Why Indian Americans are feeling helpless right now: NOTICE
On average, 120 people have died in India every hour over the past two weeks, according to the Indian Ministry of Health. That’s 120 lives lost in a ride or episode of “Survivor” or a banal Zoom reunion. Crematorium ovens are melting from overuse, officials call a third wave of the virus “inevitable”, remdesivir rules the black market, gurudwaras have traded offers of food for oxygen, and workers in the health Indians have lost hope in their government. Many describe the situation as “grim”.
As a grandchild, niece and cousin of loved ones in India – a country I fiercely celebrate and do not consider “dark” – I cannot put words into the helplessness I feel for my life. family and my country 8,000 kilometers away.
And I am not alone. Four million Indians in the United States and 36 million around the world are overwhelmed with heartbreaking despair for their sick loved ones and preventable lives lost.
Last week, I spoke to dozens of Indo-Americans, who expressed a shared sense of anguish and helplessness.
Ankit Shah, who lives in New York, is also the son of Indian immigrants.
“Between my parents, our extended family and our friends, we have lost 40 people,” he said. He worries the most for his parents. “They are on the other side of the world from the country in which they grew up and are unable to do anything,” he added.
An immigrant from Fremont, Calif., Learned that a close friend was ill in India via text message. She said, “We are talking about Vedanta, we are talking about all this spiritual and religious stuff … but right now I’m wondering – what’s the point in living more?”
Seema Hari, who has lost track of people she knows who have fallen ill or died, counts down every day until 7 p.m. when her parents wake up in India. She said, “It’s almost like we haven’t even had the privilege of crying, because the loss is so relentless.”
Many channeled the devastation into collective efforts by raising funds to purchase supplies and providing public health support. Joy Batra, whose family spent hours finding an ICU bed for her uncle, said, “I have friends who spend entire days helping people find oxygen.” Mansukhani, a designer in New York and the daughter of immigrants, said her uncle, Umesh Reghuram, wired money to taxi drivers, greengrocers and maids. One person still had a dollar.
But the hospitals are always full and people are dying on the streets. And for Indo-Americans with families of lower socioeconomic status in India, resources are unlikely and isolation may be impossible.
Mansukhani said the reason her family survives in Mumbai is the same reason she is in America – the structural privilege of being a higher caste. But she worries about her country. “The feeling cannot be described – worry, guilt, not knowing how inequality, environmental degradation and the safety of women and girls will one day improve. And now there is that, ”she said.
With millions of people unable to say goodbye in person, COVID-19 has tested human capacity for inhumanity. Today, Indo-Americans have had a semblance of closure robbed. Even with enormous efforts, we are unable to change a dire situation and unable to set foot in our home country, watching it crumble from afar. Control was thrown out the window.
Research tells us that a lack of control or helplessness increases distress. As vaccines become more available and states relax restrictions here, the spirit of your Indian-American neighbor, colleague, or friend is likely in India.
There are still ways to help even when drowning in a sea of helplessness.
“A little grace goes a long way. I’m always grateful when people recognize what’s going on, ”Batra said. “It’s even better when people are raising awareness, donating and asking for help.”
Hari added, “Offering help without asking me to explain how I’m feeling is helpful – and giving material gifts.”
Mansukhani told me, “Donating is wonderful, but I also want people to know the truth. Please do not continue to benefit from our ancestral yoga, meditation and wellness practices while embracing the cultural and political heritage of India that has brought us to this point. Recognizing the history and consequences of colonization would be everything for me.
Whether it’s making a donation, recognizing painful pasts, or lending an ear to an Indian-American you love, I hope India is on your mind.
Dr Divya K. Chhabra is a writer and psychiatrist in New York City and resident in the medical unit of ABC News.