Dancing to Delta's tunes.
Mild Covid; Incredible Grace; Mountain of Protection
April 6, 2021. Once again, the index finger became part of India’s half-a-minute democratic exercise of pushing the button. This time, for the Kerala Assembly Elections.
A few minutes before 7AM, booth offices of various political parties were coming alive. The dust of fierce campaigning had settled. Multi coloured party flags hung motionless in the absence of any breeze. But for the hundreds of smiling faces of candidates on posters, the usual buzz and excitement was absent. In the middle of Covid-induced fear, faces were hidden behind masks. Polling booths were split into many parts to avoid crowding. For the first time ever, I waited for less than a minute, pushed the button “hard”, and came out. It was all over in a flash.
As crowds swelled at every election campaign meeting across the State, the graph of Covid-19 infected rapidly bulged; taking many painful months to bend, dip and flatten (it’s beginning to wake up now, again!).
Elsewhere in the country where electoral hustings sported abuse, blood and (war) cries, politicians moved from one campaign rally to another, excited by large gatherings and expressing “delight”. Super spreaders were given a free license while people continued to fall prey to the marauding Covid monster.
Back in Bangalore, as Covid numbers spiked and threatened to go out of hand, rumours began to fill the air about imminent shut downs.
April 10: Janis began to feel feverish. It was a Saturday. Covid testing was expensive, and getting an appointment was as challenging as managing train tickets during the festival rush. Even through the temptation to deny and defy Covid, she isolated herself in one of the rooms. Geoff, Gia and I accepted reality - the unwelcome guest made breach.
On the morning of April 11, after the Church’s online Worship service, I sensed something was burning on the stove. Janis was just there helping herself to some tea (she managed to sneak out!). She forgot about the tea on the stove, and hadn’t realised the vessel was turning red of heat, nor smelt anything unusual.
This was the moment of confirmation. Now all that was left to do was ‘confirm positivity’. (All those memes about ‘positive meaning negative’!).
I went over to see if the BBMP (Bangalore Corporation) Primacy Health Centre was open to conduct tests, because private labs did not have any appointments left for the day, nor the personnel to come home to do the tests. There was a board on the front gate: ‘Covid Tests done till 12Noon! Much in prayer, and starting on some medication, we waited till the next morning.
April 12, Monday: We went to the BBMP PHC. Dozens of people milled around. Staying in the car to avoid contacting anyone, I watched those waiting to be tested standing in the blistering April sun (there was no facility to shield people from the heat). The queue got longer by the minute. 30-40 minutes later, the line got split into “those having symptoms and those with no symptoms”! So till then, everyone mixed with each other - our ‘systems’!
“Is there anything else to do”, Janis asked the person who took the swab (after the Rapid test showed ‘positive’).
“Go and isolate”, came the curt, loud and unfriendly response.
She came back announcing ‘positivity’. The one hour and more of bearing the heat with fever, had taken its toll. After a shower, she slept 4 hours, undisturbed and unmoved. The attack of Covid, the waiting under the hot sun, the rude ‘go and isolate’ scorn, glued her to bed.
By the evening, ‘knock-knock-knocking on our door’, became frequent - Oximeter*, thermometer, packets of medicines, ‘Enerzal’ sachets, tender coconuts and supplies, started to arrive. Each time the door was knocked at, the drill was to allow enough time for those knocking to leave, before it was opened to collect material kept at the door step.
*Oximeters were expensive to buy, and were in short supply at stores. As we were trying to figure out where to get it from, a neighbour, and a church leader living nearby, hearing about Janis’s Covid, offered his Oximeter to us (he had just returned after being in hospital with Covid). This Oximeter was one of the first stories of provision in our Covid story.
And a by-now familiar template message - “X has been tested positive for Covid and the family has been isolated… please do not create any stigma, rather help them in whatever way you can - arrived in the apartment WhatsApp group. Messages flooded my phone from loving and helpful co-dwellers, offering help, material, food and of course, prayers and messages of encouragement.
