Wed. Jun 23rd, 2021

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India Covid-19 appeal: Family of Indian Kiwi mum dying every day

4 min read

The Herald has joined forces with World Vision to support India in its fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. We’re bringing you stories from the front line and the opportunity to help – every story has a click-through button so you can donate direct to World Vision and help provide desperately needed supplies of oxygen, beds, medical supplies and food.

Shweta Tomar is an Indian New Zealander who lives in Auckland with her husband, 5 year old son and 4 month old daughter. Her parents, siblings, in laws and extended family all live in India.

My parents were visiting me here from India last year when the WHO declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic. When they flew back two days before New Zealand announced our first lockdown in March, they reassured me that it was best for them to be back in India when international borders were so volatile with closures. We were far apart but our two worlds seemed connected.

In December 2020 we welcomed our baby girl and my parents started dreaming of their next trip here to meet their grandaughter. Those conversations have now come to a sudden halt and instead we do video calls every day just to make sure they’re still there. It’s like marking an attendance roll to check they’re alive.

Families devastated by COVID-19 need you. Please click here to donate now at worldvision.org.nz and save lives

I feel intense fear and anxiety as I watch the news about my hometown of Delhi. On one hand I hear the news of concerts with 50,000 people in Auckland, and on another I see carparks and pet graveyards being turned into makeshift crematoriums back home. Death tolls are rising. Thousands are gasping for breath and hundreds are lifelessly waiting in line for their final rites. My social media feed is full of requests for beds, oxygen, plasma and sometimes breast milk for newborn babies who have lost their mothers to the virus.

Every day I hear of 4-5 people who have passed away in my extended whanau. People in their 30s, 40s, 50s leaving behind young children and parents. I shudder to think that the worst is yet to come. My dad, the eternal optimist, philosophically tells me on our daily video check-ins, “death is inevitable”, but he can’t hide the fear behind his smile.

The heartbreaking loss of innocent lives we see on TV, or read about in papers like this, seems far away, but it is our families who are engulfed in the raging storm of infections and deaths. The fear of “who’s next” is real.

I can no longer see a pile of wood and not feel a chill through my spine. Death, like life, was considered sacred. But now, the ritual and customs which help families to mourn the souls who pass away are all being rushed. A luxury most cannot afford. It’s chaos. From the moment you’re tested Covid positive, it’s a fight – to get medicine, to get a hospital bed, to get oxygen, and finally to get some wood. And once again it is the poor that suffer the most. For the poor in India life was always hard, now even death isn’t sparing them. Like my dad says, death is inevitable but it’s not just that so many are dying, it’s the indignity with which people are losing lives that could be saved, that makes this tragedy truly unprecedented.

Grief and helplessness are making me plunge into despair. But that is just me. Sitting in paradise, breathing fresh air, moving freely. While my home country of 1 billion steadily chokes.

Each night after putting the kids to bed, my husband and I discuss who we lost that day, and then thank God for those who are still alive. We are living two lives: one of hell burning our homes back in India, and one of heaven here in New Zealand. We are deeply aware of our privilege right now and feel grateful, yet so torn between our two worlds.

Please check in with your friends who call India home, and please use your voice and privilege. If you have the means, give what you can to organisations like World Vision, who are doing everything they can to save the lives of my people back home. And never for a moment forget that the pandemic is still raging in a world not so far away, and that nobody is safe until everyone is.

Families devastated by COVID-19 need you. Please click here to donate now at worldvision.org.nz and save lives

Where your money goes

Your support will help save lives by providing protection, prevention, and urgent life-saving healthcare.

· Oxygen
· Hospital beds
· Medical supplies
· Other desperately needed essentials

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