Dr. Satwant Singh Rissam
Few days are left in the year 2021. But before that COVID-19 is back with a new variant-Omicron. This new variant from South Africa has reached India as well. With this, the era of containment zones is back in J&K and in addition to it fears of third lockdown too have come back. After having faced two lockdowns and thinking of a third lockdown, it is very easy to recollect the evening of 25 March 2020 and PM Modi’s address to the nation. That evening of 2020 has gone down in the history books and little did we know how it will affect our future before again facing a second terrible and cruel lockdown in 2021.
Initially, the first lockdown felt like a vacation and a break from a hectic daily routine. Every family prepared drafts of their plans for the next 21 days. The plans ranging from work from home, waking up late, watching movies, trying new cooking skills, gaming and TV news to check virus numbers were common. Recreation activities which were left incomplete in past years were also being tried at many houses. Basically, we were thankful for these upcoming days without gauging the impact and the deterioration on our physical & mental health in months to come. Soon our ‘new made’ schedules turned monotonous and a sense of being imprisoned in our homes developed in our minds. Also a sense of ‘social inequality’ grew when we saw some people roaming out of their houses in the name of ‘essential services’. Many children experienced loneliness during lockdown due to school closures and lack of physical contact with other people. Families with aged people and toddlers noted depression, anxiety and panic disorder as they were homebound with sudden extra precautions and focus on health matters.
After months, when news of unlocking came it became a key to unlock our happiness. In July 2020, we thought that we may get back to our old routines as we started moving out of our houses with a hope of normalcy soon. On 16 January 2021, when India began administration of COVID-19 vaccines most people became careless in their daily life and it resulted into the second wave of COVID-19 which came as a tsunami in February-March 2021. Forgetting the March-April of 2021 is not easy, as COVID-19 cases and deaths caused the imposition of a second lockdown in J&K. Throughout the second lockdown there was no feeling of vacation and break from a hectic daily routine. Basically, we realized only in the second wave that the threat of COVID-19 was really dangerous when the ‘dance of death’ started around us. We were at our homes this time with really increased fear and worries. Knowing the fact that there is shortage of oxygen and ventilators in Jammu-Kashmir was adding to the worries of every family. We perceived the impact of this risk on our loved ones which brought anxiety in the minds of every family member. In J&K, all of us were not lucky as death knocked the doors of our relatives, friends and neighbors. Along with it, we saw in Jammu how some families were heavily devastated as they lost many members to COVID-19.
Despite the uncertainties and before facing a third lockdown, writing down the experience of two lockdowns is quite significant because all disabilities during these periods were not visible. Including it was the deep uncomforting and difficult times of not being able to breathe, move, eat and sleep which caused big challenges in our lives. Moreover, we can’t see the upcoming struggles but they do exist. One thing is sure that this COVID-19 pandemic is not ending anytime soon and if there were ever such times to come again, just hope to face it without fear!
Dr. Satwant Singh Rissam