Meanwhile, the kids adapted to the new situation, of being kept away from ‘amma’. Gracefully, without complaints or murmur, cooperating with, and helping their father.
Early next morning, Janis woke me up at around 6. As I went to the room, she stood (almost) gasping for breath. Shoulders and chest going up and down, laboriously. The sound of her trying to breathe could be heard several feet away, even as water boiled for tea. For the first time, I went: “oh oh…” . The sight of a few seconds of the ‘labour to breathe’, and several anxious thoughts criss-crossed the mind.
Soon, she came to the door of her room again and said in a worried tone - “my oxygen level shows 66”!! Pretending to be brave, I said, “check again”. Promptly, she checked and the same number appeared on the screen. I gave her tea and asked her to call the Doctor (a friend of hers, living in the same building as ours*).
*Having a trustable doctor, a friend at that, in the same building was an important provision we experienced during the time.
I sat in my room wondering whom to call or whom to check with? 66 on the dreaded meter meant hospitalisation. (By this time, many people who managed to get a bed, rarely made it out alive!). The lump of discomfort went down the throat like a stone with sharp edges.
A few minutes later Janis told me she had checked with the doctor who was shocked to hear the reading, but promised to call her back. We started to think of hospitalisation. Even, where to take help from for an Ambulance.
While the sense of uncertainty grew worse than the harsh summer sun’s rays hitting the bone, the doctor called in to say:
“Janis, can you check if you are holding the device upside down”?
Indeed she was. A safe and healthy 99 was read as 66! What a moment of relief amid loud peals of laughter after some 20 minutes of horror.
But the feeling of heaviness in the chest persisted, so we were advised to take a chest scan, then the only way to know if the lungs were infected, and to what degree. Again, securing an appointment to get a scan done was difficult. The Bangalore Baptist Hospital had a facility catering to Covid patients, but the system stipulated that scans for Covid patients would be taken only after 8PM. That meant a wait of over 12 hours. This 8PM norm (after the relief from 66) was like seeing the end of a fiery fast bowler’s over, only to have a Shane Warne kind of spinner grinning at you from the other end!
Janis’s uncharacteristically long spells of sleep continued through the day.
Around 730PM, after finding that an ambulance would cost more than Rs. 15,000 to take Janis to the hospital and bring her back home, I decided to drive her to Baptist. Driving through empty roads was the only pleasant experience of the day (by then Bangalore went into a near-lockdown situation).
Horror At Hospital
Pulling up in front of the Emergency area, I attempted to get out and ask someone if she could walk out and wait while I park the car and get back. But was shewed away. The “system” here was to park the car as far away as possible, and I could wait for her turn, before getting her from the car, etc. A very complicated process. After managing a space to park, I walked about 200 steps to the Emergency room, entered her name in the register and waited.
Several scenes of horror unfolded in front of my eyes.
Ambulances with just one patient inside, kept arriving. Patients, whether 80 years old, or 40, were to de-board all by themselves. An 80+ year old mother (her children anxiously watching from behind a barricade), spent several minutes attempting to get off the Ambulance, but was unable to. Each time the son or the daughter showed reflexes of moving forward to help her, they were stopped by the hospital security. “It’s our mother”, they said, but to no avail. Finally she managed to get down, and helped herself to the wheel-locked wheelchair. Then, the son was allowed to wheel her in to the room (they could have allowed him to help her off the Ambulance, right?).
“It’s our mother”!
Several others, some in their cars arrived, but they had to follow the same system. A vehicle or an ambulance kept coming in every 2-3 minutes. The peak of Delta was yet to display its most wicked form!
In the background, the sound of ambulances ringing their alarms and speeding in both directions on the otherwise crowded and traffic-snarled highway to Hyderabad (Bellary Road), gave the otherwise silent night, an eery feel.
About an hour later, Janis’s name was called. I walked back, got her in the car, made her wait in front of the doctor’s room; took the car back to parking, and walked back again. As we further waited, patient after patient, double-gloved, face-masked and shielded, with more severe symptoms kept coming in, were checked, and quickly moved to the Emergency ward.
