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Asthma..Dr Prabodh Garg (MD Respiratory Medicine)

Covid in the wind

COVID has been swinging moods like nothing else can.

That’s normal for me… my moods swing once every two years or so. But I realised that compared to mine, the rest of the world seemed to be see-sawing like one of those gigantic monsters in the entertainment park.

When I heard about an innocuous virus in a place called Wuhan I’d never heard of . Somehow the name seemed to rhyme with yawn . Must be a really boring place, I thought.

Viruses are very good at bungee jumping from animals to humans….from SARS, MERS, swine flu and bird flu once in a while to keep the world on its toes….. but they all die a natural death.

I made a mental note note to cut down on non veg stuff and not help bungee jumping viruses.

Then came the exponential growth in infections and fatalities. I’m not good at maths so I checked on exponential.

I realised it meant multiplying at an increasing rate, like the population of India. That was too bad. These viruses would soon be choking our cities and living spaces.

The only thing one could do, I thought, was stop consuming animals. But that’s easier said than done …..

Then came the news that those bugs has taken flights and crossed the oceans.

This was getting dangerous. The virus had marauded Italy and the rest of Europe. (Italy had itself to blame because they went about physically hugging their Chinese friends in a gesture of solidarity ). Although well intentioned, this bravado would cost them dear.

Suddenly, the whole world seemed to be bowing down to that tiny little despicable thing and it seemed humans no longer ruled the world.

We probably never did, but we will never admit it.

The world was going into a shell, shielding itself from the virus … the one without a cure or a vaccine.

Recession hit, livelihoods were lost, hunger and pain, all from that invisible bug we couldn’t master.

World war looked like a picnic in comparison.

Our normally lax government acted lightening fast and promptly put on the brakes.

We were now in the dreaded lockdown.

We celebrated by banging pots and pans in a coordinated effort at cheering up our medical and government staff…who would dare to go where no laymen would.

Of course this was a ripoff from Italy where they had synchronised singing, but it would not do for Indians to sing in tune, and pots and pans gave higher decibel levels.

My son is very clever. He knows when opt for the fight or flight mode…… as do most children I suppose.

My son had a gala time bashing my steel plate with my metal rolling pin with such force that at the end of fifteen minutes,( it was supposed to be ten, but there was no stopping him) he returned the thing with a neat hole in the middle and ran off before I could get a hold of the rolling pin.

We were feeling very upbeat as if we had destroyed the virus by our noise pollution.

The funny part is celebration runs in Indian blood. So people went about in morchas( large gatherings) armed with drums and banjos and conveniently forgetting about social distancing. This defeated the purpose of this exercise but we are like that only.

Then the news on Dharavi started pouring in and we Mumbaikars surrendered to our fate. It would have been impossible for a human to make it through Dharavi by-lanes without the virus making itself at home in their sweaty bodies.

To the full credit to our BMC, Dharavi cases petered out and raised our hopes.

There was this N95-only-for medical-phase and we were responsible people not wearing masks.

Then some genius came up with face coverings

The tables turned and one could be ostracised for NOT covering your face.

I wish this had happened earlier as thousands of American Trump followers would have been saved.

The poor masses couldn’t afford the valve equipped masks of the rich.

They resorted to wearing their masks at half mast….below their noses…..protecting others to an extent but exposing themselves.

Assuming that distancing was all that was required, the rich restarted their leisure and sports activities, feeling invincible.

And when the mighty Trump was getting along without masks, the rich took off those stifling N95s and socialised with abandon.

In Mumbai, as the virus spread, slums were turned into containment zones and sealed off. But the poor desperate for livelihood escaped the porous boundaries and reported to work.

The high rise societies clamped down on all kinds of help even as the BMC said they had no power to.

The lovely manicured hands that had never come in contact with detergent, had to give up on nail paint.

Not to mention child labour, of which I plead guilty.

But beside the maids, there were the ultra rich carriers that escaped scrutiny.

People paid through through their noses to cover them with the best protective masks. But there was a clink in the armour. They had valves which vented out the wearer’s breath with the force of a vented dryer.

Their colleagues, blissfully unaware of the danger let both their masks and guard down.

Ditto with the walkers and joggers. The Indian government hasn’t yet woken up to this danger.

Now the maids were paranoid about working in high rises… and the people in the buildings fought tooth and nail to keep away the maids.

Unwilling to use those valve-wala masks, Google took me to muslin masks. Not the best protection but atleast you wouldn’t choke to death.

The mask was absolutely necessary because people like me were looking down at the irresponsible masquerading unmasked from our windows…it wouldn’t do for us to go unmasked.

I received a photograph of my husband busy on his phone…unmasked.

That he was six meters away from another living person did not cut ice…and I got him to try the muslin masks . The only issue was they were made of baby material with giraffes, monkeys and watermelon prints. Fortunately my kids thought them cool n my husband got some zig zag lines and polka dots. So the matter was resolved amicably.

Then came the day we got the first covid case in our complex. I don’t quite recall which lockdown phase it was, since there were so many….

Everyone went into panic mode again.

My kids were not allowed to go down…and the walkers and joggers vanished.

The first case was almost asymptomatic and it was business as usual again….till the next…and the next…and the next.

I of course decided not to venture outdoors at all given my low immunity and more so because of my aversion to dressing up…..and unwillingness to give up the joy of bra-less freedom.

We were managing happily in three sets of clothes each and I was wondering why our cupboards were so unnecessarily stocked.

Then our little world came crashing down.

My daughter and I achieved the nearly impossible feat of getting fever at the same time……from two different causes.

This was an unfortunate coincidence to say the least. Her’s turned out to be tonsillitis and mine some low grade fever that vanished with a paracetamol.

That was a traumatic time to say the least. We were covid negative but we could potentially turn positive attending to our daughter in the hospital.

Anyways my daughter was back any the walkers got back to their walks again.

My maid too agreed to come back as we didn’t have the coronavirus and things got back to the new normal.

We repaired our son’s bicycle and he stepped down for the first time in four months.

There was nothing to it… wear your face covering, don’t chat with your friends, and your fine. My very obedient son did just that.

My chest swelled with pride to see my son follow orders when other kids had the popular mask -below -the nose- position or were running with gay abandon with no face coverings.

I don’t blame the kids… some of them had totally unbreathable cute looking Mickey Mouse and Superhero stuff. Choosing a mask is like choosing the colour of your car. Once inside…. you can’t even see it. Mine was sporting his muslin monkey comfortable one which I was proud to have discovered.

His joy unfortunately was very short lived.

The next day came the news that my son’s friend’s parents were COVID positive. I don’t think the word positive goes well with COVID….but that’s another story.

My son’s world turned topsy turvy again, although he claimed he hadn’t even met the boy.

My kids were back to lockdown although the rest of the country is being unlocked.

We got an ominous post saying there are three cases right now and another will mean our building being sealed…So now I’m looking out of my window at unmasked people and cursing them for the potential disappearance of our maid.

May the vaccine be with you!

By Jyothsna DSouza

I’m at home
With my children
With plenty of time
To read, teach, and muse

I believe if you have
The capacity
To do good
And others
They confirm
It is good
If it’s important
For many,
Not one
One must persist
To the end,
Till all one’s
Resources
Are exhausted

Man lives on hope

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