‘Eager To Get The Vaccine & Reboot My Roster’

Nita Balmohan Rajesh (37), a Bengaluru-based HR professional, is hoping the age-bar for getting Covid vaccine to be lowered so she could safely step out of the virtual, closed-door world

My eight year old has a complaint: “It’s been 13 months sitting at home, Amma.”

My ten year old daughter chimes in: “It’s been the worst year ever, would you agree Amma?”

“Are you saying we can’t visit our cousins even this summer?” they both ask grumpily.

This is the new-found 2020 mode for my children: Sulk, even cry over the smallest of issues, yell at the sibling, take 45-50 minutes to finish a meal, and the worst, sneak more time on their personal laptops. Gone are the care-free days of playing in the park undeterred, getting a time-out for “pushing” a friend. “There are no friends in the park; who should we play with?” they complain and grudge about restricted hours for using iPads.

My husband, Rajesh, and I do feel guilty of this at times. Indeed, that one hour of screen time that we allow our children due to office engagements never ends as scheduled. “Another five mins please…”

Nita’s misses outings with family

How you wish to travel back in time to pre-March 2020! You woke up, readied the household for school and work, and went to office in person. What a feeling it now seems! Eight hours in a world away from the home. You actually MET people! You hugged some of them and shook hands with many of them. You solved business issues face-to-face and you could understand their speech coherently without the masks getting in the way.

You could see the entire human expression, the twitch in their lips when they disagreed; the eye roll when someone said something disagreeable; the nose turning slightly red when upset or angry. You didn’t have to plead them to turn on the video, or increase the volume. “Hello, can you hear me?” You were certain they heard you clear. You looked forward when the clock struck the hour to be back home. You enjoyed your favorite songs on the radio while cursing the reckless drivers on the road.

ALSO READ: ‘A Year Of Pandemic: Setback & Fightback’

You then came home looking forward to solve world peace-level problems. “Amma, Lalith wouldn’t speak to me today. He’s being best friends with Aditya. What do you think I should do?” Or “Amma, my skates don’t fit me anymore. How will I attend my skating classes tomorrow?” Just reminiscing those episodes brings a huge smile. No wonder we were physically healthier and mentally ‘less depressed’.

You didn’t have the luxury of snoozing your alarms, getting into conference calls un-showered or moving the breakfast hour. There was a purpose you woke up with to complete the 101 to-dos! You looked forward to your work-travel and then the vacation you did take.

Nita with her colleagues

The three things I miss a lot is the feeling of being in an aircraft, in a real office and dropping the kids in their school bus. Is there something wrong with me, I confessed to a friend, and we both laughed.

And the age-limit on being eligible for a vaccine certainly doesn’t make any of this remotely happen anytime soon. I do understand the demand-supply situation and completely support the fact that the older folks are at increased risk and should be prioritized. I am certain millions of us will be willing to pay a retail price to procure these vaccines and move on to our “normal” lives. Hope the 30-something aren’t asking for too much! Are we?

As Told To Mamta Sharma

‘People Have Thrown Safeguards Out Of The Window’

Dr Abdul Samad Ansari, Director, Critical Care Services, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, Mumbai talks about the risks of second covid-19 wave and the need to not lower our guard

The second wave is a known entity. In fact people are now talking about the third wave too. These are but the ripple effects. The spread of a contagion depends on our social behaviour: how we maintain hygiene and how we interact. If you are meeting five to seven people in a day, it can set off a block chain of infection. If you cut down on that interaction, besides using precautionary measures such as wearing masks and sanitising, you reduce the spread potential. It is that simple.

This happened last year. In September we saw the peak. And in the subsequent months, the efforts of previous six months bore fruits. But we started celebrating prematurely. As we lowered our guard, we are now facing the consequence. People returned to their daily routine as if it was business as usual. The resurgence in Covid-19 cases is a direct result of that. April and May will show the same kind of prolonged plateau. But if we again start becoming more careful, follow strict precautionary measures, along with the vaccination, there will hopefully be a flattening of the curve in June.

ALSO READ: ‘In Initial Days, Doctors Lost Sense Of Time’

Unlike the first wave, when majority of the elderly population fell prey to the contagion, the infection is seen more in the 35-65 years bracket. This is a mobile population, who are traveling for work, going out more in public and therefore getting infected.

