My pandemic learning: Dad's not the word

Dubai - In a role reversal, my 19-year-old daughter stood by me, like a rock, amid an unfolding emergency — and ‘mothered’ me whenever I flailed

By Joydeep Sen Gupta

Published: Sun 30 May 2021, 7:20 AM

Last updated: Tue 6 Jul 2021, 2:21 PM

Can a father take a mother’s place in a nuclear family reeling under the raging Covid pandemic? Laws of nature can never be tweaked, as my ordeal and recent experience illustrated — but here’s a quick recap of the backstory for the uninitiated.

While I was smugly ensconced in Dubai, my wife, who lives in

New Delhi, had managed to get her first jab of the vaccine on April 8. I’d assumed she would dodge the viral strain.

How wrong I was.

Covid, it appears, was lurking in our clean, green, and secluded south Delhi residential colony and infecting even the most cautious lot at will. She tested positive on April 24.

I was desperate to head home at the earliest, as her oxygen saturation (SPO2) had started dipping at an alarming clip; I managed to dash back to Delhi in the early hours of April 27.

My daughter, Akansha, 19, an undergraduate student at a south Delhi college, was a rock till I came back, fielding sundry calls from relatives in India and abroad. However, she broke down the moment I stepped into the house.

We waited for daybreak to get my wife admitted to a Covid-19 care centre facility. But, in hindsight, the hurried decision proved to be disastrous, as my wife’s SPO2 count plummeted to below 80 because of a lack of oxygen support in the makeshift facility. Another hospital bed was arranged with great difficulty, pulling multiple strings, at a Delhi government-run facility on April 28 in the back-of-beyond eastern fringes of the city, about 50km from our place.

I felt helpless. Was I up to the task of the emotional and social challenges in a city that was gasping for breath?

My mind went blank as I thought about how I could play a dual role of a doting dad and a caring mum amid the unfolding health care emergency.

I buckled under the overwhelming pressure and failed to maintain composure as the next 18 days proved to be a massive challenge to keep body and soul together — whether it was arranging the prohibitively priced and elusive ‘magic pill’ Remdesivir to be delivered to the hospital within an hour or undertaking the daily 100-km trek from the facility, and back home, amid lockdown restrictions.

Fortunately, my daughter was on top of the crisis, as she was furiously multitasking.

She was simultaneously seeking opinion from a string of doctors across Indian cities — some known, but mostly strangers — as our family physician was also down with Covid — and constantly checking online about the symptoms of the new viral strain, including Mucormycosis, or the black fungus infection, which is maiming patients and snuffing out lives.

Akansha, who, till then, was unaware of the contours of east Delhi, took it upon herself to deliver fruits, juices, clothes, and my wife’s daily needs for the next 18 days that she spent in the hospital.

At home, she was either ordering in food or taking charge of the kitchen to rustle up a quick meal, as our domestic help was on enforced leave.

In between, she was attending her online classes, where a tragedy was unfolding in her college after three of her professors succumbed to the contagion.

She ‘mothered’ me while I helplessly played second fiddle to her.

My daughter, a pampered only child till April 24, evolved into a responsible and mature young adult in a matter of days. Adversity got her to grow up, and that’s the silver lining we can all live with amid our collective grief. Can the mutating strain of love and filial bond win over the manic depressing Covid challenge?

For me, it may just have.

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