’s definitely a fear, and no matter how safe we are, being with my parents would have had me feeling much more secure and safe,” says Mausam, who is living in Delhi and hails from Begusarai.

These students are also worried about the health and well being of their parents, whose age leaves them more vulnerable. “My parents’ age group is more prone to this disease and since I am not with them it definitely adds to my anxiety,” says Gautam, an engineering student in Kochi whose family is in Bihar. Urmi talks about the “constant fear” she feels, and how she is constantly checking on her parents. Nazia, who studies in Delhi, says that being away from her home has given her an uneasy feeling about her parents’ wellbeing.

They talk about their helplessness. Rishiba says her parents know all the precautions, and “I hope they are taking them.” She’s especially worried about her mother. “I am quite worried coz I know my mom’s immune system is to very weak, and she is very prone to these viruses, this has been worrying me,” she texted.

The students are doing everything they can to help their parents understand the dangers of the virus and everything about it. “The reports coming out on Bihar’s response to the virus scare me, and it really worries me about my parent’s wellbeing, and that is why I keep calling them throughout the day, reiterating the same things, not going out, sanitising and other things,” says Mausam.

Aman, who’s from Gorakhpur but locked down in Asansol, says “One thing I’ve made sure is that I’ve provided them with the numbers of all the delivery services, and also certain helplines that can be useful—that’s the most I could do from here.” Urmi’s parents are well aware of the precautions, she says, and are taking them, but “I make it a point that they do not pay heed to any of the fake news circulation on social media.”

Mausam expresses what many are feeling: “I wanted to go home, my parents also kept calling, but there was this underlying fear, and I couldn’t. This lockdown is important, and I hope when all this ends, I’ll be able to return and meet my family.”

Cover: Frank Stella, The Marriage of Reason and Squalor