On 26 March, which marked the festival of Holi, the festive atmosphere of my home changed to that of perturbation and anxiety as my family stared at the two lines on the antigen test kit declaring that my grandparents had tested positive for Covid-19.
Terrified of the consequences and the deadly impact of the virus on the elderly and asthmatic patients, family members started trying to come up with quick solutions and strategies by talking to every medical professional they knew.
On 2 April, we received a call from them at 3 am saying my grandfather was having trouble breathing as his oxygen level dropped to 85.
Due to the severe shortage of beds in the city, we were only able to find one several days later, that too was denied to him because of a negative RT-PCR report he had received earlier.
By the time we found a place for him in a hospital, 25 km away from our place, his oxygen level had dropped to 70 and he had already developed a pneumonia infection.
The doctors suggested putting him on a ventilator but because there was a shortage of those as well, it took us another two days to arrange it and his oxygen level dropped dangerously low to 60.
We were already informed of how serious his condition was and were advised not to hold out hope. He remained on a ventilator for four days but the oxygen in his blood refused to move up by a single digit. My mother visited him in the hospital, sat in front of him wearing a PPE kit letting him know how much he was being missed and prayed for by his wife, children, and grandchildren while he remained unconscious in his bed.
Amid all of this, my mother also had to help conduct the National Defence Academy’s entrance exam being held at her school in spite of sending numerous requests for its cancellation, as she feared that she had contracted the virus from my grandfather.
On 19 April, almost two weeks after seeing those two positive lines, we received a call from the hospital informing us that my grandfather had breathed his last. I remember watching my mother faint after hearing the news and blaming herself for not doing enough to fight for his life.
Govt has failed the country
In such unprecedented times, there is uncertainty all around us and clouds of fear and despair hover over our heads.
With anxious hearts we stand amid the ongoing pandemic that has resulted in more than 19 million active cases and over 2,00,000 deaths in India. Every day is a new fight as hospitals run out of beds, patients gasp for breath, their families struggle for oxygen cylinders and crematoria see rush of bodies like never before.
The country battles a deadly second wave of the pandemic and states suffer from severe shortage of medical oxygen as its demand only keeps rising every day.
This has forced the central government to ban supply of oxygen for industrial purposes (except in nine industries) and term it an “essential public commodity”.
On social media platforms, slogans such as ‘Help India Breathe’ and ‘O2 For India’ emerge, trying to motivate the population and spread the message that they do not stand alone in this situation.
As the cases increase rapidly and we fall further behind on oxygen supply, let us not forget that the country sold twice as much oxygen to the world during the first ten months of 2020-21, compared to the previous financial year, despite it being the third worst affected nation.
Let us not forget that even when the ruling government had eight months to make tenders for oxygen plants in hospitals, many of them are yet to be set up and deemed fully operational.
As a majority of the population struggles mentally and physically, let us remember the day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came on television to advise us against going out and using proper medication choosing not to say a single word on the dangerously low stock of oxygen in the country.
Democracy urges governments to take responsibility but until now the ruling government has only censored criticism on social media platforms when WhatsApp groups, Instagram stories, Twitter fleets and Facebook pages are being organised for help.
If the government takes this away from people, claiming that they attack the sovereignty and integrity of the country, then what other options do we have left?
It is time that they come out of denial, carried the blame for lack of preparation and took responsibility for the situation of chaos.
Every passing second is only a proof to the population that their protector and so-called “Messiah” has failed them.
Shambhavi Tewari is a student of Seth M.R. Jaipuria School, Lucknow