India is burning.
You can take this sentence to mean many things. India is raging under the worst crisis to hit it in recent times. You could also talk about it, picturing the fire burning in the crematoriums currently.
And it is but only the Corona Virus crisis that has reduced this country to the imagery of burning pyres at crematoriums and overcrowded burial grounds and thereafter, unfolding of a disaster of epic proportions.
It is a world fraught with sickness and death and morbid thoughts and a feeling of ‘when is our turn coming,’ as human lives mean nothing and people die, like flies being swatted. A hundred today, more tomorrow and not to know how many will be there, the day after.
Death may not claim everyone but the disease has spread its tentacles all over. As Shakespeare would have said, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” used to signify a situation where things are going extremely wrong.
And illness is everywhere, like a bad whiff of air.
Almost everybody we know is infected.
Close friends and their families are positive. Many relatives are too. At least more than a dozen people I personally know, are in a similar state, in the neighbourhood. My best friend’s husband was extremely sick. Some friends are in the ICU, some on ventilators, battling for their lives as the scarcity of oxygen means their lives are hanging by a thread.
As for how they caught the infection, everybody is vague or at best totally unaware about how they caught it. But when they retrace their steps, there are some pointers. “We had provided food to someone who turned out Corona positive a few days later so I feel it must have come from there with an exchange of tiffins,” says a friend who is currently recovering after the mandatory 15 day infection period. Some say they were infected despite never stepping out of their homes. So, it’s a mystery, really.
The reality may be hard to digest but what’s happening is as real as can be and for so many people, there is no hope right now. I write this and the very next day, I hear news of three people from the media, a similar profession like mine, losing their lives. It doesn’t matter that the couple that died, left behind a young daughter. Another person leaves behind his wife and young son. So many are being orphaned, so many breadwinners are being snatched away and the Corona crisis keeps raging with more fuel being added as the days pass by.
To top it all, if there are underlying conditions that cause death in a Corona infected person, this horror story becomes even more horrific at the crematorium. It was a shock to know through a friend who narrated how there was a debate over a Covid positive person dying of a heart attack so the death certificate said only that and not that he was Covid infected too. So, his cremation took hours as authorities at the crematorium could not decide whether to send the dead body over to the Covid area or the Non-Covid area. Rules and regulations that do not take human grief into account!
And it feels like we are all sitting ducks, waiting fearfully for our turn; vaccinated or not because it really makes no difference. Of course, the severity of the infection could be less, but that’s all.
Even a minor cough last week made me feel that perhaps it was descending on me too, as well-meaning friends suggested a CT scan immediately. That I didn’t do it, is another story. It’s gone. The cough. But then one never knows, do they?
The steadily rising infection rate seems to be getting worse and the crisis continues as the government has its blinkers on and is yet to think of a lockdown, unlike last year when it was lauded for a lockdown at the right time and coming out with flying colours in managing this crisis.
For most who are safe till now, it will not matter until they or somebody close to them gets infected. I know if I do and my family does, we will face the horrors that millions are facing, right now, if it gets serious. A mild case can ensure home quarantine and recovery but if it is severe, the sword over our head will be the elusive search for a hospital bed and oxygen if needed or plasma or whatever, that can make one understand that this situation is no worse than a living hell. Death, perhaps, is more becoming.
Once again we are back to the situation, like last year. Except for this time the damage is uncontrollable. What has made it worse is the no lockdown situation, election rallies and religious gatherings that are all meant to crowdplease. Vaccinations are slow to happen and the latest in the happenings of this sinking ship is the flight of the country’s biggest Covid 19 vaccine maker Poonawala to the greener shores of London. A premeditated move? We don’t know. But it certainly doesn’t spell out hope.
People are furious, they are angry and yet they are helpless as a genocide like situation plays out, in real life. While we pray for the ones seriously ill and give hope to their families, trying to help out in little ways we can; we can also feel and sense the smell of fear that is all-pervasive because it can touch anybody, anytime.
And the blame game continues. While a lot of people are ready to look at the medical staff who saved their lives as akin to God, the other side of the story is those who have been at the receiving end of doctors leaving them in the lurch. “My doctor refused to take my calls after the initial consulting period, as we were all positive and quarantined inside our home,” said a friend. Another blames the hospital staff for not tending to his father on time, causing the man’s death. Of course, the lack of oxygen and hospital beds is a story that every child in India will be familiar with, at this time of crisis, if they grow up to survive and remember this period as one of the blackest in this nations ever.
Of course, the ruling government sat on its laurels of last year. Of course they felt so smug with international and national praise coming their way for handling last year’s Corona crisis so deftly that it went to their heads. They were ill-prepared for a deluge like this year. They could not prevent a Japan-like Tsunami of March 2011, in the form of Covid19 descending on us and yet, they could have done their bit. Little as it may be?
While we know that something like this cannot be easily controlled in a country like India with its huge population and large lack of amenities, there has to be some accountability. Why weren’t basic issues like the lack of oxygen and hospital beds looked into? Why wasn’t it controlled at any level? Why isn’t the foreign aid reaching us when we know that so many countries are trying to help us tide over this? Why is the black marketeering of essential drugs to treat Covid happening? Everything that has to go wrong, is going wrong as the government sits tight on this volcano.
All the information about all this is in the public domain and yet no action is taken. And that is where the accountability of the government lies. We did not expect India to come out of this beautifully but we could have controlled the disaster it is becoming, every single day, as the bodies pile up and there are no damage control measures. Clearly, they don’t care.
And yet, despite it all.
The one and only good thing to come out of all this is our belief in humanity. The forgotten and pushed to the back of beyond stories of recovery despite odds, the good Samaritans that saved lives, the plasma therapy that gave a new lease of life to somebody when the colour of blood didn’t have any religion stamped on it, the various WhatsApp groups that are helping even important people like ambassadors and diplomats who are not shying away from asking from help there. If not the government, the people will find a way to help each other out of this crisis. That has worked, in so many cases.
Many people are recovering too and the shock of the illness has probably changed their mindset. Says a friend who was home quarantined with 10 days of fever and some congestion, “My experience has given me a new positivity. I’m grateful I had so much support. I’m now reading motivational books, eating right, taking all my medicines and I feel I can help others who need guidance with this illness. One should do proning exercises to strengthen the lungs, pranayama, drinking warm water, eating only fresh food, avoiding negative news and focusing only on positivity.” She says this can help reduce the trauma one goes under while battling Covid 19. She’s among the few lucky ones who have found their little spot of prayer in survival.
Another friend took sick violently, with fever at home and then the hospital and finally the ICU where he spent many days, battling the virus with oxygen support and later on plasma therapy. “I’m recovering now and though I feel weak and different now, Im grateful and in a happy space right now.” He should know after fighting the disease for almost a month and slowly recovering. But it was not easy. Right from getting a hospital bed to the search for plasma, it was almost like he got a new life. The prayers have helped here.
This is what matters. Despite the stories of death and callousness and neglect, there is still a bit of hope we cling to. In this hour, we saw some of the good faces of humanity that we would not have seen otherwise and perhaps that is the only thing that can keep one going, in such bleak times.
Meanwhile, I wake up to the siren of ambulances every morning and mutter a silent prayer for the people who are next in line, for this suffering to run its course. Covid 19 has damaged India irreparably and hopefully, it will become an albatross around the neck of the ruling political party, as it should, in times to come.