TALES FROM THE OTHER SIDE
India Today|April 26, 2021
COVID SURVIVORS FROM WITHIN INDIA TODAY’S WORKFORCE ON FIGHTING THE VIRUS, WHAT GOT THEM THROUGH IT AND THE REALISATIONS THE DISEASE BROUGHT WITH IT

Going Viral

By Kai Friese, Managing Editor

Calamities are supposed to have their funny sides but the dull apocalypse of our time has gone on for so long now, it is hard to see any humour in it. Unless you find heavy, sententious, irony funny. In which case, sure: it’s Alanis Morissette humming through your quarantine like a big black fly. I am literally the guy who was afraid to fly—and got Covid the day after returning from my first post-pandemic aeroplane trip. Also, the day after I had registered for my first vaccine. Sure it’s meaningless—but so ironic, don’t you think?

Also meaningless: the whole thing. Other than the fear of having infected others—the off-colour joke was that I was the ‘Lutyens’ Tablighi’—it was an underwhelming illness. I know, I know! I was lucky and even while my infection was running its dreary course, three of my friends were hospitalised.

The other unfunny joke was that this was Covid’s ‘celebrity wave’, which, given Sachin Tendulkar, Alia Bhatt, Farooq Abdullah and who knows who, lent resonance to the popular rumour that this was really a disease of the rich—more ironic comeuppance. In fact, I was the target of one biting subaltern rebuke, from a woman who had served me dinner at a friend’s house the day before I took ill. She refused to come to work after hearing I had tested positive and complained that I had done a very bad thing by getting tested! The test only draws out the disease, she said, while informing my friend that she had suffered many symptoms herself over the past few months, but had kept Covid at bay by avoiding any medical test!

I thought that was quite funny, in a co-morbid, Uncertainty Principle, Schrödinger’s Cat kind of way. Meanwhile, among my family and friends, medical advice congealed confidently around one home remedy: steam inhalation, “to strengthen your lungs”. This seemed like a cruel and unusual insult after the boredom of quarantine, so I asked my doctor if it would help at all and watched his eyes roll like an emoji on my phone screen. “Not really,” he said with understated but genuine irony.

Fear, Fatigue & Loneliness

By Suhani Singh Senior Editor

For 11 months, I successfully avoided Covid-19. Then it came—with a bang. I had moved into my parents’ place for two weeks to care for my 64-year-old Covid-positive mother, a patient of hypertension. I tested negative thrice as she isolated and recovered. A week later, though, I tested positive. So began the process of first assuring her that she wasn’t to blame, for I had begun stepping out for office. Then came the ordeal of reaching out to those who I may have unknowingly transmitted the virus to. One contact had her 90-year-old father living with her; another a diabetic mother. As if my fever and body ache weren’t bad enough, the guilt added to my woes.

Having fed myself on a healthy diet of Covid-related articles for over a year, the fear was palpable, especially in the initial days. It didn’t help that I was quarantined alone in my one-bedroom apartment. People fled after leaving food outside the door. The only human being I saw for 18 days was the lab guy, Sainath, who visited to conduct the RT-PCR and blood tests. I am aware that it is a luxury to have space in a crowded city, but the loneliness made the recovery tedious. I didn’t have the energy to seek comfort in books or Netflix. Instead, I found it in breathing and stretching exercises. Once the dosage of medicines was reduced, I could binge on Korean crime dramas (50 hours of Stranger and Signal).

But as my fatigue subsided, my anxiety grew. Part of it came from the awareness that the virus is mutating.

I dread what this sneaky little pest has done to my body which is still trying to return to its pre-Covid form. I want to be able to walk my pet dog Aisha without feeling fatigued. I want to resume feeding the stray doggos and my Kathak classes. I want to step out without having to worry about being re-infected, which is hard given the number of BMC notices that hang outside nearly every building in my neighbourhood. I want to have a brain which is creative enough to come up with passwords not related to the pandemic.

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