The explosion of daily coronavirus cases and deaths in India is in stark, depressing contrast with the proactively managed first wave of COVID-19 last year. The entire country is currently being ravaged by the second wave of the global pandemic, which has turned out to be far deadlier than its predecessor.
At the beginning of the second wave there was nation-wide shortage of oxygen. Major hospitals and much-revered doctors were forced to resort to desperate public pleas for help on social media. We hear of families desperately scrambling for remdesivir, tocilizumab, convalescent plasma, and any other scarce drug in the hopes of procuring a miracle for their loved ones.
Horrific images of overflowing crematoria and makeshift graveyards in India can be found splashed across the news pages of leading publications from around the world. Funeral pyres are burning around the clock. In many places, considering staff shortages, family members themselves can be seen piling firewood and hauling corpses, often for multiple loved ones they may have lost to the virus.
As if this tragedy was not bad enough, every other day news reports from New Delhi and other major cities reveal names of people who engage in the hoarding and black marketing of precious medical supplies, profiteering from the misery of vulnerable people like hyenas after a hunt. Our politicians, meanwhile, cannot seem to look beyond their vote banks and vested interests, for even while eventually deigning to perform their delayed acts of service, they are hungriest first for publicity and the desire to be captured doing the right thing on camera.
During this unspeakable catastrophe, however, there are bright spots of goodness that light up the darkness. For every monster condoning or abetting evil, there are two angels going above and beyond their means to save the world from this deadly disease. Our medical warriors –doctors, nurses, pathologists, medical cleaners, and hospital staff, risk their lives daily, several times over, to save someone else. Home delivery professionals routinely travel in and out of contaminated areas, doing the heroic deed of providing sustenance to those who are medically required to stay indoors.
Day after day, selfless volunteers step up to donate medicines, fill oxygen cylinders, procure hospital beds and oxygen concentrators, and chase down leads for the ill and helpless. We hear of poor farmers donating their life’s earnings to Covid hospitals and auto-rickshaw drivers plying patients free of charge. Around the country, Gurudwaras – places of worship for the Sikh community, have converted their prayer halls into multi-bed facilities equipped with oxygen support to house patients free of charge. Volunteers and selfless citizens are doing their best to ensure some dignity for the dead, cremating bodies that have been abandoned by their families.
Like Hope left behind in Pandora’s box, bolstering all of humanity in the face of every ill and evil imaginable, the goodness of people is not a force to be underestimated even during this massive crisis. Our heroes, warriors and saviors are among us, saving people with one act of kindness at a time. I salute their spirit and say to all my readers – together, we shall overcome!