We Asked Young Indians How They’re Coping With India’s Second Covid19 Wave
Living through the second wave is incomparable to last year: the looming specter of death, overflowing crematoriums, a desperate rush for oxygen, crushing grief — nothing could have prepared us for the towering mental and emotional toll. People are left sapped of emotional and physical energy, as they juggle jobs, studies, mental health, relief work, home care regimes — all while struggling to get vaccinated.
We asked several young adults how their perspectives about living through a pandemic have changed during the second wave. Here’s what they had to say.
Now, I wake up daily hearing about death in either my extended family or someone I grew up around in my village. I am so scared of losing more people and not having enough time with them. I call my parents all the time, three-four times a day we video call. I have frontline workers in my family, my masi and mami are nurses in the district hospital. My brother is a med[ical] student in Kolkata. I am just video-calling my family every day. I am just so far away from all of them and I want to be with all of them at once. And hearing people of our age dying, I am scared of not having enough time to see them. It’s taken a bad toll on my mental health — very bad. I am thankful to be with my partner who is like rock-solid support — but even with the best support, despair creeps in.
Hearing about people of our age dying, and the same generation working day and night to find and verify resources to save people’s lives, while the government is literally being a mute spectator — and to be honest, a benefactor to the dance of death — I think this crisis has sucked us dry. I had to reach out to my psychiatrist and double my medication to be able to sleep. I have started updating my nominees on my accounts and policies. My brain is continuously making contingency plans in case I am not alive, my mind is drafting last letters to my family, my partner. And I can’t stop it. I know it may come to that.
Dyuti S., 27, Delhi
Up until I was detected Covid positive, at the beginning of the second wave, I was traveling to work regularly. Most of the second wave, I spent either isolating or hospitalized.
The dynamics of caring [within the family] have changed drastically. Post-Covid, most of my family members and even most colleagues make sure I take enough rest. The shortness of breath after phone calls is known to all, so usually, they keep it short when on calls … Initially, when any member of my family ventured out I didn’t really think twice. Now it is completely different. I make sure that no elder of the family goes out at all. I have taught them how to use e-services for delivery of groceries, vegetables, etc. — a reason they frequently use to go out of the house. I have made sure everyone’s insurance papers are in order and all premiums have been paid on time. Once you have gone through the horrible experience of the infection, it always puts in your mind a fear of the disease that is spreading so easily from people to people.
Aditya K., 31, Pune
Last year, nature was healing, we enjoyed sitting by the window and listening to bird songs, and enjoyed having meals with the family. Right now, these bird songs are constantly interrupted by ambulance sirens. And amid all this chaos, we have to carry on with our jobs when it’s difficult to even get yourself to wake up every morning — especially when we wake up to the news of people we knew losing their fight against the virus, and that too because of inaccessibility to resources more than anything else.
But I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned through this pandemic is that work is just a part of life, and not our whole life. We should use our leaves, go away more, appreciate nature, and of course, be more eco-friendly because climate change is something no vaccine can manage. It’s important to get out of our comfort zone because, well, you never know what can hit the world next, and alter it forever.
Jalasmi, 25, Mumbai
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This second wave often makes me think about our mortality. I’m hearing about people losing their family members and then I think about my family — how I haven’t met my grandparents in over two years now. I’m supposed to go abroad for higher studies, my grandparents want to see my wedding — there’s just so many milestones. But I’ve started to wonder now whether they’ll be around to celebrate these milestones with me, and whether I’ll be there to reach these milestones. And, frankly, I don’t know how to process these thoughts.
On the one hand, I actively want to spend time with friends and family — virtually, of course, at the moment. But on the other hand, I’m so stressed by everything that I just want to feel numb — be it through mindless scrolling on social media or binge-watching videos.
Basudhara, 24, Thane
News just seems to be in numbers now — there’s a desensitization to death. I lost three relatives last year, but they were all older and already battling different illnesses. This year, I’ve been hearing news of peers succumbing to the virus, and even a junior of mine from college passed away — it’s just hitting closer to home in 2021. It seems like no one is safe. But somehow, people are a lot less empathetic this time, and going around like nothing has changed. In 2020, everyone was a little more understanding of the emotional turbulence we’re all undergoing — they think we’re equipped to deal with it now.
Everything I do seems so futile right now — I’m starting to wonder what’s even the point of working so hard that we don’t even get to spend time with our family and friends, especially when we don’t know what the future is going to hold?
Prakrati, 25, Bhopal
What was devastating about 2020’s lockdown was that I was not only alone in my apartment, but the entire floor I was on was also entirely empty. In fact, at one point, the idea of empty apartments began haunting me. And yet, 2021 somehow feels more toxic, more haywire, and more shattering than last year — even though I’m staying with my parents this time. I am yet to process the losses of people we know, of people we may have known one day, and of people, we will never know. It’s draining. Uncertainty is just all over the place — irrespective of age.
I’m choosing to do the bare minimum by trying to verify resources and share these with people who need them urgently. My friends and family are advising me to take a break but, where do I go taking a break from here? The offline realm is equally terrible, equally heartbreaking. At this point, I am neither coping, nor accepting. We’re in a place we never thought we’d be at … yet we are, all of us.
Jyotsna, 24, Nalanda
Almost everyone in my office has/had Covid in the past month (including myself). Since I work in a factory, work from home is not an option for me. I generally suffer from anxiety and the past few weeks have made it worse. Especially the fact that I have to be constantly paranoid — I remember one day at work someone approached my desk and came so close that I instinctively flinched and backed my chair away.
I am definitely more worried for my parents this time around, especially given the severity of symptoms that people are experiencing. My parents are not yet vaccinated and I had some trouble getting through to them about the safety of the vaccines, and by the time I convinced them, the vaccines had run out.
Ritisha, 26, Jharkhand
The second wave brought more anxiety and fear than the first one. My family has quite a few government employees and all are risking their health and exposure daily. While I live in a different city, I constantly keep a check on whether they’re living responsibly, washing hands, staying home, not welcoming people to home, etc. They worry the same about me stepping out to get vegetables etc. In the first wave, it was “take care.” In the second wave, it is “you’ve to stay alive…so, do these things. Don’t do these things.” Also, I have had to scare my family more during the second wave, as the lack of oxygen is imminent in small towns.
Taking distress calls from some people made me realize how easily Covid19 can deteriorate the health of the otherwise fit and fine. Having personally been weakened by dengue, the fear of Covid is even more. The fear during the first wave was that I might be an asymptomatic carrier and don’t want the guilt of spreading it. Whereas in the second wave, I’m accepting that I could be running around for oxygen supply if I’m not extremely careful.
Srujan Akumarthi, 28, Pune