Lockdown diaries: Personal responsibility is most important, says P. R. Sreejesh

“You have to ensure to not just stay safe yourself, but also take responsibility for not infecting anyone else,” says India hockey goalkeeper P. R. Sreejesh.

“Anyone who is in public or forced to meet people, try and stay home as much as possible, don’t mingle much with people, use sanitisers and masks whenever you go out, always wash your hands if you touch something,” said P. R. Sreejesh.   -  Special Arrangement

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down world sports, but it has had an unexpected fallout — spare time for elite sportspersons to catch up on things that they normally struggle to do.

For P. R. Sreejesh, it is the ideal time to clear his backlog of unread books — the man is a self-confessed bibliophile who devours biographies whenever possible. Right now, the centre of attention for the Indian hockey team goalkeeper and former captain, at the Sports Authority of India Centre in Bengaluru, happens to be The Story of my Life by Helen Keller.

In an interview, Sreejesh says that if he had to be quarantined with anyone it would be his family. “We are away from them for so long through the year that if I am ever isolated and have nowhere to go, I would want my family with me,” he says.

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How is the entire situation right now in the camp?

Here it is all normal; there is nothing exceptional. The Sports Authority of India Centre (in Bengaluru) is in total shut down for everyone except us — the hockey teams and a couple of elite athletes who have either qualified for the Olympics or trying to. Even among the centre staff, the strength has been reduced to less than half. Only those who are actually staying inside are being allowed; all other contract staff have been stopped from coming. I would say right now we are being provided the best possible facilities in the country.

Can you explain how the events have panned out since the pandemic first broke out?

See, for us, there has not been much change before and after. Since we were already in camp when it actually broke out seriously and have been here since then, the routine hasn’t altered much inside. We have always had certain restrictions whenever we went out even before this; now it has only become stricter. There are sanitisers everywhere, everyone is advised to wash hands often, and we are not allowed to meet the public or go outside.

We have gone outside a couple of times, but now after the lockdown, there is a small general shop about 100m away and we go only till there. If you ask me, everyone knows the intensity and seriousness of the situation and what precautions must be taken. Everyone has been informed and we are ourselves not allowing anyone to come inside or near the team.

How’s the hygiene and social-distancing scene in the camp?

It is easy to stay protected because everyone is aware of the situation. Before and after every session, we wash our hands with soap, water and sanitiser. Also before and after every meal, we do it. Everyone is aware and taking great care of personal hygiene and even clothes are being washed not just with normal water but using antiseptics like Dettol. It actually feels good to be responsible.

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Is it easier for someone like you who anyway spends a large part in camps away from family? How is your family coping?

Isolation or staying away from family per se is not a very different thing; we have been doing it for years. But in the present situation, we know we are safe inside, but there is concern for families outside. When we think of them and the effects the coronavirus has had across the world, specially its impact on kids and older people, it is a concern.

My dad is over 60 and also a heart patient; my kids are three- and six-years-old, so it’s even more worrying. The good thing is that so far, there have been no positive cases or even symptoms in anyone in my village or near my home. But the fact that being so far, we cannot do anything about it is worrying sometimes. Now that the borders are all closed, no trains or flights or even buses, we know we cannot go home even if we want to. All I can do is tell them to stay home and stay safe, not allow my dad to go out even to the market, not allow my kids to go out to play and stay home.

How has the training been affected? Is it the same or has it changed in this situation?

Training has not been affected. We are doing as usual thanks to SAI, all the facilities superb till today... We don’t even know when we will play the next tournaments, matches, tours, anything. So we are trying to change our training schedules, loads, methods and routines...

The centre of attention for P. R. Sreejesh happens to be 'The Story of my Life' by Helen Keller. “Some of the ones I have finished include 'Carry on, Warrior' by Glennon Doyle Melton, 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' by Stephen Covey and 'Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow' by Yuval Noah Harari,” he said.

 

What do you do in your spare time now since you can’t go out anywhere?

Actually, there is no additional spare time, unlike for others! Since our training has continued as usual and the camp is nonstop, there has been little change to our schedules. But, yes, on weekends there is some extra time on hands. Earlier we would go out for coffee or simply walk around the city, but now I am using this time to catch up on books. I have a huge collection and a backlog that I normally read on tours and during travel, but now I am doing it in camp itself. Some of the ones I have finished include Carry on, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari. I have managed over a dozen this year so far! Then there are movies online and we have also started playing volleyball occasionally to break the monotony and routine.

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If you had to be isolated or quarantined with one person, who would that be?

My family, no questions about it! You also know how much time we get to spend with family and kids and parents. We are away from them for so long through the year that if I am ever isolated and have nowhere to go, I would want my family with me. Nothing would be better than being with them 24x7, spending time with my kids. I don’t think I will ever get bored with that!

Does sport matter in these times?

Yes, it does, but not more than human life. Unless you are alive and healthy, sports will matter little. If there has to be a choice made, your health and family should come first. Nothing is worth more than that, not even sports for a professional athlete.

What’s your message to the fans?

There is only one way to avoid getting the virus and stop its spread — personal hygiene and social distancing. Distance in life is very important. Anyone who is in public or forced to meet people, try and stay home as much as possible, don’t mingle much with people, use sanitisers and masks whenever you go out, always wash your hands if you touch something. Taking a bath every day, even twice a day, when you come back home. That would be great!

The most important thing is to understand personal responsibility. If you think you are safe, you wouldn’t be affected and that it happens to others, you are wrong. No one is superhuman in this world, none of us is exceptional. You have to ensure to not just stay safe yourself, but also take responsibility for not infecting anyone else.