Thankfully, our systems are not as overwhelmed as last year and the mortality rate is also not high. But if the cases continue to grow manifold, the resources will spread out thin. The same virus with only 100 people today as compared to 1000 people tomorrow will have a different mortality scenario. It is not the virus which is causing it, but the number of cases which will impact the resources and mortality.

I can notice that the attitude of people has gone back to pre-pandemic days. Many of them have this misconception that if they didn’t get Covid for one year during its rage, it won’t happen when it is weakening down. ‘Kuch nahi hota, mujhe kuch nahi hoga, dekha jayega.’ This is the kind of Covid-apathy that is setting in, and it is dangerous.

This pandemic has brought about some kind of hygiene training and discipline among us. There is no harm in maintaining it. My message to public is: we still need to practice these hygiene precautions aggressively; unnecessary travel, gatherings, entertainment activities should be avoided or carried out with behavioural modifications such as sanitizing, scrupulous handwashing and face masks.

ALSO READ: Virus Is There, Fear Is Gone

I have seen 80 percent of people in public do not wear a mask properly. Mostly, these are hanging over the neck. People have also stopped meticulously washing their hands. They feel twice in a day is good enough. People are all over the places. While I don’t want to sound negative, we need to get our guards and shield back.

Frontline workers and their families have suffered for one year, we have to acknowledge those sacrifices and not lower the defence. For a year, since the onset of pandemic, my colleagues and I went home late every night, only to leave early in the morning. I could not take care of my wife, parents and children. On the contrary, I could be possibly walking in with the virus infection every day. This was a real burnout. People must realise that their careless behaviour can negate all the hard work put in by frontline worker for one year.

As told to Mamta Sharma

‘In Initial Days Of Covid-19, Doctors Lost Sense Of Time’

Dr Arista Lahiri, 31, Sr Resident (Epidemiology) at College Of Medicine & Sagor Dutta Hospital in Kolkata, recounts how healthcare professionals battled the unknown virus and why we can’t let the guard down even now

I was fresh out of medical school when the pandemic struck. Even though my field of study was community medicine and thus I was well-versed with the incidence, spread and possible control of diseases during an epidemic/pandemic, yet nothing had prepared us for a crisis of such epic proportions that affected the whole world.

I was posted at the District Hospital in 24 Parganas (North) and had gone to another city to attend a medical conference in January 2020 when coronavirus began to be discussed seriously. Wuhan was already reeling under its impact and slowly the medical fraternity across the world had begun to realise that the virus was soon going to spread much, much farther than China.

In March-end, when the pandemic was officially declared in India, I dedicated myself completely to fighting the unknown virus. We were a four-member team doing 24×7 surveillance of both active as well as potential cases to target and isolate. We were doing everything from data entry to helping Covid patients get admission in hospitals to occasionally going out in the fields to see how the situation was panning out.

ALSO READ: ‘I Delivered My Child Amid Pandemic’

For two-three months we had no sense of time, putting in every hour of work that we could and going home only to sleep. We had no life outside work for those several months and no outlet to unwind. We just kept each other motivated and in good spirits.

Dr Lahiri says battling the virus is not the job of healthcare professionals alone

I was myself scared of the contagion; there were so many people suffering around us. Each day, I pulled myself up and marched on stronger. My parents were extremely supportive and understood my duty as a medical professional.

While the rest of the country was facing only Covid, nature dealt a double blow to West Bengal: cyclone Amphan. I am quite happy with the way our state government handled the crisis. The entire state machinery from the primary to district to state-level worked in tandem. Post-Amphan, there was a shifting of roles and responsibilities and I was asked to be a member of the Covid State Cell in Kolkata in June end.

ALSO READ: ‘Proud To Be A Part Of Vaccination Drive’

We had all learnt better by then and were able to streamline our work better. The workload eased off just a tiny bit, though we were still checking in hundreds and hundreds of patients each day. One thing I was happy about was that I was now living with my parents in Kolkata.

Since then I have been working in Kolkata itself doing 12 hour shifts every day. Between my work as faculty at the College of Medicine and my work at the Sagordutta Hospital, I have to travel nearly 40 kms each day. We cannot afford to slack off even now, though we can relax a bit.

Battling the pandemic isn’t the job of frontline healthcare workers alone. Community medicine is all about a community’s adherence to rules. Even though vaccines have been developed, we need to understand that new strains of the virus might still take over. So masks, sanitizing and social distancing are still our best bets against the virus! I got both my vaccine shots, but I still take all the precautions.

