Its been more than a year since the pandemic took the shape of a pandemic from a localized outbreak. Since March 2020 — I along with many of my fellow world citizens have been living life measured by “2 week phases”. Each of these 2 week phases was surrounded by thoughts like — “Ok, today 10,000 people in my country have COVID — so they will be better in 2 weeks and may be others will understand and stop the spread”, “Ok so my neighbor has COVID, so in 2 weeks they too shall recover, so better be extra cautious”, “Ok, now that the cases are at all time low, in 2 weeks we will know if that really is the true picture”, “Ok now that all ICU beds are full, lets hope that they become empty in 2 weeks and no one catches serious COVID in my friends and family till then” — This almost reminds me of Sunny Doel’s famous dialogue — “Tareekh Pe Tareekh”.
In the early phase of the pandemic initial thoughts & conversations with friends where around the lines of “what can we do to be more useful — should we develop indigenous ventilators, some health checking tools?” (these thoughts were based on the fact that I work with a Electronic Hardware specialist firm with good design & mammoth manufacturing capability). We later realized that making anything related to healthcare will require years of permission seeking and expertise building. So that wave of thought of being useful in current situation subsided. All we could do is to carry ourselves with positive outlook at the virtual work meetings and stay home, protected so that we do not increase the national case load. That phase of compromise — where I felt generally useless to do anything to help aid COVID relief — lasted from May 2020 till about February 2021.
Since March 2021 the situation had turned horrific & frankly speaking paralytic. The invisible enemy of sorts had waged a full blown assault on many cities, towns & even rural areas of India. My extended family had a few cases of COVID in April and they required hospitalization and oxygen (not ICU, mercifully). The amounts of calls and messages each of my family members made to get them a oxygenated beds reminded us of how fragile we are — as a system — in front of the virus. Luckily, or as “Karma” would have it, both candidates got beds — recovered well and are back home since about “2 weeks”!
Amidst all these, I and many others kept on hearing & seeing stories like — shortage of injections, ICU Beds, Oxygen, medicines, online media filled with people’s CT Chest Scans (with disastrous CORAD Scores), high values of CRP reports just floating around everywhere for help — not to mention daily newspaper headlines painting a scary caseload & death growth picture every day for about “2 weeks” since ~21 of April to ~7 of May.
Many outrages blamed the government, many the people at large for violating the norms, some blamed the vaccine manufacturers for not getting the vaccine out on time.
A few interesting questions were posed during these debates — one which stuck me out right, is how much money should we donate where? As taxpaying citizens we already give ~30–40% of our yearly income to the Government which by logic invests them in making public health infrastructure, schools, roads & defending the country. The country also services its debt which it had taken to accelerate such developmental project. Its really a question worthy of thinking for all taxpayers of India. Answers to that questions will ultimately lead you to holding accountability for shortages of any kind faced during the pandemic.
You will also realize like I did, that the Indian system thrives on shortages. If there is a shortage, people will hoard, hoarding gives rise to black market, black market busting gives police right to raid, raiding leads to money give & take (corruption), money ultimately reaches the “babus” who created shortages in the first place by faulty regulations.
It genuinely crossed my mind, like it would have for many tax payers, to leave India and pay taxes elsewhere where the systems are more efficient. People are more responsible and Governments show ample accountability.
On the other hand, if I think about it, situation like this was expected in dense, large country like India. Its just that because of early lockdown the peak was delayed. In that context we were not completely successful in flattening any curve, but we did manage to delay the peak by a year or so.
Amidst all the debate, I can hope that the following things will happen A: the polity of the Indian state will become mature — both citizens and the public officials. B: citizens having seen & heard the horrors of the pandemic, start behaving more responsibly & C: citizens of the world acknowledge and appreciate the magnanimity of “a” global crisis and buck up and respond to “the” other impending global crisis — climate change.
Which brings me to the concluding thought chain of the piece — The initial uselessness which I felt when confronted with the initial phase of this pandemic has led me to formulate a rule of thumb. We as humanity are confronted with multiple global enemies. Biological, military, social & environmental. Each enemy requires a force of good to fight against it. Like a military aggression is defended by a military specialist group, a biological enemy defended by doctors & health care professionals (like the current pandemic). The next and ongoing theater of defense will be environmental and we will need people with social & engineering specialty to defend against it.
Hence, its best to align ourselves to aid these defenses in some way. By aligning, I mean either channel our professional career in that direction & / or tune our habits in that direction. If that’s not done, you will risk feeling pretty useless at the peak of such attacks or worst you would be actually indirectly aiding such enemies of humanity.
(this was the part 2 of the series on t > COVID — part 1 is here — https://medium.com/@gandhikunjan/tgreaterthancovid19-5c7fa4161b3a)