By Deepa Rai
My nephew was born on 22 March 2020, just two days before the lockdown. The news of newly set up ‘fever clinic’ in Patan hospital was enough to give its patients and their families- chills. Rumor of a recently admitted COVID-19 patient was also doing rounds in the maternity ward. Contrary to our expectations, we were happy that the newest member of our family didn’t get the usual welcome visits by family and friends. Amidst the fear of pandemic, indifferent hospital staff and a pediatrician who didn’t know how to unzip onesie (commented that the baby should be wearing ‘easy’ outfit so that he could check the baby more quickly and disappear just as fast as he had come in), my brother and sister-in-law waited patiently to return home.
25 March arrived but the ambulance they had booked in advance, didn’t. Their wait was little over three hours on the day they were discharged from hospital. They finally made it home in a taxi that was dropping off an emergency patient. Sheer luck that they found one.
While I was posting this incident on twitter (image on the right), I was thinking of those in similar situations in far-flung districts. How would new mothers fare in such situations? Lack of vehicle coordination in one hospital had already seen several patients stranded in its premises. This was only the beginning of lockdown effects that the country was to face. It was a grim realization of what was yet to come.
For the next two months, grocery shopping, buying essentials for newborn, cooking, all of these chores got shared among the big family of 11. Attending virtual meetings with toddlers constantly knocking on the door became a new normal. I became an accidental chef to my own surprise (and that of my family). ‘Extremely busy’ became the new normal too. Juggling house chores with professional work had a different meaning. ‘How can I be fully productive when I have to shift from one role to the next without a break?’ This question kept hitting me but then I surprised myself, yet again. It could be done. It needed to be done.
The news of people on their long march home having lost their jobs due to lockdown made me realize the state of vulnerability that our state was in. No, I couldn’t be moaning about having a busy worklife. I trudged on, though frustrated, insecure, agitated and at times, angry – much to the dismay of my family who had to bear the brunt of my behavior. That makes me come to yet another revelation of the lockdown, of how lucky I was to be with my family – children’s constant shouting, and crying for attention included.
‘What are we doing’ as a nation to help them?
The desperation is real but limitations, even more so.
I shut down the news for a week.
A close friend reminisced about the humble lives she had met in the past in a short memoir, wondering how they are surviving during lockdown. The heart-felt piece left me feeling guilty of the privilege that I was in. It brought up the same question of ‘what are we doing’ as a nation to help them? The desperation is real but limitations, even more so. I shut down the news for a week.
Other friends are busy posting photos on social media of their new found passion for baking, mithai-making and tiktok-ing, a cool respite from the burning issues of hunger, hysteria and the helplessness that pandemic has brought in. This goes on to show that despite of frustration and agitation, we are surviving and slowly conquering the pandemic, by staying home, by staying sane and by spreading love albeit in distance.
A quote shared by another close friend hits home for all of us.