Torn between fury and worry

I landed in India in the third week of January and felt I was in another universe. Sure people were masked. There were token gestures made about my covid negative status but other than that it was like the country was pandemic free.

Having suffered New York in the early stages of the pandemic and coming from a country where many, thought not all are gripped by covid paranoia, the Indian attitude was utterly alien.

“We’ve beaten the pandemic.”

“We went through a horrific lockdown but we’ve turned the corner.”

“Our immunity is high.”

We drink kadha, do steam inhalation, eat fresh veggies, have haldi in our diet”

“We took BCG shots.”

Be it as it may, none of the reasons made scientific sense but I agree could have been contributing factors, which explains why I landed into a country where life was bouncing back to normal. Weddings, cocktail parties, travel and trips had been reinstated. People laughed at my scepticism. Because I double masked, maintained distance and for the most part, stayed home.

Then March rolled around. Vaccine frenzy took centre space. But silently something else took over too. The virus! As I got set to return to my life in the US, covid got set to return with a bang.

Why did this happen? There can be no conclusive reason. Were people lax? Maybe they were but I feel the populace is less to blame. They were masking. Maybe not distancing much but most things in India are outdoors so the risk is minimized. In my mind there are three over riding reasons.

First the politicians decided to overlook the virus for political campaigning. The mass rallies did not help curtail the spread. There was barely any masking and much shouting and cheering. Spit travels. And carries a virus along.

Then there was the kumbh where millions of people converged in a narrow space to dip on the river. And then travelled back to their homes in trains, buses and planes. They carried excess and undeclared baggage. A parting gift for their religious endevaours.

And finally, and more importantly, the government was caught on the wrong foot. The previous year’s lockdown was never meant to be an answer to curtailing a pandemic. It was a time to take stock and prepare. History has shown that a pandemic doesn’t disappear in a few months. And if not history, then the conditions in other countries should have been an eye-opener. There were second, third and even fourth waves all over the world. That’s debatable because often case it’s just the previous wave hadn’t ended. But India did not restrict to or from these countries. Why did India think she was different? Was India really immune? Why did the government not stock up on oxygen cylinders, ventilators? Improve hospital capacity? Why were the large covid centres dismantled? These are crucial reasons for the virus spread.

And the virus is mutating. Because that’s what viruses do. It is attacking the younger population supposedly with higher immunity. And it’s also attacking people who’ve had the vaccine. Who believed a vaccine means the disease won’t affect you? A vaccine means the virus is injected in you. Hence the reactions in the first place. You develop immunity but some people get the disease. Albeit a mild attack.

So now there is panic. Fear. Paranoia. Finger pointing. And another lockdown. But is that the answer? Thankfully there’s no plate banging or lighting lights. But there’s an eery silence. Why not a measured response with facts? The cases have gone up but many are mild. People are recovering. Death precentages are low as a total of the whole. The public needs reassurance. Even one life is a life lost so NO death is the only acceptable statistic. So stop everyone rushing to the hospitals. They cannot cope with the influx. People who are needy can’t get a bed and those who could have been managed at home are using up beds. And the overwhelming lack of preparedness is now playing out on the world stage. Talk about embarrasment and shame.

We didn’t need to reach this situation if the government had been prepared.

We wouldn’t have faced this if vaccinations had been rolled out earlier.

We wouldn’t have reached this situation if people with underlying conditions and co morbidities were encouraged to stay home and the rest continued with life following covid protocol.

But I’m not a doctor. Or a scientist. Or any expert.

I’m just an Indian pulled between fury at the situation and worry about family and friends stuck in a country spiralling out of all control.

And I just want to shout out, “I TOLD YOU SO”.

But how will that help matters?

All we can do is hope.

And send out positive energy.

And try to dissipate this fear-mongering.

I am not a conspiracy theorist nor do I believe this was a political strategy for power. Or a pharma led control of the world. But sometimes, in the middle of another sleepless night, I cannot help but think…what if there is a grain of truth there?

When the world is without fear, we will all awake.



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