India’s federal health ministry has raised an alarm about cases of a potentially deadly fungal infection, commonly known as black fungus, that appears to be spreading quickly among Covid-19 patients. https://t.co/a4QFxYxEAn
— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 21, 2021
Let me start off this story by painting a little picture for you.
You wake up in the morning, abruptly snapping out of a dream, where a loved one was suffering. You get up, brush your teeth, have your morning coffee while reading about the number of deaths and shortage of oxygen and medicine in the daily newspapers. You’re distressed, so you pick up your phone.
“Let me take a look at my friends’ stories on Instagram,” you think, “That will make me feel better.”
But you’re confronted with more SOS requests and calls for help…someone’s aunt isn’t getting a hospital bed, someone’s brother requires a plasma donor, and someone else is now resting in peace. You eat your breakfast and start your workday, only to read a message in your office group about some colleague who has tested positive for the virus, or isn’t working because they’ve lost a family member.
This is and has been the reality of everyday life in India for the past couple of months.
I’m living in Pune, Maharashtra—the worst-hit city and state in the country. So trust me when I say I’ve seen it up close and personal, as I really have.
Then why does this article talk about faith? Well, it shouldn’t. When all you see around you every day is disease, death, and destruction, faith should be the last thing on your mind, right? If God is all-powerful, why is he letting this happen to his children? If you believe in the divine, is it goodness that really pays off? Is it the collective karma of people that’s making them suffer so much? Is it that we didn’t pray hard enough—that we’re not good enough people with good enough deeds?
Is this why all this is happening to us?
With all these questions in my mind, I’ve been at the lowest point when it comes to having faith in the divine.
I work as a writer and anchor for a media channel so, naturally, when the country went into distress, we started writing articles that would help people out. 24/7 ambulance services, portals to find plasma donors, and home-cooked meals for COVID-19 patients, to name a few. While writing these stories, I used to speak over the phone every day with people who were regular middle-class citizens, just like you and me. And the stories I discovered were so heartwarming. They are hard to even describe.
One story included a guy who is driving his car around to take severe Covid-19 patients to hospitals because there weren’t any ambulances available in Bangalore. Another girl, in Pune, is cooking 24/7 and serving wholesome food to doctors and nurses who are working in Covid-19 wards. Doctors and nurses in those special wards are dancing and singing solely to lift up the spirits of their patients who are fighting for their own dear life.
People who lost their family members are starting initiatives to make sure others don’t lose their loved ones too. One not-so-successful Bollywood actor is feeding the poor and the homeless so that the economic shutdown doesn’t let them starve to death. Groups of school students have come together and started helplines for people to find hospital beds and oxygen cylinders. A differently-abled worker from Kerala has donated all of his life’s savings to a Covid-19 relief center. As a country, India has witnessed stories of remarkable, heartwarming kindness in contrast to stories of extraordinary grief.
Even writing about them is bringing tears to my eyes right now. Tears of sadness? Nah. These are tears of joy, tears of staring at sheer goodwill, innocence, and compassion. These humble, regular people, who have nothing special about them, are redefining what it means to be humans.
While India’s political leadership has in a way failed to give us the needed medical infrastructure, India’s lay men and women have emerged as true leaders.
India has a huge culture of celebrity worship, so much so that we have temples dedicated to celebrities. While these so-called heroes, who charge crores for a film, are donating a few lakhs while getting photographed by hundreds of cameras, India’s youngsters are going out to comfort the elderly people who are living alone because their kids are stuck in foreign countries due to the pandemic lockdown.
I soon realised that maybe keeping our faith in the divinity is futile at times. While this realisation pushed me on the border of becoming an atheist, another realisation hit me hard. The realisation that humanity surpasses everything: age, caste, gender, number, wealth, status—everything.
When we, as human beings, get in touch with the compassion and the love inside us, we don’t really need any divinity to come to our aid. The power that we, as lay people, have just by our sheer goodness is the single most important thing that will help us win. For the most part, no God or hero will come to help us in the hours of our true need. I realised that what I thought of as “The God,” “The Supreme Power,” or “The Divine” is nothing but humanity united. As India continues to battle and once it emerges from this second wave of the pandemic with flying colours, it’s going to be only and only thanks to these menial, regular humans who harnessed the power of unity and goodness to bring about a great change.
They say that difficult situations are the best teachers. And the one thing this phase has taught me is the importance of believing in humanity. Yes, there are terrible things in this world and people who do terrible things. But beyond all that, there’s a human heart—a heart that is pure.
If we unite, cultivate selfless relationships, and come together as one society, we’ll realise that we don’t really need any divinity to pull us through. We are good enough by ourselves.
Before I conclude this, as someone living this dreadful reality every single day, I want to share some coping strategies that have helped me on a daily basis:
>> Living by the philosophy of one day at a time
>> Getting some form of exercise every single day
>> Meditating to fight anxiety
>> Practicing yoga on a daily basis
>> Taking time off from social media
>> Helping toward Covid-19 relief, as a single good deed can make you feel good for days on end
>> Seeking help if you’re feeling anxious or depressed
>> Accepting that doing the bare minimum right now is okay and not pushing myself to be productive
Stay safe, and remember, we’re always stronger together.