Number of people dying in pandemic remains a figure till one doesn’t lose a known face, a dear acquaintance or a close relative. There would not be many left in the city of Delhi and its prosperous suburbs to whom death in pandemic would have by now remained just figures; it has become part of painful personal emotions in the majority of the families. Thus government flaunting figures beome inconsequential, as almost everyone is in pain of a grievous loss.
Delhi for many has been like a lifeline. It gave succour to everyone in need, be it for education, for a job, for a shelter or be it treatment for an ailment. Today Delhi is gasping for breath. Delhi is important because it’s the microsom which represent the nation, and it too is not any less breathless. The way people in the city are haplessly falling victim to a failed medical system, the death in the numbers is only comparable to when Nadir Shah raided Delhi and let his soldiers loot, rape and kill its citizens.
The current narratives going around in the city are not just about people dying because oxygen was not available but their struggle to survive and make every attempt to live despite death staring in their face. The struggle to get life-saving drugs, which the government announces to have lowered the price, is being sold in the black market, last heard at 45 times higher the printed cost. The government is selling the narratives of oxygen being transported on express trains, being air lifted but on ground the story is that people are dying like stacks of hay burning, waiting for the oxygen to come through the pipelines.
History has it that when Nadir Shah’s army went on the rampage, then ruler of Delhi, Mohammed Shah Rangila kept up a brave face claiming that he was doing every bit to defend his people. Despite Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal pulling out all the weapons in his armour, including an emotive act in a meeting with the prime minister, to claim that he was doing his best for Delhi, the fact remains that what’s happening in Delhi is no less than the carnage its citizens faced at the hands of Nadir Shah’s soldiers.
The misery of the families of the Covid-infected doesn’t end with the death of the patient. If running from pillar-to-post for getting the drugs and oxygen at premium to save breath was not enough, the road to ‘moksha’ too is coming at a very high cost. Why only blame those selling Remdesivir injections and oxygen cylinders at a premium, those operating the hearse vans to priestschating mantra at creamatorium have taken to the ways of hyenas and vultures, preying on the flesh of the dead.
Delhi today is a deserted city but for the sound of ambulances zipping sround with blaring sirens and the traffic jams in front of the creamatoriums and the burial grounds. While the long queues at the liquor vends often made stories in happier times, as of now the waiting at the ‘moksha dwars’ are emotionally pulverising. The fear of opening social media pages, lest the news of the death of someone known would pop-up, has left us the citizens in the state of schrizophenia.
In such state of misery, succour comes not from pontificating leaders but from the legendary morale of brave citizens who for centuries have withstood the wave of raiders and epidemics helping out each other, holding hands and fighting their own battles for survival. It’s not just the argumentative Indian but a inherently good Indian which is keeping this nation alive, though there would be worthless many to take the credit for it.
Author and president, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice