'Everywhere, there is pain': Indian sisters on life in the COVID-19 hotspot
On March 20, I developed a cough, headache, sore throat, cold-like symptoms, conjunctivitis and fatigue. I feared going to the hospital because I know people who went there and did not return.
I take little medicine, so I called a neighbor to get me something, but at 9 p.m., there was still no medicine. In desperation, I walked to the medical shop and got a strip of Cheston Cold. Around 1 a.m., I began experiencing a mild breathlessness. Immediately, I pressed acupressure points for asthma and did some ujjayi-type pranayama.
By 3 a.m., I could breathe the breath of new life from the cosmic womb and slept well, but I woke at 9:30 without enough energy to make a cup of tea. Here is where I felt the pinch of being alone but not lonely. I did not want to call the hospital, thinking the medical system is a corrupt money-making racket.
I tapped into inner resources. Every day, I increased 15-minute segments of meditation with breathing and pranayama. I disconnected from many social media groups like WhatsApp — the depressing news about ill treatment of the farmers, injustice and brutality were overwhelming. The government-controlled media was promoting ruling party politics and not bothering about supplying vaccinations.
I quarantined myself for three weeks. I ate a high-protein diet, inhaled a lot of hot steam, took vitamin C and multivitamins, asked for a lot of prayers. Drawing inspiration from Louise Hay, who healed herself from life-threatening sickness with paracetamol, I healed myself with only three Cheston Cold tablets.
On April 15, my sister and her daughter called, needing a place to stay: her son and his mother-in-law were home with COVID-19. I consulted my family doctor, who advised me to get vaccinated first. But I was deeply moved with pastoral concern for the needy. I began reading the news again and drew hope from the critical reviews of government failure to care for the people. I began to realize the importance of art and humor in the fight for freedom, especially the powerful articles by prophetic female writers. "We need a government. Desperately," says Arundhati Roy. "And we don't have one. We are running out of air. We are dying. We don't have systems in place to know what to do with help even when it's on hand. What can be done? Right here, right now?" India has been exporting vaccines to the world, and we have to be satisfied with the crumbs! Men are busy fighting elections, erecting statues and temples, and traveling at great cost. Too long, the male voice has dominated both church and civil society. We in India are in dire need of caring mothers who would think of their children first and then politics, like Mamata Banerjee of Bengal. Working for the underprivileged and downtrodden, she is called "mother of the motherland" of the people of Bengal. I said prayers of gratitude for life, changing my perspective toward death. How can I be a breath of fresh air to the COVID-19-struggling humanity? Those not afraid of death can bring much-needed oxygen of hope to fearful, breathless souls. This mild COVID-19 attack helped me understand the Lenten practice of kenosis, self-emptying. Kindness brings oxygen to the air. The rise of prophetic female political leaders will provide oxygen and plant seeds of health for all.
Margaret Gonsalves belongs to the Sisters for Christian Community, Washington, D.C. She is active in church and theological fora. As founder of ANNNI Charitable Trust, she works to empower Indigenous girls and women, offering residential programs in English and sustainable development skills in India