Watch – ‘Vaccination Was Smooth, Very Well Managed’

As India moves on from one milestone to another in its vaccination drive against Covid-19, LokMarg spoke to several senior citizens in Delhi-NCR about their experiences of getting the jab. Most of members interviewed said the entire process was well managed and orderly.

While some of them felt that a doctor’s presence at the vaccination point would have emboldened the beneficiaries, there was unanimity that the inoculation was organized in most professional way hitherto unseen at medical facilities.

Watch full video here

‘Vaccine’s Only Side-Effect Was Mild Fever Overnight’

Saroj Kumar, 49, a family welfare counsellor and frontline worker amid Covid-19 in Uttar Pradesh, is feeling relieved after receiving the vaccine on the first day of the immunisation drive

I work as family welfare counsellor at a Community Health Centre in Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh) and I can proudly say that healthcare sector workers like us have been the backbone of India’s fight against coronavirus. We faced the virus day in and day out without fear, hours on end.

It was therefore a big relief when the government announced that health professionals and other frontline workers would be vaccinated on priority. As a healthcare professional I was among the people to be vaccinated on January 16, the first day of the immunisation drive.

We had been asked to register ourselves a day prior to the vaccination and post-registration, I was told to reach the designated health centre for the serum shot. I reached the centre at 12:30 pm where my temperature and oxygen levels were checked the first thing at the gate. Next, I was given hand sanitisers and waited for my turn.

ALSO READ: ‘We Gave Guard Of Honour To 1st Vaccinated Lot’

Once I was administered the vaccine jab, which hardly took a minute, I was kept under observation for around half an hour at the centre. Two girls who were making a note of the entry and exit timings of the vaccine beneficiaries, also checked if any of the vaccinated person showed any discomfort or adverse reaction. We had been told that there could be mild side-effects.

Saroj Kumar (wearing a facemask and inset) took a selfie while waiting for the vaccine

My workplace (the very centre I was vaccinated at) is nearly 60 km from home. On the vaccination day, I took the regular bus and faced no discomfort per se on the way. However, I ran mild fever after reaching home around evening. The fever lasted overnight and in the morning my body temperature returned to normal. I am feeling fit as a fiddle now.

During the pandemic when public transport wasn’t available, reaching my workplace was tough. So I had requested to be temporarily allowed to work at a health centre nearer home. The authorities were considerate and I was assigned work at the Chief Medical Office’s office closer home.

My new role was to take calls at the Help Centre. Since it was the beginning of the pandemic, we had to field hundreds of calls each day. So, I can tell you there was much anxiety among people and patients about both the pandemic and its prospective treatment or vaccine.

ALSO READ: A Vaccine Of Hope

Now, I have been working with Covid-positive patients who are isolating at home. Every morning, a doctor, I visit these patients in our district and administer medicine to them as well as monitor their condition. Covid is contagious, but for most people, not deadly. Yet, people are scared as it has caused so many deaths.

I am glad that people like us will now feel completely free and safe after the twin vaccination shots, since we meet many Covid positive patients every day. I am not scared of the virus, but I do have a family of four to take care of. The vaccination process has brought me a lot of mental relief. Given how successful our polio vaccination programme was in the past, across the length and breadth of our country, I am sure we will win the fight against Covid too.

As Told To Yogmaya Singh

Watch – ‘Full Faith In Vaccine; Even Paracetamol Has Side-Effects’

As India launches mass vaccination programme against Covid-19, several political leaders expressed apprehension about its purpose and efficacy. However, as LokMarg spoke to a cross-section of people about the serum shot, common people deride politicization of a medical process.

Most of the people expressed undeterred faith in the “indigenous vaccine” and said they were ready to get the jab as and when it is available. About possible side-effects, they said even as common a medicine as paracetamol also has some side-effects. And this is not the only vaccine which has some side-effects, each and every serum has some temporary adverse impact on the body.

Watch the full video here

‘Proud To Be A Part Of Vaccination Programme’

Savita Paliwal, 52, a senior vaccinator in Moradabad (UP), is happy to see India among the first few countries to launch vaccination programme early. She explains how the monumental process will unfold

I have been in the medical profession for nearly three decades now and have been involved with quite a few vaccination and immunisation programmes. As a government employee at the Community Health Centre at Thakurdwara, Moradabad, I have been actively involved in building a healthy society. However, this time it is quite different.

