Rasheeda Bhagat

A silver lining amidst the Covid horrors

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on May 24, 2021

O2 help Oxygen langa r   -  PTI

Small acts of compassion in these tragic times are going a long way in bringing solace to people

Whoever we might blame — the government or our own irresponsible behaviour — for the terrible state of affairs on the Covid front, as the second wave of the coronavirus rips apart our country, exposing huge inadequacies in the healthcare infrastructure, each of us is dealing with a loss in one form or the other.

While only the gods know what Dalal Street is celebrating, sending equity indices to record new highs, it is now certain that millions of jobs have been lost and the economic havoc caused by this pandemic, once again necessitating lockdowns across India in different forms, is colossal.

Economic woes can hopefully be sorted out, slowly and painfully. But a life snuffed out cruelly by this virus, will never return. The obit columns in newspapers are exploding, these days one has to wait for “a slot” to cremate a loved one, and heartbreaking accounts are being shared, almost by the hour, of a kith or kin succumbing to Covid. Some of them are as young as 24 or 25.

A heartbreaking loss was that of S Vaidyanathan, who once headed BusinessLine’s Research Bureau. A champion of the physically disabled, and mentor to thousands, he has left behind a huge void. I head a small team of 15 people; our finance executive lost her husband to the coronavirus; he was only 48. She now faces the grim prospect of being a single parent to her college-going son. Another colleague lost his mother; she was 78, but so healthy she had never been inside a hospital except for a minor surgery. The third lost his father two days ago.

My own family is dealing with the loss of my sister-in-law; luckily we were able to find her a bed with an ICU in the best possible hospital in Chennai. She valiantly fought for 29 days, 24 of them hooked on to a ventilator, before succumbing to the grim reaper.

Unprecedented crisis

Those of us nearing 60, or on the wrong side of it, have never been through such a horrific scenario. Sixteen months have gone by and most of the world has no clue how to effectively deal with a tiny virus that keeps mutating, developing new variants just when we thought we had a set of good vaccines, and whose tentacles are sparing nobody.

Do you remember a scenario when you were petrified to step out of your home, and went scurrying for a mask, sorry double masks now, every time the door bell rang? The privileged among us gave up walking on the beachfront or public roads for over a year, and got our 8,000-10,000 mandatory steps on our terraces or compounds. But these days, I find people walking on their own terraces masked, scared that this time around, the air-borne virus would attack them from a neighbouring house.

And with passing weeks, all that was regarded as medical or conventional wisdom is being blown away. We are warned against steam inhalation, with water fortified with all our traditional ingredients such as tulsi, ajwan, eucalyptus oil and what not. Tiny particles may stick in your nasal passage and cause a problem where none existed. WHO frowns on the use of Remdesivir, the “wonder drug” which was blackmarketed at steep prices in our country.

Panic over medication

There is so much of fear of death from a Covid infection that despite sane medical advice, even in the mildest of cases there is panic and self-diagnosis and medication. Fairly healthy lungs are subjected to CT scans, despite AIIMS director and other eminent infectious diseases specialists repeatedly saying that a lung X-ray for mild infections, which has 300-400 times less radiation exposure, than a CT scan, will suffice. Then there is the rush to give steroids, when not warranted and in large doses, because people are in such a state of panic, when a dear one tests positive for Covid.

But every cloud has a silver lining. Forget philanthropists and large corporates, the way ordinary Indians are reaching out and helping the less fortunate in the community, is heartwarming. It is not just throwing money, but the starting of an oxygen langar by Sikhs, a friend’s daughter reaching cooked meals to the quarantined, Hindu neighbours burying Muslims and Muslims helping in the cremation of Hindu friends, a Hindu doctor reciting a Koran verse to a dying Muslim woman in a Covid ICU, and many more.

These may be small acts in normal times but are nothing short of heroic in the times we live in. They are bound to help us heal as a nation, not only physically but also psychologically.

Published on May 24, 2021

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