Fear & Loathing in Covid India
Some of you may know this already, but three weeks ago, my family and I tested positive for Covid-19. As I type this, I'm swept by a feeling of immense, unbridled gratitude, because hey, I'm still alive to type this. Unlike the thousands affected by this disease in the last month.
Thankfully, our symptoms were mild. What wasn't mild, was the fear. It was a full-time task keeping that at bay. And it wasn't easy. When your 7-year-old is burning up with a fever inching past a 104 degrees at 12.30 at night, it isn't easy to not feel terrified. What's going to happen to her? What's going to happen to us? After all, as Whatsapp forward after helpful Whatsapp forward informed me, Covid affects major organs, leaves lasting after-effects. Would we ever completely get over it? What if I didn't? What if I died? What would happen to Pookie? What would happen to Rook? What would happen to my book? (I know, priorities.)
Naturally, we did everything we could to recover. Steam, proning, haldi milk and kadhas, soups and khichdi, fruits and electrolyte solutions. I tried pranic healing. I made potlis filled with spices and used them as inhalers. I popped Crocin pills and vitamins like they were Tic-Tacs. And slowly, miraculously, recover we did. I still have a lingering cough, my husband's sense of smell hasn't returned yet, but we're out of quarantine today, equipped with antibodies for the next month.
In the past three weeks however, I've become very aware of my blessings. I cannot imagine how we would've managed without our wonderful live-in help, who we brought on after my second slipped disc adventure. She had no symptoms thankfully, and she cared for us like we were family, taking all the necessary precautions. Friends and family checked in on us, some daily, and helped raise my spirits. Because it was too easy to slip into despair. When your body is aching, your head is throbbing and you can't stop coughing (okay, that sounds like a country song, but I'm going to plough through) it's easy to imagine the worst. When you see social media crammed with pleas for oxygen, for ICU beds, for the kindness of strangers, it is easy to wonder if soon your voice will join in the clamour. And yet, there we were. We could eat healthy meals, rest, afford medication and doctors.
Such privilege, I thought. And then I got angry.
Because this shouldn't be a privilege.
Regular meals, rest, access to doctors and healthcare - IT. SHOULDN'T. BE. A. PRIVILEGE.
But for so many of our countryfolk, it is. They are the ones running from pillar to post, begging the authorities to save the lives of their family members. They are the ones giving up their hospital beds so someone more critical can have access to oxygen. They are the ones dying.
I see people raging over how the US and Europe are patenting coronavirus medication so third world countries can't manufacture generic substitutes, how they aren't letting us have raw materials to make our Covid medicines. And yes, the outrage is justified. But when your house is on fire, you don't stop and think why the neighbours aren't helping. You wonder why your own people aren't.
As I read the headlines every day, there can be no doubt that our house is on fire. Some of us have made bucket chains to put out the inferno. Some are pulling each other to safety, away from the flames. And some, well, they've decided that they have more important things to do. That some parts of the house deserve to be extinguished, while others can be left to burn. Or that it's best to to pretend to outsiders that there isn't a fire at all.
All I can hope is, the rest of us make it through this. And that we remember this episode in our collective history. Till 2024, in the very least.