We have what no one has during COVID-19 pandemic

Urmila Chanam
Posted March 26, 2020 from India
Been a World Pulse community member for a decade, Ambassador for two years, Encourager for four years or more, vocal contributor for as long as I remember and a die-hard advocate of World Pulse and digital inclusion and literacy of women in India and other countries. I am able to use my strength( which is also your strength if you are a World Pulse woman) to give information, hope and positivity to others using digital technology, create awareness on COVID-19 and measures to its prevention, tracing, testing and treatment and facilitate more support to bring about adherence to government directives. World Pulse woman can build the bridge between people and solutions using digital technology and our global sisterhood. When you join www.worldpulse.com, you become a solution.

Covid-19 pandemic and finding our sisters on Worldpulse

We are all facing a global health crisis. Perhaps it's a reminder of the past deeds and decisions of the human race of manipulating the planet whichever way we deemed fit and now nature has it's own way to level out and make us see that the earth is a shared environment we share with plants and animals and other living beings and does not belong to just us. For those who believe that COVID-19 came from China, think again. A pandemic was inevitable from the way humans have destroyed ecosystems, mass at- scale deforestation, urbanization and industrialization poisoning our water bodies or destroying them. Animals and living beings and microbes are bound to be displaced from their natural habitats to cross over to the other side. Coronavirus animal to human transmission has a lot to do with what meets the eye. Let us retract our steps, reflect, charter a new course of learning to co-habit, respect other living beings and tide through COVID-19 pandemic by following government directives of social distancing and self quarantine. I wish all my sisters great health, resilience, positivity of spirit and god's grace during this challenging times.

World Pulse women have a great advantage during these stay-at-home times, we can read stories on www.worldpulse.com and comment on them to encourage each other. We can get acquainted to more women on World Pulse and learn about the wonderful work they do. We can converse with them to see if there are any common goals and work at a collaboration. The possibilities are endless and we must realise the advantage of this connection facilitated by digital technology which has the power of retention of social ties even amidst a pandemic, war, social unrest or catastrophes. We have something that no one has- we have a thriving, pulsating, vibrating sisterhood of 70,000 sisters spread across 190 countries, that's almost the entire earth.

There is an old saying that when the going gets tough, the tough get going! And we know we are tough, sisters and its the time for us to get going on what we do best- building connections and bridges between people using digital technology and using technology to solve a global or local problem. Wishing us all the best!

The lockdown and its inherent problems

India was put under complete lockdown on 24 March 2020 for 21 days which concluded on 14th April only to be extended till the 3rd May 2020. This was a historical phase where we witnessed the largest mass exodus after the partition where migrant workers moved from their location of work mostly in cities towards their homes in villages. Many things could be observed during this time which are to be remembered for what they taught us.

When the lockdown was enforced, people had a big problem in staying indoors evident from how they swarmed out of their homes in large groups to fill the streets in different states around India after the 'Janta' (Public) Curfew defeating all the purpose of calling for a nationwide commitment on social distancing.

Made me wonder how difficult is it to stay at home? When we are at school or college, we dreamt of not having to go for class daily and for some leisure time at home. At office, we dreamt of spreading on our beds, catch a nap and have a quiet day reading the newspaper and watering the pot plants. Now when we have that opportunity, people have difficulty in remaining inside their homes. It’s as if we are compelled to do the opposite of what life provides us. Also, an important thing to analyse for those who have to go out in hail or storm is to understand who they are trying to escape – anybody at home or their own company!

In these many days we all know what we need to know, thanks to WhatsApp University but constant overthinking can turn anyone into a nerve wreck and just when you need all your wits about to respond to a very serious situation, you may actually work against that goal in your anxiety. I am avoiding few people these days whose day starts and ends with Corona virus messages and discussions. My blood pressure shoots up in their company and I have to resist the temptation to shut down windows and draw curtains.

Different possible roles that the lockdown brought for people

There is a role for everyone in these trying times where we are home bound as long as you are not the neurotic or hypochondriac who can make anyone want to go up the wall spreading your panic. A doctor in my neighbourhood in Bengaluru has offered free medical consultancy through phone and video calls and delivery of medicines to our doors during this lockdown. Individuals are making donations to sponsor grocery and other essential supplies to help 60 students of a college who are stuck inside when the 21- day lockdown was enforced without prior information for them to make arrangements. Few NGOs and CSOs are helping labourers and daily wage earners in distress due to the coronavirus crisis. People are also donating to these NGOs to support the daily wage earners. Some NGOs are working to provide food to people who are unable to access food during the lockdown and help with medical emergencies and are mobilizing people to volunteer. Some individuals sponsored masks for the building security personnel, domestic help, newspaper vendors and friends who could not access one, others helped their apartment society management to formulate the precautionary protocols for the residents of the building, installing notices in common area and enforcing these guidelines.