Nurses, attendants and doctors, wrapped themselves in white and blue coloured PPE kits, head to shoe - an uneasy sight in itself. Beads of sweat could easily be seen through their face shields. Their eyes clearly tired. We were fatigued just a little over an hour after arriving at the hospital; this team of doctor-nurses started their shift at 4 in the evening, and though worked up, kept their polite and caring attitudes on their sleeves.
By this time, Janis removed her face shield, and threw out her gloves due to exhaustion. Beneath my dress, rivers of sweat were in free flow.
Just then, a pregnant lady walked in, and plonked herself beside Janis. She informed the lady of her being a Covid patient and suggested to move away, which she did with great difficulty - she was actually so sick she really did not mind where she was as long as there was something to support her weight!
It was our turn, and as we began to make our move, a young lady was rushed in, and was made to sit on the chair in front of the doctor. Through the PPE kit covering her face and her face shield, we could sense the doctor indicating to us to wait. In less than a minute the doctor said to her staff, “move her inside immediately”. The young lady struggled to get up - she was ever so briefly helped by the nurse - but started to walk the 20-something steps to the ward’s bed. Before we could process what was happening, she collapsed onto the wall; the nursing staff and the security guards held her and prevented her from falling to the floor. The doctor helplessly looked on concerned, worried and looked at her colleagues.
There was a feeling collective stress in the room. “Yet another severe case”, they seemed to murmur amongst themselves. Watching these scenes now for over two hours was already physically and mentally tiring.
As if the doctor had her first sane moment in many hours, she looked at me and said with a straight face, in a firm tone -
“Sir, your wife has mild covid. All her indicators are reasonably good. She doesn’t need a chest x-ray or scan now”.
But we both said that the doctor treating her advised a scan because of difficulty in breathing. The doctor wouldn’t budge. “Yours is mild, madam. All you need to do is to go back home and rest. You don’t have to expose yourself to the rays, and moreover, there are more serious patients waiting for x-rays and I don’t think you should expose yourself; if you really want, I can send you, but honestly, you don’t need to; your’s is a mild version”.
A moment of comfort, but immediately I thought to myself - ‘if this is mild, what must moderate or severe mean’!
As we awaited the doctor’s prescription for medication, another patient sank into the chair; the pregnant lady who came earlier was made to lie down on the consultation table. Her husband loudly objected to her sharing the same space as another patient who was being checked. Doctors and nurses took several minutes to convince and calm the young man. Finally, he understood. There was no other option.
All of a sudden, commotion overtook the sound of beeping medical equipments, and instantly sent the levels eeriness of the night up a few notches. The sound of footwear pounding the hospital floor, fast. Screams and shouts of fear. Loud, unclear sentences. From the corner, one after the other, three horrified faces emerged - young girls, one of them in a nurses’ coat. Panting hard, they tried to say something. Doctors and security guards reminded them that this was a hospital and most people there were Covid patients. It did not deter them. They looked sideways, behind and in all possible directions. They stopped. Hid behind some pillars. And kept looking like terrified birds.
Believe it or not! They were escaping a group of men who tried to grope them in the dark, on their way back from a small clinic to their homes after a difficult day of Covid duty.
From the road that led to the Airport, this hospital filled with Covid patients was their only space of safety.
A year before this, we (not me) stood out on balconies banging plates and clapping hands for our frontline workers (an empty gesture really).
Think about this: three young Covid-warriors returning from the line of duty weren’t spared by horrible men with cruel, insatiable desires.
Several instances of inhuman behaviour meted upon our medical fraternity are narrated in ‘Humans of Covid’, a book by Barkha Dutt, in what is a clear description of the attitude of our society (beneath the supposed sophistication of education, wealth and deep spiritual thought). If we think it was the ignorance and fear of Covid that led society to treat our first responders like this, only weeks ago, a doctor committed suicide and it has only been days since yet another doctor was attacked by relatives.
