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How Are You Holding Up in These Pandemic Times?

How are you coping with the pandemic? How are things where you are? Do you see light at the end of the tunnel?

I’ve got to be honest: despite being absolutely cossetted in privilege, this entire pandemic situation has me beat. I live in Singapore, where covid hasn’t yet run rampant; I’ve received a vaccination, and have enough to eat plus a roof over my head, so I should be content. I’m not, though. The big part of it is the situation in India–where most of my friends and family live. 

Throughout the giant year that is/was 2020-21,  my coping mechanisms have included reading, going for walks, diving into work with whatever focus I’ve left. Recently though, none of this seems to be working and I feel like I have low-grade stress 24*7. Things in India have gone to hell in a hand-basket. The government failed to prepare the country with vaccines or train the populace in safety measures–despite a large-ish gap between the first and the second waves of the pandemic. The populace felt comfortable about traveling and large religious and political gatherings starting March, at which point the government declared that the pandemic was at an end in the country.

Unfortunately for India, though, the virus doesn’t recognize political or religious feelings or agendas of the government or the population, and is acting like viruses do: attacking and thriving and attacking, in an endless vicious cycle since late March and early April. I’ve lost friends to the disease, I have friends struggling with it, I have friends who have lost dear ones, or who are struggling to find beds, medical oxygen–in one of the families I know, the husband and wife are both ill, and their toddler is being cared for in a separate room by the grandparent. The wife needs hospital care, the husband is unable to keep the household going because covid is not a joke when it catches you. I’m terrified for my parents and relatives, and have begged them to stay home. Some will listen, some won’t, some don’t have an option.

In a country where so many are desperately looking for oxygen cylinders and others are dying of oxygen tank leaks, it feels like a hopeless, godless situation. The leadership will not take responsibility, so people are banding together to help each other. Most of the help I and my friends have received has come through Twitter. Apps have mushroomed, connecting emergency needs to resources. People are volunteering their time and money, in addition to donating to fund oxygen cylinders.

My heart is broken with the amount of absolutely unnecessary and preventable suffering –but together, we’re stronger, because in this moment of cataclysmic national crisis in India, heroes have emerged–and some of them are on social media.

How are you coping with the pandemic? How are things where you are? Do you see light at the end of the tunnel?

Are you part of nay online or offline book groups? Founded any? What is the experience like? Do you think online book groups are similar to those offline?My debut literary crime novel,”You Beneath Your Skin,” published by the fab team at Simon and Schuster IN is optioned to be a TV series by Endemol Shine.

It is available in India here.

Worldwide, here.

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Although I know I should be satisfied and not gripe, I too am sorrowful over this pandemic. I am retired, so my job is not affected, I have had one dose of the vaccine, and so far my children have retained their employment. All things to be happy about. But… here in Nova Scotia we have just entered another 3rd wave Lockdown. It is going to last at least 4 weeks. Enough said…

  • Jemima Pett says:

    I’ve only recently become aware of the situation in India. Like you, I’ve been lucky, but taking care is also a part of luck. I was pretty down from Christmas until a couple of weeks ago, really wading through mud, not helped by a couple of deaths of friends, plus online ones. But suddenly I picked up and got going again, and focusing on getting a lot of different things done in a day. I think part of that is variety, and also things growing that need tending! Long may that continue.
    Sending good thoughts your way. Keep strong. [hugs]

  • DutchIl says:

    Thank you for sharing!!… Hoping life will get better for the people of India (and everywhere) and thinking this virus may ideological barriers and people will work together instead of condlict… hope all is well in your part of the universe… doing okay here so far, thankfully waking up on the green side of the grass and living life as best I can… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May flowers always line your path
    and sunshine light your way,
    May songbirds serenade your
    every step along the way,
    May a rainbow run beside you
    in a sky that’s always blue,
    And may happiness fill your heart
    each day your whole life through.
    May the sun shine all day long
    Everything go right, nothing go wrong
    May those you love bring love back to you
    And may all the wishes you wish come true
    (Irish Saying)

  • Simon says:

    It sounds so bad over there, I can’t imagine it. I have to admit I have struggled some days as well… Keep well 🙂

  • Yes I have so many friends there after spending twenty years of my life in Bharat Mata and grieve for their situation. One of my friends reported that in Pune where most of my residential years were there were getting ten thousand cases per day. I can’t even imagine the fear and despair of the people living there. It’s a sick old world and we need to pray for each others safety . The fearful infection rate in some countries is the reason why Australia has closed borders against international travel in and out and in some cases closed borders between states for a period of time so our infection rate is practically zero. It would be hard to control infection rate in a country of one billion people so it would be hard for the government to control that.

  • setinthepast says:

    There are such close ties between the UK and India that we’re hearing a lot about the situation there, and desperately hoping that things improve. Things here have improved significantly since the vaccine rollout started, so I’m hoping that the same happens in other countries. The pandemic initially seemed to be over last July/August, but came back with a vengeance, and miserable scientists are saying that it may come again later this year: it’s going on and on.

  • alexjcavanaugh says:

    I’m really sorry. We’ve watched the daily counts soar beyond what we ever had here in the USA, which is scary. Hopefully the people continue to help one another since little else help may be coming.
    Between the pandemic and politics (which continue to crush here) I sometimes just have to turn off the news and tune it all out.

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – if I was in your shoes … I’d feel like you – and I certainly often think of you and people in India, Brazil and others … just so desperate.

