Prashant Thakkar provides food packets and cold water to ambulance drivers waiting outside a 1200 bedded hospital in the state of Gujarat, India. Thakkar is part of the Satsang Seva Mission where volunteers are working across 12 states in India to help fill in the gap during the COVID-19 health crisis. (Photo submitted by the Satsang Seva Mission)

Prashant Thakkar provides food packets and cold water to ambulance drivers waiting outside a 1200 bedded hospital in the state of Gujarat, India. Thakkar is part of the Satsang Seva Mission where volunteers are working across 12 states in India to help fill in the gap during the COVID-19 health crisis. (Photo submitted by the Satsang Seva Mission)

Column: Let’s uplift the heroes in India’s battle against COVID-19

India reported over 360,000 infections on Monday, May 3

India is hurting.

I wake up every morning to SOS calls on social media asking for plasma, oxygen cylinders, hospital space – and then there are deaths being announced, mourning, grief…

It’s been a tough week for India and for families and expats living in Canada, who are helpless and anxious about the 350,000 cases a day and 200,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the beautiful South Asian country. And these are just reported cases. For a country like India, there are thousands of cases not reported due to the lack of access to sufficient medical care in multiple regions.

From the start of the pandemic, there was fear that India would not be able to cope if cases got out of hand. But for the better part of last year, and until recently, cases were not as high as they are now.

The government relaxed rules, allowed election rallies, and let the Kumbh Mela – a religious pilgrimage and festival for Hindus in India – to go forward. There were close to six million people who took a dip in the holy Ganga river in April. This was at a time when the second wave was ravaging through communities.

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There is obvious frustration with the Indian government. Why didn’t Narendra Modi’s BJP government impose stricter lockdowns, or postpone religious gatherings so as to protect citizens? And now Modi is trying to crack down on complaints being made on social media about the government’s handling of the pandemic, to the extent that the Supreme Court of India has had to order the state and police to stop the clampdown.

I am not going to go into that. Instead, I want to highlight the kind of community work being done by volunteers across the country, to help save their neighbours, friends, family and anyone else who needs help.

My mother lives in the city of Chandigarh in northern India. She got infected with the virus earlier in April and suffered through three days of bad fever, cough, sore throat and nausea. But she recovered within the week and didn’t have to go to the hospital. She believes she recovered quickly as she had the first shot of vaccine a week before she got COVID-19.

Read More: ‘We don’t know what to do’: Okanagan man shares COVID’s impact on family in India

For those four days, my heart stopped. I lost my dad in 2019, and the thought of not being able to access my mother due to travel restrictions into India, was making me anxious. All the news about no beds, no oxygen, people dying on the streets – added to that anxiety. But she recovered, unlike a lot of people we know.

So right after she got better, my mother Harleen stepped up with friends, community members to start finding verified sources of oxygen, plasma and hospital beds.

And there are hundreds of people doing the same.

On the streets, you can see people giving water and food to ambulance workers. Strangers are finding oxygen and plasma for people who are getting care outside a hospital due to the lack of beds and oxygen supply.

I can’t even imagine what health care professionals, frontline workers, volunteers, non-profits, food banks and shelters are having to deal with right now. Imagine if Canada’s health care system got overwhelmed, or the panic that would ensue if hospitals didn’t have enough space, or couldn’t take any more calls.

These people are working 24/7 to help with the crisis that has taken too many lives, and I salute them.

Currently, human strength, endurance and kindness is being tested in India and across the world. All we can do is make sure we give some time, or a listening ear to anyone who needs to share their pain.

COVID-19 is not over yet.

Aman Parhar is the publisher and editor of Vanderhoof Omineca Express, Caledonia Courier with Black Press Media. She has lived in Canada since 2016.

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