“Anyone help! Need a bed with oxygen in Rajkot”
“Folks, anyone has contacts in Delhi? Need Remdesvir…”
“My friend’s brother needs ECMO, any leverage in Baroda?”
“Age 40, father of two, SpO2 at 60, help me find a ventilator bed in Chennai. No forwards. Please”
“Need Amphotericin – B in Patna, any leads?”
“Need wood for cremation. Kanpur”
“Oh my God.. Someone in your family?” – No
“May I ask who this is for?” – A friend’s cousin
“I am so sorry, do you know the person?” – No, just trying to do my best. Who knows which lead might click.
“Is this your colleague?” – Not really, never met her…But…. Let’s try our best.
Four weeks of desperate anxiety, four weeks of survivor’s guilt, four weeks of waking up with a pit in the stomach, a hollow, a hollow that rose from the gut to the heart to the mind. A dark hollow. Of chaos and suffering and death. Of regret and anger. Of desperation….
An android phone that became the gateway to hell for countless, countless people. A hell formed of pleas and cries that faded into a “No longer needed. Thank you for your efforts”. A hell that was in the mind and in the phone. Outside, was normal, often, pretty event, beautiful, calm. But the phone, the phone became a bridge between dystopia and utopia
Death, few of us have a larger helping of it, some are lucky and encounter it only later in life, in an odd dose here and there. But not for the youth of my country today. This youth, cursed, got a hundred-fold of it’s prescribed dose of death. Parents, spouse, friends, colleagues, acquaintances. Young, old, full of life, taken too soon, taken, but why? taken and how!
Every scroll on facebook/insta, every face that passed by, a heartbeat skipped, till the caption passed, without an obituary…and more often than not, with.
Parent of a one month old, newly wed, just entered college, finally bought a home, but what about the loan? What about the wife? What about the child? What about…..
And just like that a message popped, “I can help. Let’s make a group and take it offline. Anyone who’d like to contribute…. Please join”
And groups formed, aliiances made, money poured in, fund-raisers began.
Home visits, “Autie kuch chaiye to bas phone kar dena…Pahuncha denge”
“Arre…bhai tha wo mera…itna to kar hi sakte hai”
“Mera to koi nai hai age piche, I can support har mahine… Jab tak…”
“Chal uski beti ke liye school dhundhni hai…itna to kar hi sakte hai”
“Arre nai nai, FD mat todo uncle, hum sambhal lenge….”
“Lekin aap…aap kaun? – Arre…Bhabhi…idhar gully me rehte hai…itna to kar hi sakte hai”
And just like that, unforeseen by the all seeing AIs of google and facebook, networks emerged that spanned the globe. Oxygen cylinders reached places, strangers took strangers to hospitals, unconnected scattered individuals, who had never met, might never meet again, coordinated the heck out of the messed up hospital systems to find a bed, miles away….for an absolute stranger. Four unknown shoulders, found each other to carry a stranger, through their last journey. Long forgotten batchmates, teamed up, to support the bereaved aged parents.
Where the government failed, the state failed, the systems failed, the leaders failed,
From that impossible abyss,
Like a behemoth angel,
With wings that carried oxygen and wood and information,
Megabytes of information,
A halo of tears and compassion,
For faceless, nameless brethren
Playing a harp of the music of kindness,
Of prayers, of healing, of hope
Like never before,
Stronger, angrier, ever more compassionate
From the impossible abyss,
All, in just those four weeks.
** This piece was written as a part of Writeclub Bangalore’s session on “Prose Poetry with the theme of Covid-19”
**This piece is dedicated to the Indian community/society that broke all barriers, within and outside, to prove that humanity exists and is stronger than ever before. A few names that come to mind are Shruti, Neeharika, Isha, Navni, Sudeshna, Jhanvi, Shefali, Prakruti, Avni, Mathangi, Bansi, Swansu, Anjali, Palak Didi, Jaladhi, Anuj, Saumil, Akash, Siddharth, and these are just from my circle….