At the time of writing this piece, I was confronted with two strikingly different scenarios. One, involved friends in the UK posting images of their vaccine cards on social media (and I am proud of them for taking the first step in making themselves and the world a safer place). The other, involved friends and relatives in India calling out for emergency oxygen cylinders and empty ones, telling stories of lifesaving medication sold on the underground market at 200% markup and lengthy queues outside the hospitals. Some friends in India have also been paying respects to and memorialising people they know who have died. Social media feeds are filled with pictures of bodies lying in queue to be cremated, and makeshift funeral pyres built in parks and parking lots as city crematoriums have run out of space. The official statistics, which are already scary, understate the rise in cases and deaths, and these images often show the true scale of suffering.
In addition to the two different pandemic related scenarios mentioned at the beginning, I also live in two different realities and have two very different experiences simultaneously. I am from India. I live in the UK and have citizenship of the country. I am an academic who works on racism and migration. Last year, I was a vaccine trial volunteer and have now been vaccinated, while my mother and brother live in the outskirts of Mumbai and both contracted COVID-19 in early April. They are recovering, but both continue to cough and feel weak. Their oxygen levels are in the healthy mid-upper 90% range, so neither need oxygen or hospitalisation. Both need a lung CT scan, but they are avoiding hospital visits as it is overflowing with patients who need urgent intervention, and they also fear getting re-infected. A few other relatives are hospitalised or using oxygen at home. As you can imagine, the past few weeks have been filled with worry, dread and sadness. Living 4500 miles away and not able to physically be there and help also continues to cause me a great deal of frustration and guilt. I am facing another layer of diaspora blues, from Ijeoma’s book of poetries.
Identities COVID-19 Blog Series
Explore expert commentaries curated by Identities surrounding COVID-19 and displaced migration, nationhood and citizenship, and more.