This was a day full of rude shocks. The sight of seeing the difficulty to just simply breathe (in this context, later I shuddered at the govt communication to State Govts. asking them to control their demand for oxygen) was the worst. Nidhi Razdan, tweeted in ways only she can: “Everybody, breathe less”!
Driving back home some 4 hours later, I asked the kids to keep the water heater on, so I could take a shower immediately. And I did. Only after informing the apartment WhatsApp group that Janis “will soon walk up the stairs and people must remain indoors at this time”. The area was then sanitised.
While under the shower of hot water, upset at the sight of the doctors, nurses, security guards etc. posted at the hospital, I stopped scrubbing myself. They were in the midst of patients all day. I thought of the utter privilege I had. Why did I have to scrub myself hard when I did not have to deal with a multitude of patients, unlike the first responders who had no option to? If there was one privilege I had to be satisfied with, it was this.
Twitter was by now a chamber of loud cries and SOS messages for oxygen cylinders, ambulances, medicines that ran out of supply, and what not!
Sounds of Ambulances speeding in every direction with sirens turned on began to fill the air around the area we live.
The next two days were of agony of what I saw at the Bangalore Baptist Hospital. I hardly enjoyed any food many of our apartment friends lovingly provided us, nor could enjoy the relief that Janis did not even have to undergo an x-ray or a scan (I was immensely thankful for it tho). Nearly four hours of being in a hospital environment had overwhelmed me.
Perfect moment to salute all doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who sacrificed much, to keep us all healthy.
I Am Hit!
April 15, 2021. I woke up early in the middle of the night with fever, body pain and acute fatigue. Was this it?
In the movie ‘Titanic’, there is a scene when the half sunken ship broke into two pieces and travelled to the sea bed. Jack and Rose held on to the rails of the ship’s deck. As the crack of the ship breaking apart was heard, and Jack said: “This is it; hold on”, and the sinking ship created waves in the sea throwing people apart, far and wide. Jack and Rose managed to get together, even though only for the next few hours.
The back felt like cracking; fatigue made me feel I was floating in thin air. “Was this it, I think it is? Hold on” - I said to myself. Wife in one room. I in another (now with Covid). And two children peacefully asleep, as the latest wicket to fall, is unknown to them.
By the morning, the BBMP team was called in to conduct tests on everybody at the apartment (the second time now). I too, got tested and two days later the results came, only after our resourceful society president called several times (those days results were taking upto three days). Mine came negative. I wasn’t convinced, because by then, all except loss of taste and smell, I had every other symptom. Another person who had no symptoms tested positive. I called for a private lab’s test. This was already my 5th swab test for Covid.
I was full of symptoms, even a casual test would confirm Covid. But the person taking the swab decided to drill into my nose to the extent possible. Writhing in the pain and discomfort of the nose drill, I sneezed out aloud. Next, the throat swab - now she probably missed my intestine by just a few centimetres, and I coughed violently, at her (she was fully draped in a suit). Thankfully she decided to stop the poke. By evening the result was in - ‘positivity’ range. But not before my body system reacted to the drilling in the form of a massive migraine.
The other person’s however, turned out to be a false positive!
“Khela Hobe*”. Who would smile in the end?
*Khela Hobe was West Bengal Chief Minister Ms. Mamta Banerjee’s clarion call against Prime Minister Modi during the West Bengal Assembly elections (still in progress at the time).
The next few days went by without any breathing issues, but as if to compensate, a spate of unending body aches, headaches and unexplainable weakness left me drained-out of every ounce of energy. Fever hardly crossed 100 degrees, even as others I knew constantly touched highs of 104 and at times I even heard 105 degrees. Promptly, the medicine packets arrived. In an isolated room, my bed, phone (at which I wasn’t able to look) and these medicines became my mates.
Plants kept waving its leaves at me from outside the window, and several types of butterflies in shades of brown, blue, black and green fluttered around. The furry cat stopped, looked, and then went past. The neighbour’s rooster crowed day and night.
