My 88-year-old grandfather and 79-year-old grandmother were on their regular doctor’s visit to Gujarat just four days before the haphazardous lockdown was announced. My family is based in Goa, but since we have an ancestral house and a few family members there, they like to visit Gujarat once a year.
Although my grandfather had his doctor’s appointment in the second week of March, they were supposed to head back home in the last week after visiting my extended family. But since transport was halted all of a sudden, they were left immobile in one place.
Our ancestral village, Dakana, is 60 kms away from Bhavnagar District. It is situated in interior parts of Saurashtra, Gujarat. Underdeveloped, many villagers have left for bigger cities in search of jobs and promising opportunities. The village hardly has any transport connectivity and with each day we see many empty houses.
Initially, we thought it was ideal to live there, but as the summer set in, my grandfather suffered from extreme heat strokes. He was rushed to nearby OPD in a close-by town of Talaja, but doctors advised he be shifted to a hospital with better medical facilities.
In regular times, patients are shifted to a city hospital in Bhavnagar, but it was a red zone and risky for the elderly couple to move there. The cases in Gujarat were rising at a rapid speed. Since their age made them vulnerable from me to contract the virus, almost all relatives refused even to help them.
One month has passed and people who we knew for years have given several reasons for not being able to help my grandparents. As of today, he is critical, with perhaps just a couple of weeks to survive. Those were the last words we heard from a doctor treating him. As his family, we could do very little from Goa apart from begging our friends and family there to help, but alas! They are reluctant and we are helpless.
As I write this, I am wondering about the fate of many such patients in India, awaiting medical assistance for different ailments apart from the coronavirus. On social media, I see even the privileged class being turned down due to a shortage of doctors or a shortage of beds in the hospitals.
In my grandfather’s case, it was a lack of medical facilities. For the lack of a better word, I would say — he has been left to die on his condition. The relatives and friends couldn’t help given their safety concerns and here I am hoping to see my grandfather again.
The announcement of the lockdown was so sudden that we could do very little to bring them back. Even a day’s notice would have helped us to bring them back with us. But now, since his condition has worsened, he is advised against travelling.
How is life supposed to pan out from here on? The fear of contracting the virus from a person unknown or neighbours or someone who needs help has made us reluctant. My grandparents need their children closer, but that isn’t easy in the current situation. Their cry for help has crippled us. We are pinning our hopes on doctors whom we interact with frequently over telephones.
This is about just one case close to me, but currently in our country millions are waiting for medical attention with no source of income and no availability of doctors. I wonder where we are heading from here. As a community and as a society overall, this virus has made us hostile towards one another.
The author is an ex-journalist and is currently working for the development sector in the field of women and gender rights. The opinions expressed here are the author’s own.