The last time I was home was the Friday morning of 25th October 2019. I was given a warm yet emotional send-off, especially by my mother who woke up earlier that day and fed me everything she could. She didn’t move out of the kitchen, basically where I was sitting and eating since I had woken up, as I had nothing else to do. I had already done the packing the previous night, except for my two pants that had been hanging on a clothesline on the lawn since last afternoon.
I only tend to remember these send-offs, and deliberately so, out of the entire journey I have had undertaken so far outside the state (I am yet to get used to calling it a union territory). They constitute a great portion of my memories over the past five years and have become my constant companions whenever I miss my family. I believe that it is natural and everybody who leaves home for a longer part of the year or years for that matter, relates to such experiences. These are pure moments and one loves to get deeper into them to bring peace to the heart or seek strength to accomplish what you left your home for.
But over the past few weeks, some frightening thoughts and questions seem to have dissolved my good memories and occupied their place. They worry me a great deal inside and out, morning and evening. Most of them are the “What if?” ones: What if I get COVID-19 here in Delhi and die? What if my parents are not able to see me for the last time? What if I am cremated and not buried in my ancestral graveyard in Kashmir? What if any of my family members get infected while I am here? These questions are just unending and severely affect my brain before I go to sleep, though I almost speak daily to my mother, father and other siblings on phone and ask with redoubled seriousness about their wellbeing.
Ironically, the more I read about the disease and its prevention, the more distressing stories I come across. The last one I read shook me to the bone. It was about how the case of the 62-year-old man, who had tested positive and died within 12 hours of his admission in Srinagar’s Chest Disease hospital on March 29, was handled. What one of the sons of the deceased told Economic Times later explains and somewhat justifies why there is more reason to worry: “Nobody came forward to help. Not even those who are assigned and paid for the job”.
It is not that I am pessimistic and turn a blind eye to what our doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers are dealing with on the frontline. I also see that sooner or later, we will bounce back like we always do. I am proud of the nation we are, the resilience we have always shown, and above all, the help we lend each other in difficult times. We may have a tumbledown healthcare system but we have “us”, united and resolute.
But, yes, we can’t help worrying.