Certainly, this crisis is not just for the medical and health staff, the police, municipality and other essential service sector but requires participation and contribution of the common (wo)man too. It’s a person choice to be part of the problem by spreading panic or the other extreme of dismissing government regulations of social distancing, self- quarantine and testing in case of symptoms or be part of a solution by looking after themselves, their families, and neighbours-being responsible and helping others by using their talent or resource.

The pandemic and lockdown amplified existing societal inequalities and social evils even more

India's size of population, density, malnutrition, high incidence of diabetes, heart diseases, lung diseases, lack of medical infrastructure in the peripherals pose the biggest challenge for the country to meet the needs to combat Coronavirus and adding to the list is the quality of health service we can expect. Recently the thermal scanning exercise in Tumkur Railway station in Karnataka was in public eye for the negligence of the Senior Heath Assistant, Mr. Narasimhamoorthy who was testing temperature of travellers half- heartedly while busy talking on the phone. People reported about his irresponsibility in duty in such critical times to contain COVID-19 and he was suspended thereafter. Such can be the quality of the surveillance in India as opposed to the big talk and assurances of our politicians.

Incorrect information, fake news and the efficiency with which they are being passed on and registered by recipients is leading to utter confusion, inconvenience and can also prove to be fatal. I got a prescription for treatment of COVID-19 as a forward last night. The person who is passing down prescriptions has little realization that prescriptions are case specific. The message prompts to go buy the medicines as soon as possible as they would soon be unavailable. Circulation of such prescriptions can do more harm than good because there is a reason why we are required to be examined by a doctor. Trying to be a doctor with no education or training in the stream is a futile exercise. We must check the information we receive after referring to the right authority like World Health Organization, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Indian Council of Medical Research and so on.

During this tensed atmosphere of infection, mortality and uncertainty the ugly tentacles of reports of racial discrimination of north easterners emerged from different corners of India. With people assigning blame to the Chinese for ‘bringing COVID-19 into the world’, their mismanagement of its spread and wildlife animal consumption world over Asians are at the receiving end of physical attack, abuse and discrimination. North easterners in India have also reported discrimination at workplace or at public places, some verbal some in the form of physical attacks. A lady clinical doctor in a reputed medical college in Maharashtra had to face taunts on the road, in the marketplace even in the hospital she works in where people called out corona virus on seeing her. A flight attendant with Air India was also a victim of name-calling and things went a little too far with a girl from Manipur when a man spat on her face before fleeing on a white scooter in New Delhi. A police complaint was lodged and the man has been arrested.

I am afraid Corona virus is giving an excuse for people to resort to racial abuse of north east people living in other parts of India. The struggle for inclusion and mainstreaming of north easterners in India has never really picked up, not at the national level nor at the regional level and at the local level it's not even an agenda. Every other community has been able to reach somewhere when it comes to their identity and entitlements but for the people hailing from the eight states of northeast. The long- standing human rights concern regarding racial discrimination of north easterners when they move to other parts of the country for education and livelihood have been sporadic but consistent over the years and should have been addressed long ago and not waited for the global crisis that engulfs us now. The relocations happen because our region does not have good schools and colleges or the learning atmosphere. The lack of support, awareness of our rights, insensitivity of law enforcement agencies towards our identity all amplify the current crisis for north easterners further.

What is equally alarming are the fake news and incorrect information being circulated about racial attacks in cases which are accidental deaths or from prolonged sickness and individuals and media persons are not validating these rumours and quick in their circulation. For example, a Naga guy died in Bidar district in Karnataka from a fall and head injury but there was a social media splash assigning it as a hate crime. In spite of clarifications from the Naga Students Union Bangalore (NSUB) and Northeast Welfare Association of Karnataka (NEWAK), few media groups still carried the news of a murder caused by racial discrimination.

Fake news about racial attacks like these will do as much damage because they will build hatred and distrust especially in times like now rift with tension over COVID-19 and in case of needing medical attention, north easterners will be afraid to access healthcare and support systems and greatly limit access to tracing, testing and treatment. This in turn will only cripple the efforts of public health and government authorities in saturating infected and affected persons. Marginalized and minority communities have to be ensured an enabling environment by the government so the overall approach to contain COVID-19 is holistic. Also interesting is, the same people who are biased towards north easterners need to see how COVID-19 cases are rising in every part of India except for the northeast.

This being said, I know we are witnessing history and amidst all the unsettling emotions in a day I tell myself to read up about it as much as I can so one day, I can tell my grandchildren about it. The current times is also a test of our faith and spirituality. The situation can bring our worst to resurface and so can it bring the best in us. It’s also a litmus test of who are our real friends and who love us genuinely from those who are reaching out to us often, sharing vital information, helping us in managing our household supplies, food and medicines, that dose of humour to keep us going and being there for us. ‘Stay safe’ is quickly replacing take care in our personal interactions. Of all the times we need to remember now that every night has its dawn.

