Archive for May, 2021

— Rahul Varman

On the morning of 27th April I got a phone call from the youngest son of a trade union veteran of Kanpur, that everyone in his large household has been down with COVID-19 (henceforth Covid)-like symptoms. Though the condition of others was stable, his father’s oxygen levels were going down, and they had not been able to find either oxygen, or more importantly, a bed for him in any hospital. I called up the coordinator of a community help group being run for the Covid-affected in my academic campus. He reminded me that his father-in-law, who used to stay with him, had passed away on that very date a year back. That year-old story was repeating itself, of course in a much more grotesque form, with no oxygen, no hospital admission, and a sense of complete loss and helplessness. In the interim a whole long year has passed, when instead of looking at cricket scores we have become used to looking at Covid numbers the first thing in the morning.

What we are seeing, even in the alternative media, is primarily about those who have any sort of access (or think that it is their right to have access) to the ‘system’, in terms of testing, doctor’s attention, medicine, oxygen, ambulance, beds, so on and so forth. The actual reality is far grimmer when we look at those who never enjoyed that access. The neighbouring locality of Nankari, with a population of around 50,000, is separated from our elite and idyllic college campus by just a high security wall. In Nankari – where all those who serve us, from our household workers to contract workers of all kinds, those cleaning, manning security, running the mess, stay in their thousands – there is not access to a single ‘qualified’ doctor. There are only jholawala doctors.

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