Opinion: My 'feeling of hopelessness' in CT, awaiting word from India

I sit, patiently hearing word from a family member who has an oxygen saturation of less than 85 percent, trying to see how their condition is progressing. If this were the United States, that person would be on a ventilator, no questions asked. But, this is India, where resources are scarce, and patient treatment is dependent on availability and privilege.

As Indians living in America, what can we do? We send money, engage in video chats, and keep our phones close waiting for positive news. It is a strange feeling, the feeling of hopelessness. We want to help, but there isn’t much that is in the power of our hands.

As a first-generation American, I have asked my parents a number of times why they moved to the United States. They always responded “for a better life.” I never understood that answer, as growing up, we ate mostly Indian food, my parents had mostly Indian friends, and in general, our household was very cultural. I kept trying to figure out — why would my parents leave if they loved their culture and heritage so much? They didn’t escape a hostile environment, or a war torn nation. India is touted as the world’s largest democracy, and its diversity is one of its strong points.

Now I understand why they left. It was not because of the culture. It was not because of a hostile environment. It is because in times of crisis, the resources are not there, and the ones who do receive treatment are the wealthy, and privileged. In India, where the population is 1.3 billion, if you are not wealthy, you have to fight for everything. That includes, food, water, and clothes. Therefore, in a pandemic, how is it even remotely possible for this country to have the health care resources to respond to nearly 400,000 new COVID-19 cases every day?

In a country where a narrative of a “New India” and a “New Age” is being pushed, we are seeing the gaps between the poor and the rich deepening even further.

Many times over the past year, it looked like India was ahead of the COVID-19 wave, with social distancing efforts, and even the mass manufacturing efforts of remdesivir and the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. India was on top, telling the world they are willing to help. Unfortunately, they did not adequately plan for a resurgence of cases that could effect their own people. Now, thousands of people are dying, with the actual figures disputed and challenged.

There are many NRIs (non-resident Indians) sitting around the world, feeling hopeless and desperate for their family and friends. The guilt is not from being in a “better place” because they all have love for their country and culture. The guilt is from knowing that perhaps a death can be avoided with proper resources and care, that at the moment, does not seem available to their loved ones.

Gaurav Majmudar is a third-year medical student at Howard University, who grew up in Stamford.