 

 

 

This story was submitted in response to Dispatches from the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Comments 19

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Marie Abanga
Mar 26
Mar 26

Dear Urmila,

Thank you and all the best to you

Urmila Chanam
Mar 26
Mar 26

Dearest sister Marie,
Hi! Hope you are doing great and in good health and spirits. Sending you lot of love from India.
Prayers,
Urmila Chanam

BABARA ACHU
Mar 26
Mar 26

Thanks

Urmila Chanam
Mar 26
Mar 26

Together we can overcome the darkest night.

Elizabeth Ziro
Mar 26
Mar 26

Hallo Urmila, Indeed we have what no one has during Covid 19 pandemic. Wishing you all the best and Keep safe!
Much love from Kenya

Urmila Chanam
Mar 26
Mar 26

Dearest sister,
Let us keep talking, sharing, giving reasons to laugh and smile, keeping each other on our toes, never short of inspiration and will.
Love always,
Urmila Chanam

vijaipm
Mar 28
Mar 28

True sister and these are times for humans to travel back in time to adopt ways of living rather travel to the future and sophisticate living.

Urmila Chanam
Apr 21
Apr 21

Dear Vijaipm,
The 1918 Influenza pandemic killed millions in India and worldwide. From the records it appears like a hundred-year phenomenon and like mother earth is trying to make us understand a vital lesson that we are failing to notice and grasp. Take care and be safe.
Love and prayers,
Urmila Chanam

Anita Shrestha
Mar 29
Mar 29

Dear Urmila
Great sharing

Urmila Chanam
Apr 21
Apr 21

Dear est Anita,
Thanks for reading. Hope you are safe and taking care in Nepal.
Love and prayers,
Urmila Chanam

Beth Lacey
Mar 30
Mar 30

Hi, Urmila. Wise words- as always. Stay safe.

Urmila Chanam
Apr 21
Apr 21

Dearest sister Beth,
I am aware that USA is struggling and the mortality is very high. I am praying for you and your loved ones sister and all my sisters in USA are in my prayers. We shall overcome and approach life differently after this episode.
Love and hugs,
Urmila Chanam

otahelp
Mar 31
Mar 31

Dear Urmila, you are right about our contributions to deplete the ecosystem. that as it may this virus is the deadliest so far. i stand in solidarity with our sisters whose countries are most hit by this virus - Italy, USA and others Trust you are staying safe

Kabahenda
Apr 09
Apr 09

Hello Urmila,

It is wonderful to know that you are safe in India and usin your time to impact other Iwomen.

Your comments on the power of World Pulse to connect 70,000 women in 191 are very appropriate.

When women are connected across the globe, when they share ideas, and when they help in building each other, they can move mountains.

More power to you. More power to World Pulse. More power to us all women who are connected on this forum.

Please stay home. Be safe.

Urmila Chanam
Apr 21
Apr 21

Dearest sister Kabahenda,

Thank you for reminding me to stay home and be safe and I wish the same for you too, sister. Even when we are cooped up within the four walls of our homes like these, we have many resources if only we reflect on them. We can encourage and motivate others and also take the time to rest and rejuvinate. Thanks for reading my story, am so thankful and I agree when women come together we can move mountains.
Love and prayers,
Urmila Chanam

Chi Yvonne Leina
Apr 21
Apr 21

Thanks for sharing with us sis.We pray for the return of safety ASAP but above all the ability to use this period for healing and positive reflections.We shall come back stronger

Urmila Chanam
Apr 21
Apr 21

Dear sister Chi Yvonne Leina,
Hope you are doing well and keeping safe at home, my sister. Indeed, the lockdown is a good time for reflections and lot of rest. I am so privileged to be connected to sisters like you during this time to share and strengthen each other. God bless you.
Love and hugs,
Urmila Chanam

ARREY- ECHI
Apr 21
Apr 21

Dear Sis Urmi,
Thank you for this heartfelt article during these trying times in our world today.
You have touched on so many situations this pandemic is impacting as far as human social, cultural, racial, educational, health and economic impact are involved. You also touched the one thing we are all dealing with in our quest to stay abreast: information overload and fake news killing.

Thank you for reminding us of the sisterhood we share on the Pulse and how this is one of the things we have to help us through these rough times.
For being a shoulder all these while, I love and appreciate you

Stay safe and keep taking care. We need you to pen more stories for them grandkids to one day read you know.

Love and sunshine.

Urmila Chanam
Apr 21
Apr 21

Dearest Arrey Echi,
I am beaming with joy to be reading your comment and am feeling the love even from so far! Though these times are really tough from every aspect, I think its great for writers who need solitude to pen down their feelings. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your words and your love is reciprocated.
Much love and strength,
Urmila Chanam

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