Whenever my fever breached the line, the bed was the go-to destination. Once up from several hours of sleep, either the son, or the daughter would peep through the door and get back with a hot cup of tea. The ease of fever and tiredness those cups of tea brought, brought tears of joy.
Each time after I briefly spoke with some of the very few people whom I allowed to call me, I slept 2-3 hours. Light fevers kept coming back. So did aches and pains along with it. And soon, my voice was lost.
Typical mornings started around 10-1030. Because there was nearly no sleep till the early hours of the morning. So tired, yet the eyes simply refused to shut.
After 20-30 minutes of just sitting blank on the bed, someone would remind me to brush my teeth so that I could have tea (those reminders felt like someone shouting to me from a nearby cave). Disillusioned, but after nodding in agreement, I’d muster all available energy and make it to the chair by the table and spend another 20 minutes gazing at the ceiling or outside at the dancing plants, but completely blank. Another reminder, and it took many more minutes before I would move out. Unparalleled tiredness pushed me to such a state. It was frightening. Along with news of several people “leaving”, the heart started to pound.
The Anxious Rhythm
The most stressful activity of those days - checking oxygen levels by attaching the oximeter to the index finger. Several times, I remember delaying it due to the fear of seeing a reading below 94 or 93 (at which point hospitalisation or a chest x-ray was recommended). The earlier 66-reading episode was brutally engraved in memory that, before seeing the reading, the first thing I checked was whether the equipment was held straight! Each time the equipment was placed and while I waited for it to blurt out that loud beep (and the numbers swung up and down), the heart pounded hard, to an uneasy and irregular rhythm, almost like an amateur drummer trying his hand at a heavy metal concert! Hands shook as I shivered when looking at the dreaded little thing (the size of a little frog). By God’s grace and protection, not once did my reading go below 95 all through those days (95 was worrying!).
But fevers never really left even after 10 days. (That, in just a bit).
The Irony of Manjunath’s Help!
Meanwhile, Janis’s heaviness in the chest only grew, despite fevers disappearing. This drove her stress levels up. The thought of hospitalisation nearly made me faint. Now the doctor said, ‘forget Baptist Hospital, get a scan done immediately. Like, right now’!
Now, which lab? Having tried several places, one lab told us to come, but not before a slot opened up. There were many people in queue. They took our number, promising to call us back to let us know of a time to get there - when only 5-6 patients remained in the queue. Otherwise we would have to wait there many hours. But how do you get there? Janis was still ‘positive’, and no one could take her. Ambulances were charging upwards of Rs. 6-8,000/-. The scan was going to cost even more. Already, medicines had created a hole in the bank account.
Tired, and unable to plan this, I left this need with a friend. He tried several ways to no avail, and finally prayed, before making some more calls. The person who passed on his Oximeter to us had a driver who was tested positive and had a worsening condition. He was to come to take the vehicle to drive himself to the same scanning centre where Janis got an appointment. He was to leave in a few minutes. Charles quickly called up and shared the news. This was a relief akin to having cold water in the peak of the summer heat. Another story of miraculous provision. A more seriously sick person had to drive her and both of them required a scan! Janis and Manjunath went to the scanning centre, took the scans and came back. Had it been an hour or so later, even this provision may not have been available, the chest discomfort would have grown, and along with it, anxieties.
Manjunath, badly affected, needed to be hospitalised, but eventually got out safe; Janis, again by God’s hand of healing, did not need anything beyond a few more medicines from a Pulmonologist (in Bangalore), who kindly agreed to consult over phone. Her friend, another doctor from Trivandrum and my childhood pal - John - put in a word to her, and made that possible.
Calls For Help From Other Parts of India
One night, as I was fighting hard to get some sleep despite acutely fatigued, I received a message from a northern part of India. This person’s brother suddenly showed symptoms of Covid and was immediately prescribed a sheet full of medicines, half of which weren’t available locally. Post midnight that night, I was sent the prescription to check, as they were stunned to see a list of medicines. Indeed it was very similar to what I was having and so I told them. From another part of the country, 3-4 days later another call came, this time during the day, to check if FabiFlu was available in Bangalore, and if there was any way to have it put on air cargo the next day. Fortunately, this family managed the medicine locally.
