Stories of Strength: An ode to living with the Pandemic
Bengaluru, June 12: "My mother and grandmother never stepped out and neither did they break any of the COVID-19 protocols. Despite that, they had to suffer from the symptoms. So that really makes you feel bad." said nineteen-year-old Isha Saha, while talking about the time her mother and grandmother were suspected to have had Covid.
Saha' s family members experienced symptoms during the second wave of the pandemic, a time when the nation began running short on beds, vaccines and oxygen cylinders. Similarly, Smriti S, another nineteen-year-old and her mother tested positive around the same time. "All of it was physically and emotionally draining. I think my mother was shaken up when the results were positive." said Smriti.
One thing consistent in most families having tested positive for Covid is the question, "Why me/us?". Not very different from this, are the cases of five distinct individuals, whose commonality is the very pandemic that has affected millions across the globe.
Aparna S and her family tested positive for the virus in the first wave. Though mild, the family did experience tiredness and body pain. "We somehow didn't really panic when the results came positive. Deep down it's like we knew we could get through it." said Aparna.
For Sriranjani Aravindan, however, things were different. Only one member out of the three, had tested positive. This meant that Aravindan and her mother, had to quarantine themselves in separate rooms.
"We were in the same house, but we were couped up in different rooms. And the whole thing was just very...upsetting." Aravindan said,
Into the second wave, apart from Saha and Smriti, was Nihal Kondur, whose parents too tested positive for the virus. Much unlike the other two, he too was immensely stressed and found it hard to accept, since his results came out negative. But soon, he coped with reality "We just kept counting the days till the end of quarantine. It was really all that kept us going with all the stress." Said Kondur.
Amidst the pandemic's victims, there exists an exponential number of individuals whose families tested positive but not them. A situation like this takes an undeniable toll on the individual, physically, emotionally and mentally. "At the time, I remember we had enough college work too and I ended up having several emotional breakdowns and I felt like everything was just piling up on me" Explained Saha. Same is the case with Aravindan, who was also stuck in a helpless state within the bounds of her room, unable to completely help her father during the pandemic.
More importantly, there exists an odd stigma around recovered individuals, with the society often categorising them as the 'they HAD Covid' people. Much of this stems from the panic and distress that the misinformation overload has caused. "I remember, several months after the quarantine, my friends still thought I had COVID," said Aparna.
When asked about how differently they might have reacted, had they tested positive in first or second wave, the responses of all five were different yet similar. Those individuals whose families tested positive in the first wave, mentioned that having known less about the virus' effects, actually led them to be less panicky. And for those who tested positive in the second wave, said that by the second wave they had more knowledge about the virus and its effects, which led them to handle the situation better, and also increased their preparedness.
However, it is in times like these that optimism is of utmost importance. Despite Aravindan's initial disbelief, she mentioned that with time, some sense of spiritual faith gave her the assurance and optimism that she needed to go on and support her family. "I knew that there was someone up there who would guide us through it." said Aravindan
Saha explained that regular communication with family helped ease the stress. "We would just call them up and talk for a long time. We would try and reminisce old times, scroll through the pictures. It was just these little things that helped us stay optimistic." said Saha.
Aparna and Smriti, having dealt with a crisis such as covid together as a family, gave them and their parents all the optimism she needed. "Actually, the quarantine brought us closer. We started spending more time together since then". Moreover, all five individuals were deeply grateful for having been able to accommodate themselves and their family in home quarantine rather than in a hospitalised state.
With the first and second wave lashing at us, back and forth, these individuals, and many more out there are much like the Barricading rocks that remain unwithered to the intensity of the waves.