Letters from India

From India we’ve received personal reports of the second wave of covid sweeping the county with a vengeance. Our family in Delhi has suffered tragic losses: first Bhushan’s brother-in-law, then Kamal’s older brother, and also a dear friend in Bangalore. Death is sometimes welcome, sometimes inevitable…and sometimes a complete shock. To suffer three losses within the family certainly falls under the heading of a shock. Shruti wrote, “We wish we could meet our loved ones and comfort each other.” We share the same desire.

From left, Swarn, Kamal, me, Bushan, Ravi

Our friend Rajiv was more fortunate. His partner, Marina, wrote from England that he caught covid while traveling from Gokarna via Delhi to the state of Uttarakhand. He’d already had one vaccination, and during the journey had five covid tests – all negative. He thought his cough was from traveling and climate change. Then he tested positive and was immediately put in hospital. With few cases in that state the hospitals were working as normal. Later, transferred to a “luxury” hotel, he was checked twice daily by a doctor, then released.

Meanwhile, in Varanasi, people have described the drastic situation. Covid is rampant and the sick are desperate for medical care and oxygen. A business owner complained people are dying due to the collapse of the medical system. “Money is useless; you cannot buy oxygen or a hospital bed. Every one is in the same condition for death…pray for us”

Another friend, a semi-professional photographer sent a link to a BBC News article: Covid in Varanasi: Anger rises as coronavirus rages in Modi’s constituency https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-56969283 His photograph of the major cremation site beside the Ganges leads the article. “The prime minister and the chief minister have gone into hiding, abandoning Varanasi and its people to their own fate,” the article quotes.

Uschi, who we met many years ago, in Varanasi, also wrote in reference to the overloaded cremation sites and skyrocketing cost of wood. “Now the Ganges has become the graveyard of the Pandemic, for those who cannot afford to be cremated.” Their loved ones hope the Ganga will liberate their souls. Nets have been spread throughout her waters to capture the bodies.

Up in Himachal Pradesh it’s a different story, sparsely populated covid has not taken hold. Katinka, an English woman, has been in India throughout and stayed in Varanasi until covid started to rage. She retreated to HP where she’ll stay there for the foreseeable future.

Anita and Sulata, whom we met several years ago in Nagar, and later visited at their home in Vrindavan, are also now staying in the mountains and enjoying the quiet of lockdown.

“We have an abundance of nature, can go on hikes and treks and have a lot more freedom to move around.” Sulata wrote. But it’s not so good for the locals who rely on the tourist industry. Only essential stores are open and with no interstate buses running, Sulata feels marooned from the rest of the country. “It’s hard to really know what’s going on up here and there are no reliable Indian news sites.”

Anita in the mountains

At the other end of the subcontinent, Auroville has been in lockdown since the end of March, with strict sanitation, social distancing and quarantine for those returning from abroad. Officially, they declare no covid. Frederic, who’s been living there for the last five years, reported fifteen active cases mild or moderate, without need of oxygen. But no visiting tourists from Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai means no opportunity to sell their products in the market. It also means locals are no longer needed to support the tourist trade. Frederic wrote of an Indian friend, a carpenter working in Auroville, who built Frederic’s furniture. He recently died of covid at 65. “He was tired of life after many years of hard work to feed his family and then the death of his son. But I will always remember his smile.” Frederic said.

In Auroville, taken by Frederic

A neighbor on our street took a luxury yoga tour in Rajasthan and made a personal connection with the guide. Now many in the group are sending money to the extended family to help them through this crisis. Likewise, Uschi, is organizing distribution of food to poor families in Varanasi. She has a wealth of contacts in the west through her yoga tours and export clothing business. Marooned in Germany with her son, Uschi is working with Rakesh, her business partner in Varanasi to distribute the care packages. 75$ provides basic food supplies for a month with a cash supplement for perishables. Hopefully, this will aid them from not falling into further poverty. So far been able to reach 800 families and plan to extend to 1,000. Rakesh takes a photo of everyone who has received a care package.

As the tragedy of India unfolds it deeply disturbs me. In the midst of so much suffering in our adopted country, thank God for those that we know who are making personal efforts to do what they can. The impact of covid in India affects me as if it were my own family….it is my adoptive family. I should have similar empathy for people in all countries suffering from this disease, but the strongest pull comes from India.

