It was around 3 A.M. in India, when my friend texted me in despair, looking for any leads on hospitals in Kolkata, India, that would potentially have a bed available for a COVID infected patient.
She had been frantically calling every single hospital in Kolkata — all occupied — and unable to offer any more space, even for one extra patient. A couple days prior to this, I lost my high school teacher to the disease.
The second wave of the COVID-19 crisis has shaken India and its medical system to its core. The rising COVID cases show no signs of slowing down, as India now accounts for 1 out of every 3 COVID cases in the world, at this moment in time.
What makes matters even worse for India, which also happens to be the world’s biggest democracy, and hosts the second largest population in the world, is the incompetence of the ruling government and the lack of healthcare facilities.
Two months ago, Modi’s government had hailed him as a “visionary leader,” who had already “defeated” the virus. Now two months later, India stands at a crucial point in time, having witnessed 2812 more deaths of its citizens on Monday alone, with 117 Indians dying due to COVID every hour.
There is a lack of oxygen cylinders across most hospitals in the country and almost all of them have reached full capacity with COVID infected patients. Doctors are begging for oxygen cylinders from various hospitals, in order to keep the ventilator going for the most crucial patients.
Towards the end of the day, oxygen levels decrease below warning signs, and the doctors go searching again, desperately trying to save their patients. Despite countries like the United States and neighbouring nations like Pakistan, offering help, experts say that the condition is likely to get worse.
Around the end of March, Indians in large numbers attended the Hindu pilgrimage and festival of Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, India, ignoring all social distancing rules and regulations. No strict governmental rules were applied, and people were allowed to flock and gather in such large numbers to celebrate the festival, because apparently maintaining traditions is more important than the innumerable lives that the gathering put at risk.
To add fuel to fire, BJP hosted large rallies to garner votes from West Bengal for upcoming elections, once again following none of the COVID-19 protocols. For the government, winning an election is of a higher priority than protecting its people from a deadly pandemic.
The Prime Minister has had nothing new to say in his address to the nation. There is an extremely heavy price the nation is paying for how the government decided to deal with this pandemic.
What the second wave has also exposed, is the superficiality of the privileged class in India, as they freely travel to Maldives during the pandemic, shamelessly posting pictures of their luxurious vacation at a time when a significant population of the nation are dying due to lack of resources.
Celebrities like Disha Patani, Shraddha Kapoor, Tiger Shroff, amongst others were seen vacationing in Maldives and posting about it. These are the people who can afford to be in lockdown, because their family’s survival doesn’t depend on their day’s earnings.
Moreover they flaunt their privilege by posting pictures, during trying times like these, when a large number of people in the country are starving due to the lockdown. For many, if they don’t work for a single day, they wouldn’t have enough money for a day’s meal.
The sheer lack of empathy from the privileged class in India, has held the mirror in front of the world, and made the economic divide very visible. Maldives had to ban all Indian tourists to stop the COVID-19 spread.
The current times are hard for everybody’s mental, emotional and physical health. It is utterly depressing to open social media everyday and watch the numbers go up, with people dying due to lack of resources, and having to receive news of an acquaintances’ death.
But if all we have to deal with is social media, when there are doctors, frontline workers, and family members fighting tooth and nail, trying to save people, I guess we are the privileged ones.
A friend who is helping people out with getting hospital beds and oxygen cylinders in India says that “it is draining, and there is an intense amount of guilt involved in not being able to help all people.”
Every other post on my social media is about somebody asking for help, and somebody else trying to help or offer some information. Those who are unable to help directly are helping with food, money, and donating to buying oxygen cylinders.
This is not the rich who can afford to stay in their privileged zone while the whole nation burns. These are common people who are helping each other out, simply because the government isn’t.
India has been turned into a cremation ground, and yet we are collectively fighting this war, for ourselves and for others, against all odds, in hopes of igniting that light at the end of the tunnel.
This article is more of a message of urgency, from me and from millions of Indians who are fighting this war, that if you can help, please do.
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About the author: Roshni is a self-proclaimed Comedy Queen who specializes in laughing at her own jokes. Her hobbies include making people smile, watching movies and analysing them, reading books, practicing yoga (occasionally), hogging on well-cooked biryani and scrolling through dog videos and memes on Instagram. Her love for writing stems from her love for art in general, which is fuelled by her background in theatre. Catch on her instagram at @roshni_rakshit daily, where she regularly shares her experience with movies and occasionally offends people with her political sense of humour.