Coronavirus Pandemic

Love in the times of India's Covid-19 scourge

Joydeep Sen Gupta in New Delhi/New Delhi
Filed on May 1, 2021 | Last updated on May 2, 2021 at 12.42 am
Supplied photo

How a deepening personal unfolding tragedy echoes collective mourning.

Munajir Ali is a farishta, which loosely translates to an angel in English from Urdu, came unannounced to our hapless lives --- I and my 19-year-old hysterical daughter, who has been living on the edge since her mother and my wife tested Covid-19 positive last Saturday (April 23) -- at a south Delhi Metro station at around 5:45 pm today (May 1).

Here’s a backstory to put things in perspective, as India’s national capital Delhi has been reeling under a fresh and lethal surge of the Covid-19 outbreak no sooner than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has announced its triumphant victory against the pandemic challenges.

A personal crisis made me dash to Delhi from Dubai on April 26 on a wing and a prayer, as my wife’s condition started worsening progressively with each passing day.

I got a sense of the unfolding tragedy and a vibrant parallel Covid-19 economy on April 27, when I took my wife in a ramshackle and makeshift ambulance to a new Covid-19 care facility opened by one of the country’s paramilitary forces amid competitive politics being played by the BJP-ruled Central government and the opposition such the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi dispensation.

The following day, I managed to get hold of another bed at a Delhi government-run facility in northeast Delhi, which was the epicentre of violent communal riots in February 2020.

Since April 28, the Delhi government-run hospital gave me the impression that all’s well with my wife since she got admitted there. Her oxygen saturation level was reportedly 95 per cent, much to our collective comfort.

However, I had a premonition, as my wife, who is used to certain creature comforts, complained this morning that all’s well not well with her. I dashed off the hospital in no time amid the 15-day-long lockdown restrictions, which were initially imposed on April 18 and later extended by another week till May 3, and found to my horror that of the 15 doctors, who were assigned Covid-19 duty, 10 have taken ill and the facility’s resources are stretched to the limit. I hung around unsuccessfully for around three hours but didn’t get any clue about her health condition, except her incessant and, at times, incoherent messages of her increasing difficulty in breathing.

I made a 40-km trek back home, only to be inundated with messages to make immediate arrangements for Remdesivir, which has emerged as a miracle drug in our fight against Covid-19.

Strangely, all state-run and private hospitals have a stock of the drug, but it’s sold as an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine.

I worked the phone and managed to get hold of two vials for Dh1,750 each, around 7.5 times its minimum retail price, and four are on their way.

That’s why Ali surfaced at my and my daughter's life at 5:45pm.

We’re told by the drug dealer to meet his handler at the Metro station (full disclosure: my daughter’s friend, who is a senior official and a stranger to me till today paid up the Dh3,500 in cash upfront) to collect the drug. We met and collect the packet from the innocuous handler, a young non-descript woman.

Ali, who had moved from Badaun district in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh (UP) to do odd jobs in Delhi, said he would ferry us back and forth in his three-wheeler and when I reminded him of breaking his iftar fast, he nonchalantly said that could wait for another day amid Delhi’s oppressive dry May heat.

So, two desperate souls hopped on his vehicle, as he stepped on the gas to take us to our destination, while our phones’ batteries were dying and my daughter was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

The iftar time in Delhi on Saturday was 6:57pm. Fortunately, we reached the hospital at 6:55pm, and we were handing over the life-saving drug to the hospital authorities.

Between then and 10:00pm Indian Standard Time (IST) on Saturday, our life has been on hold, as my wife’s vital parameters have been topsy-turvy. A combination of the rough and the smooth, the oxygen saturation level dipping to an alarming 77 per cent to rebounding to 90 per cent.

But Ali’s good turn has saved the day for us, as we await with bated breath whether my wife gets to see the morning light tomorrow.

Where faith collides, love blooms.

Perhaps, our love story will have a happy ending, thanks to kind souls like Ali, whose innate belief in the faith in the Holy month of Ramadan, which started in India on April 14, made our day, oscillating between hope and despair, to end on an optimistic note.

Will hope spring eternal?

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