This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Joyeeta Talukdar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

I Saw The Best And Worst Of Humanity During COVID As A Doctor In Delhi And Assam

More from Joyeeta Talukdar

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.
ReimagineTogether logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #ReimagineTogether, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with UNICEF India, YuWaah and Generation Unlimited, to spark conversations to create a new norm and better world order in the post-pandemic future. How have you and those around you coped with the pandemic? Join the conversation by telling us your COVID story and together, let's reimagine a safer, better and more equal future for all!

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.

After finishing my day at AIIMS, Delhi, I would set out to check on some of my patients in palliative care or provide telemedicine consultation. I am actively associated with two NGOs in Assam working on this prospective — Kavi-Krishna Telemedicine Centre and Pratishruti Palliative Care. Both of these NGOs work for cancer patients in Assam, and even in Delhi.

And then, came March 23, 2020, the day India went under a sudden lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The Sudden Lockdown

On that very day, I got a call from Assam Bhawan, New Delhi, and Dr Dhananjay Ghanwat, IPS, Dhemaji district, Assam, asked me to help in proper coordination of the Assamese patients who came to Delhi for treatment and also to monitor the home quarantine for people in Assam.

Training volunteers for monitoring home quarantine.||Image provided by author.

No one was ready for such a lockdown; we had no clue where to even begin. But, as they say, “Where there is a will, there is always a way.” The team was formed within a day, and training was done over video conferencing. Each person was given a list of 10 quarantined people who were to be monitored by them, along with the dos and don’ts criteria.

Alongside, I had to take care of the cancer patients who were stuck in Delhi during this lockdown and were suffering in one way or the other. Initially, we had no means to reach them. Again as they say, “If you want to help anyone, the universe conspires to help you too.” The North-east Spanner came into action and helped me reach my immediate patients in need during this time by providing transportation along with proper security, at all times of the day.

Going Beyond Medical Care

But now new problems started arising as people came to me for help beyond counselling. Food, medicine, water, — how do I arrange these basic necessities for them? I was at a loss. But angels persist, and during this fight against COVID-19, what I realized is that Humanity exists. A group, “Lockdown Heroes” helped me provide food and necessary items to the panic-stricken Assamese cancer patients and their families which had to stay back in Maharashtra due to the sudden lockdown. I came in contact with one of the “Lockdown Heroes” — Ajinkiya from Mumbai, who got me in contact with two organizations, BaBappu Food Movement and United for Humanity.

Teleconsultation with a COVID positive patient. Image provided by author

These two organizations helped me reach people, including people from the North-East who were stuck in Delhi without food, water and other necessary supplies. With their help, we were able to reach out to several thousand people who called me for food requirements, irrespective of the place and time in and around Delhi, Ghaziabad, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, etc.

I remember clearly that a lady from the Red Light Area had contacted me for food, water and sanitary pads because they had run out of money and were starving. I requested Mr Aarish and Mr Saif Kidwai from BaBappu Food Movement, and within a couple of days, these ladies received their necessary requirements and are still being provided necessary items by the organization.

These NGOs not only aided with food distribution, they also helped provide medicines to the patients whenever required. I clearly remember one such incident where a Colon cancer patient from Assam who had come to Delhi for treatment got infected with COVID-19 in one of the private hospitals. The Helping Hands NGO of New Delhi, along with NE Spanner, took the initiative to transfer him immediately to one of the COVID-19 hospitals for Hospital Quarantine.

His immediate family — wife and a young daughter, tested negative and were taken to their home for Home Quarantine. The family didn’t have food and water, and no neighbour was ready to help them out. I called Wasim and he made sure that the family had enough food and water to survive with, which he delivered at midnight on that very day. Further, he even went to the hospital to get the medicines required by the patient during his cancer treatment.

During this time, the daughter was panicked and needed constant psychological counselling. I tried to provide counselling to the best of my ability, and further, Pratishruti helped arrange sessions with trained psychologists through teleconferencing.

The COVID-19 patient was released from the hospital after 14 days with a suggestion of staying in Home Quarantine for the next 7 days. The family stayed in a single room and had to be transferred to a safer place. With the help of Assam Association of Delhi and NE Spanner, the family was transferred to Assam Bhawan. However, when the patient came home, further reports revealed him to be COVID-19 positive again. The family was panic-stricken.

