Content Note: This article contains a discussion of the death of Covid-19
Of all the Indian news that bombarded me in the past two months, this is what comes to mind the most: reports of people being forced to pay exorbitant bribes to officials. of the government just to be able to perform the last rites for their loved ones who died of COVID-19. There is something about this picture that sums up the depravity of India’s COVID-19 crisis; even in death, Indian citizens have not received the dignity and compassion they need and deserve.
These days I find myself more at a loss for words than usual. For weeks, I wrote and rewrote my thoughts and feelings about the situation in India over and over again, if only to relieve the pressure that has been a constant presence in my chest. And yet, no matter how much I write, how much I get high, or how much I distract myself from it, I’m constantly in a contradictory state of feeling both overwhelmed and completely numb.
“For almost a month, my days were marked by the news of someone falling seriously ill from COVID-19 or dying. A friend’s grandfather. My father’s college friends. A great uncle. My mother’s friends from school ”
I’ve tried taking extended breaks from social media, if only to prevent panic from setting in even more after going through my timeline and seeing back-to-back demands for hospital beds, oxygen or drugs. While this detox has helped somewhat, I haven’t really been left out, mainly because most of my immediate and extended family are in India.
Every day while I am studying for Tripos, my parents are required to share an update on the situation in India. For almost a month, my days have been marked by the news of someone falling terribly ill with COVID-19 or dying. A friend’s grandfather. My father’s college friends. A great uncle. My mom’s friends from school. And every night when my dad listens to the Tamil news from India and the statistics are announced, I wonder if the person I heard about that day has been recognized as part of the official statistics, or if their death has escaped the radar, never to be recognized by a government that has left its citizens to suffer so cruelly.
As the family biologist, I took on the role of resident stalker, constantly reminding everyone to wear a mask and asking if they have enough PPE and hand sanitizer. A recent call with my grandmother ended with me in tears as I begged her to stay home and let my uncle do the shopping instead. I have sent countless messages to my family asking them to get the vaccine as soon as they can but, given the lack of doses, it turned out to be in vain.
It also meant that I had to quell my frustration with those who are skeptical of science. Time and time again, several of my relatives refused to wear masks, partly because of the hot and humid weather, but also because there was an underlying assumption that they would “ not get it ”, in especially when India saw a drop in cases. at the end of last year. It’s tragic that it took the death of one of my great-uncles and a few other parents for everyone to sober up and practice social distancing.
“What really bothers me is how this catastrophe, brought on by a government that refused to listen to science and leaves each state to fend for itself, was also complicit in the promotion of pseudoscience.”
But what really bothers me is how this catastrophe, brought on by a government that has refused to listen to science and leaves each state to fend for itself, has also been complicit in the promotion of pseudoscience. Last March, the Modi administration asked people to light oil lamps and bang pots and pans, citing this as a way to get rid of ‘corona’ through sound vibrations. Ruling party (BJP) ministers have claimed that cow urine and foods like turmeric milk could help cure the coronavirus. And in light of the hot air balloon crisis, people are increasingly resorting to these measures, some even spreading cow dung on their bodies.
Every day I wake up hoping that it will finally be the day I no longer hear from anyone getting sick or dying, and by the time I go to bed I’m upset, full of hopelessness and despair. The fact that all Indians I know feel the same is both a source of comfort and a curse for me, in that I am not alone in this situation, but at the same time millions of Indians have been abandoned by the very people who should have protected them and their families. It’s the worst for me, this whole disaster could have been avoided and yet it was not. All of this could have been avoided if the Modi administration had prioritized investments in healthcare infrastructure. If they had not insisted that the Kumbh Mela, where millions of Hindu pilgrims bathe in the Ganges, take place and then issue a half-hearted recommendation to avoid embarking on the pilgrimage, once it was too late. If they had not continued to hold elections in 5 states and had allowed full rallies to be held, then delay the counting of votes one month even if cases increased and applicants got sick or worse, deceased. It’s infuriating and, honestly, just heartbreaking to see that millions of people have been left on their own, just so few politicians are scoring extra points and political clout, of which they already have a lot.
As Arundhati Roy wrote his editorial so well, what’s going on in India is a crime against humanity. The sheer incompetence and harshness of the Modi administration has left millions of Indians feeling lost and abandoned. Even more puzzling, though not surprisingly, there remains a faction of Modi supporters who fervently clings to the hope that Modi and his fellow BJP lackeys will always save them with their ‘cow science’ . And when it comes to diaspora Indians like me and overseas Indian citizens, we are left to watch helplessly, with a mixture of guilt and relief that we are not living the reality of being in India right now. .
We have been left to lose, wherever we are.
If you want to support aid campaigns in India:
The Oxbridge Student Action Fundraiser for COVID Relief in India: https://www.gofundme.com/f/oxford-student-action-for-covid-relief-in-india?utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer
Ongoing fundraising: https://mutualaidindia.com/
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