Society, not government. In our country, our society is of the people, for the people and by the people. Not the ‘democratically’ elected government.
India was well and truly entrapped in the second wave of this awful pandemic in mid-February. Many of us—at least among the people I know—didn’t particularly think a second surge would be surprising. To many, a drop in cases was synonymous to the virus being gone. Obviously, this wasn’t the case. With the lapse in Covid protocols, some of us, including myself, certainly expected a second wave. So no, we were not surprised. Instead we were horrified. In fact, horrified does not quite cover it. There is no word in the english dictionary that quite describes the acute sense of dread that all of us felt.
Well, all of us except the ones who held and attended election rallies and melas. And those of us who believe that the “virus has a right to live”. Humans may be robbed of the right to live at the hands of a thoroughly mismanaged pandemic and health infrastructure made of hay. An untold number of people are dead because they couldn’t get any oxygen to breathe. Let’s not even start with the right to life of those who question the ruling party-whether that be at the centre of state, or hold beliefs contrary to theirs, for that demands an article to itself. But by all means, let’s talk about a virus’ right to live.
Checking social media platforms, especially Twitter, let alone the news, became almost unbearable. Every second tweet would be a desperate plea for a hospital bed, for oxygen, for an ambulance. Every third would be a tale of someone testing positive, and then dying in the blink of an eye, often before they could get any medical assistance. All of us received calls much too often about loved ones, relatives, colleagues dying before anyone could make sense of what happened. We had barely dealt with these facts when numbers and pictures of the dead simply lying in heaps and floating down rivers became everyday news. One could neither hope for help to live, or expect some dignity in death.
What little hope we had with the vaccination drive promptly burnt out much too soon, for we ran out of vaccines much too soon. You might blame the government of the country, or at least the health minister for that, but you might find them rejoicing over the number of registrations on the vaccine portal (which crashes more than it runs) , planning for a swanky new redevelopment project, declaring that the already underreported situation of the country is just a “narrative” to show the government in bad light. Yes, you are expected to find some answer to your problems somewhere between all this. And no, of course you cannot expect more help from them. Doing all that is rather time consuming, how are they supposed to find a second to help dying Indians? That’s awfully demanding of us, isn’t it?
In fewer words, we are on our own. Or that’s what we thought.
Amidst that flood of covid updates and vaccination updates, Twitter, as well as other social media platforms, revealed a side of India that was the only sliver of hope that maybe, just maybe, we might fight our way out of this. Complete strangers tried as best as they could, for those in need, to find the resources to live- beds, oxygen cylinders, medication, anything. We looked for leads and verified them and retweeted them and amplified them. Yes, we could not save as many lives as we would have wanted. But we certainly saved more than our elected government did. And yes, there were a few who rejected resources on the basis of religion and whatnot. We can’t save them from a narrow, misguided mindset, but only from a virus. So that’s what we did. We tried to make resources accessible, instead of wasting precious time posing for pictures with one cylinder while patients gasped for breath. Yes, there was the filth of humanity who used personal information put out for help to carry on with their unbending mission of harassment- it’s a never ending battle that is to be fought, regardless of the everyday state of affairs. The little good we could do, the little bit of help we could extend, came with its share of bad, and we are dealing with it as best as we can. So here’s what stays with us- if and when we see the end of this pandemic, the pat on the back goes to us, the people who elected the government to protect us.
But they’ll take that away too. Of course they will. Our sighs of relief are going to be drowned out in a tsunami of self-congratulatory tweets, messages and speeches. And even in the aftermath, and in the picking up of what’s left of our pieces, it will still be us, the people who elected them.