Dealing with the Covid-19 is something that we have never seen before in our entire career. Healthcare professionals have been on their toes for nearly a year now. And with new strains coming up at different parts of the world, the challenge is only getting tougher.

It was therefore both a moment of relief and pride when we were informed that India is one of the first few countries to start vaccination programme. We have compiled the beneficiary list in our zone and have had two dry runs, on January 5 and 8.

We have been divided into two teams of three members each. Both teams have one vaccinator, one helper and a data expert (someone who keeps track of the beneficiaries who get vaccination). Healthcare professionals, especially the pharmacists and paramedical staff will be given the vaccine on priority basis.

ALSO READ: A Vaccine Of Hope

The phase 1 of the programme begins on January 16. Each team is supposed to vaccinate 25 people in a day, so in our locality you can say that the Community Health Centre employees will be vaccinating around 50 people daily. The process will be spread across five rooms with standard operating procedure in place like regular sanitization, temperature screening etc.

Savita Paliwal (middle) with her colleagues at Moradabad community health centre

The DM (district magistrate) was very involved in how the dry runs were conducted and there was total cooperation from the Chief Minster’s office as well. I feel happy that we are all functioning as one smooth machinery.

Of course, many people are scared of taking vaccines but as someone with an extensive experience in this field I know how to soothe people. Asha workers are also involved in the vaccination programme, and spreading awareness about it.

Moradabad was declared a hotspot last year and I would say we expect most people to be co-operative. No query of the beneficiaries will be considered insignificant and we will take care to also inform them of the minor side-effects they might encounter after the vaccination.

ALSO READ: Nursing Our Healthcare System

I feel lucky to be a part of this monumental process. I have been keeping myself updated with all the news about vaccines developed in India as well as other countries and I would say so far we have handled the Covid-19 situation really well. But it is not over yet and the pandemic needs the cooperation of every single citizen of the country. I make it a point to carry extra masks in my bag and hand them free to anyone I see not wearing a mask.

I feel proud that India developed and mass-produce a vaccine in good time and now we aren’t dependent on any foreign country for the immunity programme. I wonder how the scientists who developed the vaccines must have raced against time to save as many lives as possible. I hope the process goes smoothly. We have managed and eradicated polio and now we are confident we shall put corona virus behind us too.

‘Online Classes Completely Drain The Parents’

Roma Aggarwal, 37, says online schooling is tiresome for parents who have to juggle among domestic chores, office work and children’s assignments. She prays for the pandemic to end and schools to reopen

Online classes aren’t really my cup of tea. I love the idea of children being formally educated inside the school premises with real-time interactions between teachers and students as well as among themselves. Education is not only about the stuff we are taught, it is also about the social skills we learn, how we understand non-verbal cues from other people and how we learn to carve our own space in the sea of people. But it is what it is!

The pandemic hasn’t relented for so many months now and I wonder when my two daughters will be able to go back to school. My younger daughter, aged three, was supposed to start school formally this year, but then things changed drastically. My elder daughter is in Class IV and she misses her school a lot.

I have had to change and update gadgets continuously to enhance the quality of the online interaction. As an urban family, we have access to smartphones, laptop etc. which we share on priority basis, and still online classes aren’t an easy navigation. So, I wonder about those families who may have to share gadgets, like one phone between two siblings.

ALSO READ: ‘Online Classes, PUBG, Web Series… Lockdown Is Fun’

It is difficult for the young children to make such huge changes in lifestyle. My elder one generally oscillates between her iPad and her laptop for her studies, but there are days when she complains of sore eyes and mild headaches because of the intense focus she has to keep on the electronic mediums. So I have also now started connecting the laptop (net book) to the TV. And since my younger one accesses her classes on my phone, it means I neither get the TV, nor the phone to unwind after a hard day’s work.

Whatever free time I get is spent in helping my elder daughter with her assignments. I am a housewife but there is so much online involvement with my elder daughter that I feel like I have joined a fully functioning office. We as parents have to help our kids with conducting their lab experiments, then with their homework across subjects and multiple assignments. Plus there are also their various online tests.