The Medicine Book
Ten days after I first experienced fever, the frequency reduced, but it stubbornly persisted. Every 8-10 hours was like waiting for a court to pronounce judgement (will it come back?). Each time it made its appearance, it was back to bed (basics). And now, what India’s medical fraternity was furiously debating - steroids - was prescribed for me, in addition to the other hotly debated FabiFlu. The list of medicines kept growing. As if these weren’t enough, a bout of cough also joined in. More than dozen tablets had to be swallowed every day. In order not to miss anyone of them (for the love of dear life), I opened an existing note pad from behind, and started writing the list of medicines and realised that a ‘table of schedule’ was needed. There were just too many, to keep in mind and remember. Like those little phone directories of the past age, a medicine book was created.
At one stage, out of sheer joblessness, I went through all the prescriptions and started to count the number of tablets I was taking or, had to take. The number was baffling. So I counted the tablets Janis was taking / had to take. Altogether, at after 13 days of my developing symptoms, the total number of tablets we took, and those we were to take by the end of the cycle, was an incredible 365!
365 medical tablets, by two people, in the space of less than 20 days.
The great West Indian batsman Garry Sobers took 614 minutes (more than 10 hours!) to get to 365 runs - a long held world test cricket record. We swallowed thousands of mgs of antibiotics, painkillers, steroids, cough suppressants, vitamins and more, in less than 20 days!
The effect of these medicines followed us for a while, as if avenging our overcoming Covid. While my fevers came to a sudden stop, what followed was an additional layer of weakness I hadn’t experienced ever before.
At night, struggling to sleep, at one stage I stopped counting the number of times the heart beat, because I couldn’t keep pace. Several times I thought to myself: “this is it… it’s goodbye to life on earth; maybe it is coming to a stop” (like how gas stove flames up before dying out)! The constant pounding of the heart kept me from sleeping for many hours.
For many weeks, it felt as if all the internal organs were going to come out of the mouth whenever I attempted to bend down to pick something up. Some times I felt the whole head was about to come off the shoulder. Many times, both calf muscles would pull up - sometimes in the dead of the night, at other times early in the morning. Holding a bag of supplies and walking from the shop nearby (about 40 days later), and almost in slow motion, was exhausting. Any food brought forward the taste of the steroids to the tongue.
A few months later, the government struck down the usage of all the medicines we were asked to take. During the time of taking them, experts appeared on many news programs, online channels and even wrote in various newspapers about the folly of prescribing all these medicines. Doctors from across the world expressed shock at the kind of medicines that were prescribed in India. Yet we swallowed them all, only to look like fools. Depleted in health in several ways, and having to deal with its effects.
Two Heads, Two Problems
Migraines took a break for a few weeks. But they made a grand comeback! Waking me up from sleep around 5 in the morning, the first two times, it took a full 72 hours before it would subside. Each time creating enough gastric discomfort in the stomach, resulting in nausea to hover around for entire days, and dozens of times of throwing ups in a single day. With each episode the duration of these episodes reduced by a few hours! But a new trend began: earlier if it was the severity of the pain, now it is the severity of tiredness even when the pain is so light (almost like that nagging buzz in the head). That knocks a whole day off quite easily. The blessing in disguise is, now migraines help me sleep, compensating for the irregular sleep cycles even almost a year after recovery. A tough blessing, that.
Janis on the other hand recovered quite well, save for a scary problem of acute hair loss. Several doctors flagged this and other issues as symptoms of Long Covid.
‘Seen And Felt’ Angels
A number of people came to our help, with both husband and wife isolated and young children left to fend for themselves.
The kids cleaned, made tea and coffee, and heated food. When I was able to take it, they voluntarily played us soothing devotional tunes using the guitar and the violin. Those moments were easily the most energising.