    However like you … I’m coping – and relatively we’re safe here … the political aspects around the world in various places are frightening … one can only ‘pray’ that this dreadful virus leaves us (the human world) alone – sadly not likely for a long while yet. With thoughts – Hilary

  • soniadogra says:

    I don’t know how we are going to emerge out of this. How long will it take. As of now it seems like forever. Just trying to hold on to every bit of hope but worrying like hell for parents who are away. I just hope Indians do not have a short memory and they remember the incompetence of the government the next time they vote.

  • I live in one of those places where people detest masks and largely refuse to wear them. They decry the virus, saying people should focus on the number of survivors, not the number of deaths. Or they tested positive and it was “like having the flu” … “no big deal” … therefore, they get angry, irritated, and ugly about everyone making such a big fuss about nothing. They call it “living in fear” and they refuse to live in fear. They’re also refusing to get the vaccine.

    To me, this is the epitome of selfishness. To say, “It doesn’t affect me, therefore it’s a personal decision,” completely dodges any responsibility for how it affects other people. But pandemic-level viruses ARE public health problems, so we have to take responsibility together as a society to lower the risks. Here, however, people think their opinions, preferences, and politics are more important than facts or the welfare of other people. THAT is what frustrates me about the pandemic.

    I’m fortunate that my life hasn’t changed that much because of it. But to be surrounded by individualism so extreme that it willingly comes at the expense of others has forever changed how I see certain people and places. (Admittedly, this is on top of a lot of other pre-pandemic baggage, but the pandemic has been the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”.) So to carry that frustration, anger, and helplessness on an almost daily basis causes lingering depression, anxiety, and resentment. How can it not?

    Like you, technically I’ve pulled through this okay, considering I live with someone who tested positive and neither of us ended up needing hospitalization or experiencing financial hardship because of it. I know how fortunate I am in that respect, so far. But mentally, it has definitely taken a toll. Not because my life has been limited, but because it revealed people and places for who they really are. And that breaks trust and creates division and resentment. And now I can’t look at them without harboring strong negative feelings. And I hate that because I want to believe there’s good in everyone. But now I can’t un-see it.

    Ironically, this has made my writing stronger and better. I’m more creative and have been more productive. But at what price? It’s just … a mess. A sad mess.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Sending hugs, Melody. It must so hard on you, mentally, to be surrounded by such ignorance. Take care of you. All you can do is be gentle with yourself, and I hope you find the time and space to do that.

      • Trying to achieve a “team effort” when half the team refuses is beyond frustrating. I am heart-sickened by what I’m seeing in the news about India, and I know that the US is looking into ways that we can help. At least we have people in office now who want to help and who I believe will try to follow through on that as our own situation continues to stabilize. I think they’re looking at sharing the vaccine supplies at least, since we’re doing relatively well getting people vaccinated and have a good supply. But we might be facing a 4th wave because of all the in-fighting during the first 3 waves, and experts are divided on whether it will be just as bad as previous ones, or if the vaccination rate will curb it this time. We have to work together as a nation and as a global community to get this thing under control. This is not the time or place to refuse to cooperate, or we will be as the saying goes, “Pissing in our own water supply.”

        I know it’s hard for you to see what’s happening in India. We feel helpless, but in most situations where this pandemic is concerned, all we can do is continue to follow the safety rules, and that in itself is a big help for others and overburdened hospitals and health care workers, if not for ourselves. Continue to take care of yourself, Damyanti. Hopefully, India’s situation will improve soon, too. (Hugs)

  • Emma says:

    A moving piece. Thank you for sharing; it is shocking to hear the personal perspective. Let’s hope things improve in India fast.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      They have worsened instead of improving, but I hope we’ll turn a corner soon.

  • Stu says:

    Hi Damyanti
    it’s been weird. I’m mainly an introvert, so navigating being home is not that big of a deal for me. There are times, though, that I have to get out.
    I’ve gotten both shots so I’m ok on that end. I continue to wear a mask and will continue to do so (I’ve got some of the things that make me more susceptible, like asthma). It’s for my health and others.

    The news from all over has been dim and gloomy, and the rise in shootings in the US (and the escalating ill feelings globally) only make things worse. Head and heart aches for all who suffer.

    One big positive for me: with both shots (and isolation) I finally got to meet my granddaughter. She was born in June of 2020, so…that sucked. My grandson is almost 4, and he’s going nuts in the house. Hopefully, soon the outdoors.

    Stay safe and healthy

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      So good that you got to meet your precious grandkids! They light up my timeline. Good on you for isolating, taking the vaccine, and wearing masks. We all need to protect ourselves and each other.

  • I had no idea things were so desperate in India. My heart goes out to you and your beloved country, Damyanti. Here in America, I know no one who’s been sick or died from the pandemic, except maybe anecdotally. I follow all the suggestions for safety (but I do ignore those that make no sense). It seems to work. I’m vaccinated and will take a plane trip to my sister’s in May. I can’t wait!

    Loved your definition of ‘privilege’–received a vaccination, and have enough to eat plus a roof over my head.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Things are coming apart in India, Jacqui. The stories are very close to home, and every day I live in fear.

      Isn’t that the very definition of privilege? I know so many who don’t have any or all of this.

  • inkspeare says:

    Your feelings are understandable. You would not be human if those feelings weren’t there. Each person copes differently. I have not been able to write in over a year; just bits and pieces, hardly. Despite our blessings, there is a sense of sadness and a void that the suffering we have seen leaves in our minds and heart. I hope you feel better with time, and pray for your family. God bless.