India's COVID - 19 crisis: 'This is Hell'

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India's COVID - 19 crisis: 'This is Hell'

I woken to find that my aunt in India had added me to a WhatsApp family chat, titled 'Mama' — her mother-in-law, my 91 year-old grandmother.I scrolled through dozens of messages from my extended family trying to find out what had happened in different places.At the end came to the positive news: Mama is horrible.

My grandmother, who raised me, had tested positive for COVID - 19.Her daughter-in-law who lived with her was positive, as did her daughter, my cousin.Several days before, my last surviving uncle died of the virus, my grandmother's great sibling.Like my grandmother, he had received a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine.But it was not enough to protect him.On the seventh day, his blood pressure and oxygen levels gave out, and his weak heart tensed.We did not dare tell my grandmother, for fear that grief would further compromise her health.

It is hard to exaggerate the hell india has become in these last two weeks.The country reports more than 350,000 new cases a day with daily deaths nearly 3,000.A report in the New York TimesNew York Times over the weekend, with interviews in hospitals and crematoria, found '' an actual pattern of deaths to be even more extensive than the official ; an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan described it as a complete massacre of data, believing the total figure of deaths to be between two and five times higher than what is being reported.To open any communication line - be it social media or messaging apps, is to suffer the heartbreaking pleas for oxygen, therapeutic drugs and ICU beds.Everyone I know knows someone who is sick or dead.The dead can't get into hospitals and the sick may not get into crematoria.The atmosphere in my hometown New Delhi is bordering on the apocalyptic.

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We grew up in India and moved away — the diaspora of India, has almost 18 million people worldwide — are in a less depressing circle of hell than our loving friends and family back home.But it is also a kind of hell for us, one of helplessness and guilt.If 2018 was defined by everyone's feeling itself in the same boat, this year is quickly emerging as a year of naturally grouped realities.As India returns to relative normalcy, I find myself paralyzed by the bad news from New York.Immigration, and the feelings of exile and homelessness that can result, are sometimes hard at the best times.For centuries one is trying to balance multiple societies in one's head at the same time while still trying to forge a new life in a new place where one is lucky to be in.But when one's home is thriving, even as the home country flounders, a kind of survivor's guilt kicks in.Far from being able to enjoy one's safety, the temptation is to cling to one's loyalties.

The news about my poor old Nani, who was alone and isolated in the care of a nurse, brought out a wave of anger in me.It is Narendra Modi's hubris, incompetence and chauvinity that are largely responsible for this catastrophic second wave.In January, at a virtual Davos, he praised victory over COVID 19 and described India as '' the world's pharmacy. He then allowed the lion's share of India's vaccines to be sent overseas while proceeding to hold vast in person elections rallies and permit religious gatherings of several million to go ahead.Is India who had only survived the first round, went into a death spiral.The country was woefully unvaccinated, woefully unprepared.

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When people lay their dead out in the street, as they did in plague-stricken 17th century London, what new Modi cares about is Modi.He has instructed Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to remove reviews of his government.His High Commissioners have written foreign letters to furious publications who dare criticize his handling of the Pandemic.There is no more telling indication of the mental atmosphere he has engendered than the fact that not a single major Bollywood actor or cricketer has the courage to come forward and commiserate with their country engulfed in grief.Even to leave a dwindle to the sick and dying is to tarnish the cult of Modi.On the eve of his re-election two years ago I wrote: As India gets ready to give a second term to the doful provincial, so emblematic of its own limitations, one cannot help but fret at what he could still do to punish the world for his own failures.

There is no pleasure in being right.What matters now is that my province learn its lesson from the adoptive home: when you elect a narcissist demagogue to the highest office in the land, there is untold death and suffering.When you boot him out, life can be again.In the meantime, India will keep a long painful vigil even as cremation, the rite by which the soul is released through its inner circle, becomes a luxury.Everyone is praying for someone.

I pray for my Nani and for India.

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