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The Carletonian

India: my personal dystopia

When I came to campus for Spring Term, India seemed to have the COVID situation under control- cases had decreased, public places were opening and restrictions were being lifted. But within a couple weeks of my return, my country sounded like the setting of a dystopian novel. Hearing about the horrific number of people testing positive can take a toll on anyone’s mental health, but to me this was so much more personal than the statistics. To me, it was my family and friends—so, so many of them. 

At first, I used to avoid checking my phone when I woke up because I feared someone else I know might have tested positive during the eight hours I was asleep. For too many mornings, my fear was a reality. At this point, I cannot even count the number of people I know who have gotten COVID in this last month alone. When my grandparents tested positive, I barely slept at all. I even became religious and prayed for the first time in a decade. 

At that point, I was just scrambling to find any help I could. Luckily, none of my family members suffered severe symptoms and when they recovered, I had a newfound motivation to help others avoid the severe mental stress I was under. I started volunteering at a nonprofit organization that hosted virtual clinics for patients and their families. Although I only deal with the technical aspects of the clinic (arranging breakout rooms, coordinating the flow of patients into the meeting, etc.) it is helping me cultivate a healthy mental state. It may not be much, but it makes me feel that I am doing something to help my country- which, unfortunately, is more than what I can say for our government.

Given the people who are currently in power in India, I am not entirely surprised at the lack of constructive efforts to stop the spread of the virus, but the active role the government has played in worsening the situation has been not just disappointing but extremely enraging. 

Seeing the tweets of government officials encouraging people to attend election rallies , and come out to vote has been one of many infuriating experiences. It has come to a point where basic human rights are being violated rampantly and the government isn’t even hiding it anymore. Social media posts criticizing the government and its handling (or lack thereof) of the pandemic are literally being taken down and accounts are getting banned. Twitter has already suspended the account of one world leader; I think the time has come to suspend another. 

In my view, there is a silver lining amidst this dreadful situation. People in India and the Indian diaspora have come through for each other like never before.

Influencers are exercising their power to make people aware of available resources, people are receiving several responses to posts asking for medical assistance, requests for donations are being answered and non-governmental organizations are practically keeping the country from collapsing entirely. On the personal side, many of my friends offered to provide my family meals and do their grocery shopping when they were sick.

India can barely breathe, but its citizens are its ventilator. That is what is keeping me sane right now.

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