The death of Lini Puthussery because of the Nipah virus should have thrown the spotlight on the precarious lives and living conditions of the nursing community in India, but beyond mere sympathies and as a news item and TRP booster for TV channels, nothing else has come out of her heroic sacrifice. The Government of India and Kerala seems to have already moved past her death. No cure has been found for the virus yet, even though outbreaks of the virus have happened in the past. In spite of this, Lini and other nurses were forced to attend to the people who had contracted the virus at the risk of their own lives.
What nurses do is social and community service and I have observed that such people are treated with far less respect than they deserve to get. Arvind Kejriwal is probably the only head of any state India has ever had with a distinguished background and credibility of social service (for which he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay award), yet people do not seem to have much respect and regard for him. Same goes for the nursing community as well. Hospitals are the only places where people forget all divides and unite irrespective of age, gender, skin colour, caste and religion and nurses are the guardians of these hospitals and the angels who sacrifice their lives taking care of the patients.
But I grew up seeing guys eager for hospital visits if anyone they know are sick, to eat food from the hospital canteen at the expense of the relatives of the sick person and to ogle at nurses. Nurses are treated as so downtrodden that most of them become extremely strong mentally and emotionally otherwise they wouldn’t be able to survive without any self-esteem. Nursing is a profession that is always in demand and the need for qualified and experienced nurses is perpetual. This has propelled millions of families in Kerala to educate daughters in their households in nursing courses with the hope of sending them abroad for jobs. The onus of taking these families out of their dire situations and bringing prosperity are burdened on the shoulders of these young girls. Their trouble doesn’t end here though. Many men look to marry these nurses working abroad as their visa to a life abroad without having to work and earn, a fact that has been highlighted satirically in many Malayalam movies.
A nurse who took care of a #NIPHAVirus patients & succumbed to same. Her body was cremated with extreme urgency to prevent any possible spread and even her family could not pay due respect. Respect to Lini &a reminder that healthcare workers take immense personal risk to serve us pic.twitter.com/4kzESu6j4J
— Dr. Deepu Sebin (@deepusebin) May 21, 2018
Nurses and soldiers belong to the same category of citizens of any country, the ‘Expendables Community’. They are the ones who are supposed to lay down their lives in the line of duty to protect the people of the country. It is said that the people of the country sleep in peace because of the soldiers who protect the country’s borders. I have often wondered, from what or whom? Apparently, India does not have a friendly relationship with China, yet I got the visa to travel to Shanghai to do a one year MBA course with an international business school. I have made many friends and contacts there and the hostility between countries never extended to the human to human level. This hostility is limited only to government and political levels and soldiers have always had to give up their lives at the behest of the rulers of the land.
But the nurses partake in wars at a very different level. The war of survival of humanity. These are wars every living being is part of in nature, to survive and be a dominant species. We still do not know the purpose of more than 90% of our DNA which clearly shows how little we know about the bacteria and viruses that inhabit our world and their evolution. The more medicines we are finding for diseases the more viruses are becoming resistant to medicines along with evolving themselves into new unknown strains. The war we are waging with nature is for the survival of our species rather than for victory and nurses are the pawns who are sent out to the front to protect us and die for us.
It is the nurses who deserve the highest respect and honour any country can bestow upon its citizens. Instead, they are struggling because their profession is one of the lowest paid in India and not every nurse gets to make a living abroad. Many of them are not even getting enough salaries to repay the educational loans they have taken to study the nursing courses. The country should not forget the poignant letter Lini wrote to her husband before her death and her sacrifice should not go in vain. The Government of India should honour her with the highest possible civilian award and the Government of Kerala should extend it’s support to her family and children in every possible way. This I believe will be the stepping stone towards a brighter and dignified future for the nursing community of the country.