Then there are video and photo uploads to be done. My elder daughter starts her classes around 8.20 am and one class goes on for 40 minutes. And I have to be alert along with her. My younger one’s classes start much later and she has also been complaining about her eyes watering during the classes. Since ages we have told kids to use the screen less or sit far away from the screen so that it doesn’t impact their eyes. But now the screens have become unavoidable. Continuous and long use of ear phones might also hamper the children’s sensitive ears, so I don’t allow them to use earphones for online classes.

WATCH: ‘Online Classes Are Only A Temporary Option’

My house is right now divided into water-tight zones. One room has been taken up by my husband, where he dedicatedly does his work as an IT Professional. Another room has been assigned to my daughter in which she can attend her classes undisturbed by any outside sound or noise. My younger daughter and I have taken over the living room. She gets easily restless during the classes and I have to then help her soothe.

I sincerely hope the schools open soon and we go back to the pre-pandemic world. Till now there are no updates as to when schools would open in Chennai. Since there is not much physical activity during online classes, the kids don’t expend much energy and they eat fewer times saying they don’t feel hungry and the portions have also been getting smaller. In this pandemic they can’t even go out for physical activities, which is not good for their health.

‘China Ban Is Short Term Hardship, Long Term Blessing’

Vivek Gadodia (48), a garment manufacturer in Noida, has been importing fabrics from China. His business suffered amid Indo-China standoff and Covid-19, but he calls it a boon in disguise

My family has been into garment manufacturing business for nearly eight decades now and I have been at the helm for the past 23 years. We specialize in men’s wedding wear, especially suits, sold under the brand name Zoop. We import fabrics for our suits from China, which is why I have been keeping a keen eye on the developments in India-China relations.

The past eight months have been the most unpredictable times of my work life. The India-China standoff might have begun in May but the pandemic had started raging in Wuhan, China around January. This meant that China took extreme measures to keep its people safe. These measures caused several restrictions and we couldn’t access the fabric for our merchandise.

Then in March, India announced the lockdown and for the following three months, nothing moved. As if these hardships were not enough, the India-China military clashes happened. The standoff continues.

WATCH: ‘I’ll Not Stock Or Sell Chinese Ware Hereto’

From one perspective, this long business slump could seem like a stroke of bad luck but I see things from a different perspective. After all, businesses are built on optimism; we take daily risks and a positive outlook gives us confidence.

Vivek sells his garment collection under the brand name Zoop

Most people don’t know the scale of imports from China across categories. It is huge! India imports everything from gadgets to toys to hardware to grocery items from China. We are heavily dependent on China for raw or finished products. And the current events have caused difficulties for businessmen who trade with China. But that is a short-term setback.

In the long run, I feel the current downward spiral in India-China relations have come as a stroke of luck. Of course, the loss of lives in Galwan valley clashes is a sad episode. But hereto Indian customer will look for locally produced goods, including garments. This will fuel the idea of Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India). But for that to materialise, we as businessmen and manufacturers, have to adapt quickly to the market demand. This also means a more tightly-knit country as the demand and the supply remain in the same country.

Yes, the business has suffered tremendously. Our whole summer wedding season was a total washout as most weddings were either postponed or altogether cancelled. Plus, no one knows when things will go back to normal. But it has suffered more because of the pandemic than because of the standoff. Things aren’t as bad as shown on news channels.

WATCH: ‘Rakhi Sale Is Low, But China Maal A Big No’

The biggest problem that we are facing is: because of the tensions and uncertainty between the two countries, the Chinese sellers are not ready to give us any credit and are selling only against spot payment. This is causing serious liquidity problems for smaller business units.

We are restarting our business for the winter wedding season now and I hope the market sentiment picks up or, even better, rebound in a big manner. I hope people who have been weary of everything that 2020 brought in its wake, will celebrate weddings with a renewed vigour while maintaining social distancing and following all precautions in place. We are also taking proper measures to ensure everything is safe and hygienic in our business. The news of vaccines being in the market in a few months also gives us hope.

Watch – ‘No Smartphone, No Classes, Kids Play All Day’

LokMarg brings you a ground report from rural India, where in the absence of smartphones and computers, school children are unable to study amid Covid-19.

Our reporter Praveen Sharma visits rural households in Uttar Pradesh to find that a majority of students are unable to take advantage of online classes. Parents say they can ill-afford expensive phones or data. Result is most school children now idle away their time playing or running errands.

School teachers list out state government measures for distance learning as schools are yet to reopen. But poor households are unable to take their benefit. They are only waiting for the schools to reopen. Watch: