‘If you’re lucky, you’ll survive’ – The reality of living in India during the pandemic

Over the past year, coronavirus has claimed the lives of many and continues to do so.

India – described as the “current epicentre of the pandemic” – is currently suffering the most, with its residents living the reality some of us have experienced, but on a more advanced level.

Nottingham Trent University is known for welcoming international students with open arms; however, due to the travel restrictions imposed as a result of coronavirus, many of the international students have been unable to come back to Nottingham and study. Some of them are currently living in the worst affected countries, and are experiencing a reality some of us can only see through the eyes of the news.

As many would have seen, India is experiencing the worst of the country’s second wave of Covid.

As of May 22, 2021, there have been 26,289,290 confirmed cases of the virus in India and 295,525 deaths. These are numbers the United Kingdom cannot even imagine experiencing, so it simply shows the dire situation India is currently in.

Nabanita Das (Credit: Nabanita Das)

Former NTU MA News Journalism student Nabanita Das is currently experiencing not only how coronavirus is affecting her home country India as a whole, but also what it is like in both the cities and some of the more rural areas that do not have as easy access to hospitals.

Nabanita currently works with the business wing of The Times of India, the country’s largest news brand. She lives and works in the Indian capital of New Delhi. However, Nabanita is originally from Kolkata – the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal – where she travels to on a regular basis to live with her parents.

Nabanita gave us an insight into what it is really like to live in India at the moment.

“The most affected part is definitely Delhi because its concealment of cultures, so lots of people from every part of the country come to Delhi to work, the way I have.

“So that’s the place where you, of course, have more chance of the virus being spread.

“I would say the government centres the capital, of course, all eyes are over there, let’s say all the big people, the politicians, they live there, so the government has taken a lot of effort specifically in Delhi.

“I don’t think the amount of effort that was taken in the city has gone down to the smaller cities or in the local areas.

“Social distancing norms are not being maintained and you have to understand that India as a whole is a very populous country, you know, the population is huge out here, so if you tell people to live in a house where a family has about five or six people crammed in a small household its not possible for you to maintain them social distancing norms.

“If one person is affected, it’s automatically every person in that family will get it.”, said Nabanita.

Hospitals in India have been hit the hardest, with a major obstacle being the shortage of oxygen for patients in need of it. They have also been running out of beds and anti-viral drugs, as sufferers are left to wait for hours or even die outside on the streets. It has been estimated that a patient will die every five minutes because of a Covid infection.

“The entire healthcare facility across the country is in shambles now. You’re left to God, honestly you’re just left to God.

“If you’re lucky, you’ll survive, you’ll get the medicines.

“I am not going to blame healthcare professionals for that and I’m not going to blame entirely the government also for that as you have to understand the amount of infrastructure healthcare wise that is needed.

“I see a lot of people who are the lower strata of society, so they are not even aware of the fact that they can get the virus and they are probably not understanding the symptoms, so that has added a lot to the numbers we have seen in India rising,” adds Nabanita.

Many countries have stepped in to help as the whole world is experiencing the same traumatic times. Nabanita describes how “this disease has really, really erased the boundaries between countries because in sickness I think we are all alike.”

France, Germany and Australia are just some of the countries to have supplied India with oxygen. Germany airlifted 23 mobile oxygen generation plants to India to meet the demand in hospitals; Australia sent personal protective equipment, ventilators and oxygen to India.

Past BBC reports have given us an insight into what it is really like in India, allowing us to empathize with the residents of the country in some way. We have seen headlines such as “Delhi, normally a bustling city, described as a ‘city under siege’” or “Train carriages have become medical wards”.

Headlines like this show the desperation the country is experiencing, and although the UK has been through its own trauma with the pandemic, India is experiencing it on a new level.

The cases and deaths continue to rise in the country due to the new variant of the virus – which is currently in Britain as well – but it is said the amount of deaths and cases recorded is set to be even higher as many people tend to avoid testing or struggle to access it. There are also many deaths which have not been registered in the more rural areas of the country.

When asked what the biggest hurdle for the country is, Nabanita said: “Population is the biggest hurdle for India.

“It’s very easier to do things on a smaller scale.”

For the future, Nabanita explains how: “It’s very important for governments to take charge.

“I think accountability, so if, of course, the healthcare is failing I am not going to say that it’s because of us, it’s because of the person who’s ruling, so you have to take accountability.

“I think our leaders are now facing that challenge because they are not being able to shy away from the fact so many people, as I talk to you I know there are about 12,000 people who died in the last 24 hours in India – and I don’t see any leader coming out and saying ‘Yes, I am responsible’.

“I know the moment restrictions are lifted there is going to be a section of society that breaks the rules and does not follow the Covid protocols and will step out.

“I think if you are in an advantageous position and you can save yourselves, you should do that.”

So, as India continues to deal with the pandemic, so will the rest of the world. However, the key to fight coronavirus is staying united across the world, and not letting this virus deny and defeat us.

Lead image: The Financial Express

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