Goodbye for now: senior Anjali Patnana reflects on being separated from her family

Celebrating+Diwali%2C+the+festival+of+lights%2C+senior+Anjali+Patnana+poses+with+her+family.+Patnana+practices+Hinduism%2C+and+Diwali+is+a+big+celebration+with+family.+%E2%80%9CDiwali+is+so+much+fun%2C+it%E2%80%99s+nice+%5Bto+spend+time%5D+with+family%2C%E2%80%9D+Patnana+said.

Courtesy of Rhea Patnana

Celebrating Diwali, the festival of lights, senior Anjali Patnana poses with her family. Patnana practices Hinduism, and Diwali is a big celebration with family. “Diwali is so much fun, it’s nice [to spend time] with family,” Patnana said.

It was a warm night in Mumbai, India. All of senior Anjali Patnana’s family was gathered around at the conclusion of her family’s annual trip to India in summer 2019, saying their goodbyes. Wiping away her tears, little did Patnana know this would be her final goodbye. 

“Looking back, I wish I would have spent more time saying goodbye. I was too anxious to get to the airport. I wish I took my time saying goodbye,” Patnana said.

Every year for three weeks, Patnana visits her family in Mumbai, India. However, COVID-19 broke this tradition. 

“My family called us over FaceTime to tell us there wasn’t going to be a visit this year. It made my uncle really sad, so we changed topics. We were going to visit different parts of India together, but that isn’t going to happen now. By the time I see them, they will be two years older. I am missing out on growing up with them,” Patnana said.

Differing time zones have complicated Patnana’s communication with her family overseas. Mumbai is 11 hours and 30 minutes ahead of St. Louis. 

We were going to visit different parts of India together, but that isn’t going to happen now. By the time I see them, they will be two years older. I am missing out on growing up with them.”

— Anjali Patnana

“Their time zones [in Mumbai] are different, so it is kind of hard [to communicate]. Either they’re really tired or really awake, or it’s the other way around. There’s no in-between time we can call and the connection is really bad,” Patnana said. 

Patnana’s mother is a family practice doctor with Esse Health and has received her COVID-19 vaccinations. Her mom hopes to be able to travel to Mumbai to see her family in the near future.

“She’s vaccinated, so [getting COVID-19] doesn’t really make me nervous. It makes me hopeful that I might be able to go too someday soon,” Patnana said.

Patnana’s family in Mumbai has experienced COVID-19 differently. Their government placed more restrictions on citizens and mask-wearing and traveling is more highly-regulated. 

“There’s this weird system that you request [leaving your house] on this weird website. They get back to you quickly, in case of emergencies, but even to do little things like going to the grocery store, they have to get permission. Their lockdown is so strict,” Patnana said.

 COVID-19 has also impacted the way her cousins attend and experience school. 

“[My cousins] are just gonna do whatever they can this year for school and then just redo the year for next year. They’re literally doing nothing. All of them are very bored. It’s so weird. I would hate it,” Patnana said.

Throughout this experience, Patnana says that she has learned to be more grateful.

“I am grateful that we’re back in school and everything, because [my cousins] don’t have the privilege to do that. It is just very high risk over there. I’m so glad that I get to go out of my house without permission. Their life feels almost dystopian,” Patnana said.