18 thoughts on “Letters from India

  1. Thanks for the blog. Strange times for sure. Hope you guys are good.. Love p

    On Sat, May 22, 2021, 8:14 PM A Small Case Across India wrote:

    > Roberta & Gerard Wiggins posted: ” From India we’ve received personal > reports of the second wave of covid sweeping the county with a vengeance. > Our family in Delhi has suffered tragic losses: first Bhushan’s > brother-in-law, then Kamal’s older brother, and also a dear friend in > Bangalo” >

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  2. Dearest Roberta and Gerard. I am so sad to know and read more from your beautiful but poignant descriptions of India. Our friends and God children all in the same sad situation. Thinking of you both and hopefully things are safer for us we would love to see you. How is your hearing Roberta? Are you more accustomed to the transitions? You are in my prayers and I send you love. Maya

    Reverend Maya Balle, MCC, CPCC http://www.ReverendMaya.com 617-694-3450

    >

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    • Maya, Thanks so much for your response. Good to hear from you. We’d love to see you too. Let us know if you come into Boston. My hearing is the same but I’ve moved forward a lot in terms of adjustment. Thank you for asking. Love to you and Terry.

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  3. It appears it was not for nothing that the Masters established strong Satsang centers in the West. From our privileged circumstances we can offer monetary support to our “spiritual homeland” which is in such desperate straits. How to connect to the people putting together “care packages” for families who now have no way to earn an income? It may be the best way we can help rather than throwing cash into the vast coffers of large NGOs who get government funding.

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  4. Hi Roberta,

    So sorry to hear of these losses and the suffering of those you know in India! The story of the friend who had the first vax shot and recovered from covid with minimal effects or difficulties confirms how effective the vaccines are. With a factory in India it is terrible how they cannot get the vaccines out to their people with some speed to stave off infections. It is a horrible situation, exacerbated by a clueless, uncaring, self-serving govt like that which we formerly had here. What a difference it has made. Tho how odd for many to not appreciate how the Dem govt here has helped our country turn the corner.

    Are you back at the Y? I have not returned yet, preferring to take long walks and exercise on my own for now. I really liked the classes I took before and they were a big help in keeping fit. So when things get more to the way they were before I will want to return. I don’t like to ex with a mask and it is a hassle to have to reserve for classes.

    Best wishes,

    Debbie

    ________________________________

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    • Hi Debbie, thank you for writing. It’s good to hear from you. Yes, the one bright spot of India’s crisis is that it my bring down Modi and his govt.

      I’m. not back at the Y. Like you I don’t like the idea of exercising with a mask etc. I do a pretty good online pilates class each morning. https://epilatesonline.com/. I like Emma the instructor and she has a large library of recorded sessions to choose from. But I miss yoga. Can’t motivate myself to do that. I still bike a lot. Look forward to seeing you at the Y again one of these days! Best wishes, Roberta

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  5. Do you have a link either to Uschi’s endeavor or through another for sending support to a legitimate organization? Thanks for your heartfelt descriptions of the turmoil and loss told in a very caring way…

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  6. Thanks for that Bobbi. Gut wrenching for sure. I’m sorry that you lost good friends. Toland

    Toland Sand Glass Studio 28 West Carmel Valley Road Carmel Valley, California. 93924 603-496-2605 Office: 232 Hale Road Sanbornton, NH. 03269 603-630-0317 http://www.sandglas.com Facebook

    >

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  7. Yes, Horrific situation in India. I heard this morning that ‘junior doctors’ are commiting suicide because they do not have the oxygen and other supplies necessary to save patients lives; and they do not have the training and support they need to be effective treating people with Covid. Bobby, so sorry for your loss of friends, who have been family for you. Much Love… Diane

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  8. I made an executive decision to share this blog post with some satsangis in British Columbia! I got back this response:

    Hello Karen
    Thanks for sharing this account.
    I would like to share with you all Harmeet Singh ( Sherry) is a satsangi and my dear nephew ( my maternal uncle’s son) based in Vancouver. His family in India are helping to provide food to people economically affected due to covid. They are contributing with their time and money and Sherry has started a crowd funding where people can donate by credit card. Please see link below.

    https://www.gofundme.com/f/Fight-Hunger-help-India-during-Covid-crisis?utm_campaign=p_cp_url&utm_medium=os&utm_source=customer

    Please share the link as much as you can.
    Thanks and best regards
    Rajinder Bagga

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