COVID-19 diary from an Indian Chelsea fan

It seems like just yesterday, the start of March that I was glued to my TV screen watching Billy Gilmour deliver a masterclass performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup as my club Chelsea ran out 2-0 winners on the night.

Gilmour received the Man Of The Match award for his masterful performance against Liverpool and it marked the coming of age of the ‘generational talent’ as he had been so accurately touted by many Chelsea fans on Twitter.

Gilmour’s sidestep nutmeg on Fabinho, who was expected to win the midfield battle and dominate the Scotsman before the match started, was the icing on the cake for the 18-year-old boy from Glasgow. It did the rounds on social media as Gilmour showed that he can compete against the big boys after making the jump from youth team to first team.

I was elated with the win because results were choppy for Chelsea going into the crunch game and we beat a strong Liverpool outfit to send them crashing out of the FA Cup.

Then came the Premier League game against Everton at Stamford Bridge on the 9th of March and yet another brilliant performance by the whole Chelsea team and Gilmour on his Premier League debut as the Blues ran riot thrashing the Toffees 4-0.

The performance by Lampard’s men in blue in these two games reminded me of the Chelsea of old, solid at the back and devastating in attack, it was peak Chelsea and I was buzzing. I checked in for my shifts and was chuffed with the two back to back wins by the Blues.

The day after the Everton game, on the 10th of March the air was thick and smoggy as I woke up in my bedroom studio apartment in Mumbai. There was an unerring silence on the streets as I made myself a cup of coffee and went online to re-watch the highlights from the Everton game and then came the news that Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for the Coronavirus. Then came Arteta. Then Rugani and more.

After a few days, the Premier League announced that football would be suspended until April 4 and suddenly all my optimism for the season took a grim turn.

While cases of the Coronavirus began to slowly increase in India with the number of registered cases being 61 on 10th March. Slowly things began to spiral with 110 cases by March 17th, 258 by March 20th with 52 cases in Maharashtra, the state I live in.

I followed the news online and heard Boris Johnson’s speech to instate a lockdown and urging social distancing in the UK.

Offices slowly began to shut down in Mumbai and my sister who works for KPMG was told to stay at home and work from home.

Then on March 24th, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown. The speech was watched by a whopping 197 million people as India followed suit and went on lockdown. In a country with a population of 1.3 billion, it was one of the most-watched news events in Indian history.

There was some panic buying on the eve of March 24th, as people swarmed stores to stock up on food and other necessities as motorbikes and cars sped around the streets while I scampered to get some essentials as well before the lockdown was enforced.

After the lockdown was enacted, the streets turned almost ghost-like with not a soul in sight, which is very uncanny and unheard of in my city of Mumbai whose streets are usually bustling with people in motion.

All shops except medical stores were shut, including grocery stores, until Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced that groceries would be available at stores at certain time slots while the Mumbai Police patrolled the streets questioning any person they see outdoors.

As it currently stands 4 days into lockdown in Mumbai, India, the number of infected cases of Coronavirus has spiked to 902 cases with 20 deaths reported across the country.

The truth is India had time to prepare itself for the Coronavirus pandemic, but the government was callous in its approach in preparation for the outbreak. With the scenario already unfolding in Europe and the UK, India could have taken safety measures well in advance to combat the spread of the Coronavirus in the country, but government officials didn’t act in time.

The Indian healthcare system cannot cope with tending to an outbreak of cases and the country’s healthcare system pales in comparison to Italy and the UK.

What remains now are faint glimmers of normal life with the world plunged deep into lockdown with people constrained to their homes.

The Premier League remains suspended and I have my doubts whether the English top-flight will be able to finish before June 30th with no news of the virus slowing down or a cure emerging.

As for me, as I sit here at home in lockdown and write this, those two games that Chelsea won and the double over Mourinho’s Spurs, remain the highlights of the season. It was the last bit of action in a breakthrough season led by Lampard and his youth revolution at Stamford Bridge and hopefully, the Blues will secure a spot in the top-four, but it begs the questions, will the Premier League season finish?

And when is this Coronavirus crisis going to end?