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They say that advertisers should stick to the business of making money. They say that advertisers should never talk about their personal feelings. Well, I’m an advertiser, but I’m still human. And I have to get this off my chest.

 Every January for the past twenty years I’ve flown to India for my annual vacation. This year I can’t go, thanks to our friend COVID. I consider India to be my winter home and I feel heartsick about being grounded. I feel like I’m letting people down.

I promised Murugan, the caretaker at my usual bed and breakfast in Pondicherrry, that this year I’d help him block mice out of the pavilion they call the “Karma Room.” But I won’t be much help from 10,000 miles away.

The B&B is run by a Korean woman named Ahnjong and about once a week she invites all her guests to have dinner together. “Mike, a bunch of us are eating at Surguru tonight,” she always tells me at check-in. “You’re coming, right?” I know she picked that day for my benefit. This year, though, the tables at Surguru will see few world travelers.

I won’t be renting a motorcycle from Shiva. He always teaches me new words in the local language, Tamil, but my Tamil is set to get rusty. I hope his business, heavily dependent on tourists, weathers the storm.

My rickshaw driver, Raju, will also be suffering for lack of tourist money. On my last day in India, he drives me to the Chennai airport, usually at 5 a.m. I give him a healthy tip and I know he relies on that income. He has a wife and kids and they eke out a very marginal existence. I can just picture his pained face.

COVID is raging, I can’t get home and people I care about are suffering. My thoughts are with them, but thoughts don’t pay the bills. Those people are survivors, though, and survivors… survive. That’s what I hope, anyway. Have a good week, everybody… just surviving.

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