Our neighbours at our apartment, lined up in front of our door (so to speak), to provide us freshly cooked (whole) meals (thanks to Covid, I put an end to my vegetarianism after nearly 7 years). On certain days we had to message people in advance or in anticipation(!), not to bring us anymore food as the fridge was filled and food would get spoilt. Such was the love, care and concern shown on us. We considered it a blessing, when compared to other buildings where people were stigmatised and associations behaved rude and merciless to their own people. Food and such material also came to us from friends in nearby areas, and from our families in Canada and the UAE.
Information / Advise
All during the threat of depleting oxygen saturation levels, stubborn fever, various symptomatic difficulties like tiredness, loss of orientation and all else, I turned to some specific sources for medical advise.
Even through the despair of walking with horribly desperate people struggling for the life of their dear ones across the country, Barkha Dutt continued to (despite her own personal loss) facilitate expert opinions and advise from a slew of medical experts through YouTube streams. Such names like Dr. Ishwar Gilada, Dr. Ambrish Mittal, Dr. Lancet Pinto, Dr. Faheem Yunus, and several others, and their advise to patients on a daily basis was incredible.
Fellow soldiers in Prayer
Hundreds of Christians with whom we share our faith in Jesus Christ, upheld us in prayers. Usually, you manage to mutter a word or two even while asleep. But now, a ‘new normal’ came to be: no longer able to think as the mind wandered through the maze of tiredness, fear, anxiety, sleeplessness and so on. In such a situation, as I lay in bed or sat on a chair gazing at the unknown, our church’s online services were a balm of hope and comfort.
These lines of announcement the leader of the church one evening as body pain and headache-induced tears ran down my eyes, each drop feeding the emotion of fear, further:
“Dear Binu and family, this is a strange situation… we are unable to come and meet you, or help you physically… but know this - we are with you. And God who made the heavens and the earth is with you… Our prayers are with you, and God will see you through”.
Not only did those words come true (as our dear friend Felix said to me: “many fell, but God restored you”, they acted as the perfect ointment against hopelessness and fear that threatened to run amok in the mind.
Long lost friends, associates, former colleagues - innumerable of them either called or sent messages, checking on us and comforting us.
The day we as a family got back on the dinner table - some 20 days later, plenty of emotions ran through.
Back to Work
A month after recovering from Covid, tiredness persisted. I was still sleeping 2-3 hours during the day, and more than 8-10 hours in the night, each night after intense wrestling with pillows and bedsheets, and counting sheep! 45 days after recovery, I officially resumed work and informed all clients. Little did I know, it was too early. Days were spent simply staring at the laptop screen, eating and sleeping, on a loop. It took more than 3 months after recovery, for my being able to work at least to 50-60% of pre-Covid capacities, and 4 months for my first travel outside the state. My clients were graceful and patient; they respected my health condition, and gave me the longest possible rope.
What I was normally did in 2 hours, I was taking more than a week. It was scary.
A year later it amazes me, that Janis and I along with several others, survived a difficult wave or phase. Some thoughts that still jolt me:
How would it have been for Bala, a client who battled with damaged lungs? How did he feel? What went through his mind when he collapsed? At least then, did he think he should have taken medical help earlier?
How did Robin face the four days he wasn’t able to get a hospital bed? Why did he pull out the oxygen mask and tubes - did he not get enough flow, or was it too much? Did he think about his two little girls?
Why could Shalu uncle not have waited for a few more days before pick up his Accordion to play his favourite song and sing? Did he get enough time to even think he got to it sooner, when he dropped down in a moment?
What happened to Prasad? Did he struggle? Did he smile as usual as he passed, like he always did in any situation?
How about the undocumented scores of others? Screaming and reaching for much needed O2, what went through their minds? What of those who are left behind - women, wives, children, daughters, sons, husbands, men… what are they thinking now? Have they picked up the pieces of their broken lives?
I can only with folded hands thank God for His mercy, kindness and largesse to our family. Though we did not get to being hospitalised, how close where we? God only knows.
Here’s the loudest possible word of feeble thanks to our God in heaven, for the mountain of protection! Nothing more, nothing less.