Kavi-Krishna joined the fight, and its team of specialists helped us coordinate accordingly to keep the patient under constant observation. They helped him fight through the symptomatic condition for the next 14 days. The patient is now COVID-19 negative and has restarted his cancer treatment. This is one incident, among many, which made me realize that beyond everything, Humanity exists.

United for Humanity even helped me send the necessary sanitization equipment required to Amphan-affected areas.

In another incident, I remember a family who was in quarantine and called me for food from a village in Assam, almost at 2 o’clock at night. In the background, I could hear crying children. Immediately, I made some calls, and the very next morning, I could see the pictures with their smiling faces as they were being supplied food, sent to my mobile. Elsewhere, a person had got stuck in Roing, Arunachal Pradesh, because of the sudden lockdown. His family was in another district of Arunachal Pradesh, and they didn’t have any food to survive with. With one call, I was able to reach the gram panchayat of the area, and they provided food to this family.

On a distribution drive. Image provided by author

Our team is in constant coordination with the local doctors, Asha workers, nurses, and police to help out and reach out to the people who were in quarantine. The period of two months of my life from March till May 15 was a period when I was working round the clock to perform my duty as a frontline worker during this pandemic, and also ensuring that my help went beyond medicines to ensure that basic needs of my patients were being met.

All Is Not That Gold: From Delhi To Assam

But, a coin has two sides; one needs to see the other side of the story too, for a better understanding of the situation during this pandemic.

I travelled to Assam on May 31, 2020, to start my duty assigned at the Assam-Arunachal Border. I was ready to serve my own state now. After reaching the airport, we were taken to the quarantine centre for the mandatory swab test. I could have easily opted to take Government Official aid since I was on duty, but I opted to go as a normal citizen in order to better witness the situation. At the quarantine centre, I could experience the stigma that has come attached to this disease. The officials treated us as if we were COVID-19 positive, and refused to help us with luggage or even touch our things!

The worst, however, was yet to come, as I arrived home. I was placed in home quarantine. The people in my neighbourhood called the police for verification. The police officials already knew about my visit as they were pre-informed about my official work by the higher officials. It ached my heart to see the discriminatory way my family was being treated during this period by the very people in our community I had grown up around. Except for a few neighbours, no one came forward to help our family.

Further, no government health official or Asha worker came to verify my stay or ask about my health. It was the higher officials with whom I had been working under the COVID-19 monitoring project who took care of my reports and received regular health updates. After completing the necessary quarantine of my family, I informed the authorities and began my duties to help the people in my hometown.

I was faced with a great irony: I was facing discrimination in my hometown even after working night and day for the people. Further, during lockdown when I was capable of helping out or reaching out to the NE people in different parts of the country, people in my own hometown were starving.

As I came to know about that, a whole different world of bureaucracy revealed itself to me. Red Cross society was given the responsibility of distributing food to the people below the poverty level. While they had done it in the other areas, in my hometown, no one was even aware of it. I had to then take the help of the Disaster Management higher authorities to help those starving people out.

When Will The Stigma End?

Visit to a cancer patient amid the pandemic. Image provided by author.

I came to understand the difference between arrogance and illiteracy. Nowadays, whenever you make a call, the caller tune tells you what COVID-19 is and asks you not to discriminate against the healthcare workers. But, in reality, the picture is different.

In Delhi, during my duty period I felt the touch of humanity, whereas in my hometown, the people still need to be educated. The fear, borne from ignorance, is so entrenched in their minds that they end up hurting people. We all need to fight against this system, educate oneself and others about it, and most importantly, not discriminate against others.

During this time, I also felt the importance of my fight for Ethical Secrecy of the patients to be maintained since these patients were the ones who were in trauma and constant panic, when they arrived home after treatment by their society. There are many cases which I came across and still am coming across where people are facing discrimination during their home quarantine days and even after it.

We are constantly doing our jobs, stretching ourselves thin to help out the people in need of our guidance and help. What pains us is the discrimination we have faced. It proves the importance of educating ourselves scientifically. Together, we shall be able to get through these darker days, but beyond that, we need to understand the importance of education to avoid a situation of ignorance in our society where we don’t understand the importance of the people working for our society and start discriminating against them.

This post is a part of COVID Diaries, a special series under the #ReimagineTogether campaign. Tell us how this lockdown and pandemic has affected you! Join the conversation by adding a post here. here.
You must be to comment.

More from Joyeeta Talukdar

Similar Posts

By Priyaranjan Kumar

By Uday Che

By Charkha Features

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below