Posted by Anindita Naskar, NOIDA, Uttar Pradesh
I don’t know where to start. Well, like any other citizen, we too were apprehensive of COVID-19 in March 2020. Here “we” refers to me, my husband and two teenage children – a boy and a girl. Exams stopped, while my son was still taking his 12th Boards. We were worried but thought something would work out and stayed positive. Then the lockdown came. We embraced each other tightly, stocked up dry food items and stopped eating anything from outside, even sweets.
Biplab, my husband, a government officer worked late, while I stood in queue for hours to get some vegetables. Life became monotonous. My daughter and I started making homemade pasta, pizza, doughnuts, cakes, Bengali sweets and so on. In between, We enjoyed the good times together with appetising food. Biplab began going to office twice or thrice a week – it was June. Since the beginning, we were very careful about COVID protocols. Gradually, Biplab became more regular at office. We were cautious but never scared. We didn’t visit any friends or relatives, nor did anyone visit us.
During Durga puja, I went a little overboard and planned a break from the routine. We drove up to Deenapani and Binsar wildlife. Pure clean air, serenity of nature instantly uplifted us from our gloom. We were so happy to see the Nanda Devi range. My son and Biplab even went out in the middle of the night to watch the clear sky and witnessed falling meteorites, stars, and the milky way. In a nutshell, it was paradise for us… probably the last best 4 days of our life. We returned pumped up with enthusiasm and energy.
Early January 2021, my son’s engineering classes had started, and we bought our first car. Yes, we were overjoyed and thought that now things will be good again, like old times. But man proposes and God disposes. Biplab said, never let your guard down and we never did. Shortage of staff at office and over burden of work was taking a toll on his mind. He was overworked and tired. He was unable to take leave to rest or get his vaccination done. Worse, he was assigned extra charge. This time he was very upset. The mounting work pressure and sudden rise in COVID-19 cases made him worried.
On 16th April, he called me from the office to inform that two of his colleagues in mid-forties had succumbed to Corona. He was worried about me as I have an auto-immune disease. On the same day, he came home with mild fever. I told him, maybe it was due to rain and gave him karah (a herbal concoction for cold), adrak wali chai (ginger tea), chyawanprash (immunity booster) and so on. After dinner, he took medicines and went to sleep. Next morning, he still had fever. We consulted doctors and started medicine. On Sunday, he went alone to get his COVID test done, but couldn’t due to various reasons. Meanwhile, there was scarcity of RT-PCR kits, and no lab was ready to come for home collection. With some help, I got someone to get his sample on Tuesday. Biplab’s fever was rising but no other symptom showed up. He was eating properly and taking the prescribed medicines.
On 22nd April at 8:30 pm, the report came in and it was COVID positive. Now our time bomb had started. We called for an oxygen cylinder, the dealer asked for 1 lakh per cylinder. We both were calling ambulances and hospitals but with no response. I had just learned to drive and did not have a license yet. Hence, I wasn’t confident enough to take him around. His oxygen saturation started to dip. The scenario changed rapidly.
At 12 am, me and my son ran to the nearby chemist but with night curfew all were closed. We were helplessly and frantically calling the doctor for guidance. Seeing us, two Noida police officers approached and told us that nearby Yatharth hospital had just got their oxygen refill, we may take our patient there. I was slightly at ease and saw some hope. I told my son to get his father ready, while I took out the car and parked next to our building. I went up to get him. He looked fragile; my heart sank. I told Biplab to take it as an experience as he had never been to a hospital. I wanted to hug him, but he refrained me.
Biplab slept off in the back seat, while I was driving at maybe 20-30km/hr. I drove him to the Yatharth hospital emergency services. He warned me from behind “Don’t knock down anyone” . I chuckled and assured him. It was already 1:30 am, 23rd April 2021.
Nurse checked and found his saturation was 67. Immediately Madhab, the doctor in-charge, asked his staff to arrange for bed and oxygen. I was told to pay rupees 1 lakh for Biplab’s immediate treatment. After requesting, they agreed to attend to him with a nominal amount. The next morning, I paid the remaining amount for the treatment to continue smoothly.
I was confident that with oxygen, bed and medicines he would definitely recover. That day I called up all our friends and family members and updated them about the situation. Due to the huge infrastructure shortage, the hospital couldn’t shift him to ICU. On the 24th, his condition deteriorated. I called up his office seniors (Joint Secretary, Deputy Secretary) and colleagues to inform. They all were concerned and extended their support. In the evening, he was shifted to the ICU. I was constantly praying under my breath. They didn’t let me inside the ICU and asked me to go home. After waiting for some time, I came back home. Took a shower and for the first time felt hungry, as I hadn’t eaten anything since morning. I grabbed some biscuits and started making dinner – my kids were surviving on Maggi and boiled rice. A sudden call from the hospital requesting me to be at the ICU. I panicked, but they assured it was for some paperwork. I went ahead, signed the papers, and met him.
On 24th April 2021, 8:15 pm we talked for a few minutes. I was sure you are going to come back home… you looked so fresh. I talked and talked as usual. And then I held your hand (breaking the COVID protocol) and said, “I love you”. You smiled and from behind that bipap mask you said- love you too❤️… all smiles. The Doctor was getting restless, and I had to leave the ICU. I waved at you and you waved back with your fingers. I was happy. I thought we are going to win this battle. I came back home and told all anxious folks, “No worries, he will be alright”.
In the middle of the night, again the mobile rang. A worried voice asked me to be at the hospital as soon as possible. I asked one of my friends to drop me outside the hospital. I ran to the third floor – the ICU. Biplab was about to be intubated. I told Dr Bachaspati that I want him back. We are yet to celebrate our 25th anniversary in Goa, we have to witness aurora borealis in Tromso and want to watch our kids grow. So bring him back…
While ventilating him, he had a massive cardiac arrest but the doctors revived him. The whole night, I was sitting in the hospital lounge, praying and praying. So many people prayed with me. But the next morning, he again had a cardiac arrest and my whole world collapsed . When the doctor broke the news, I was in disbelief. Biplab seemed to be sleeping, like on any lazy Sunday morning. He was just sleeping… why the hell on earth would I bid him goodbye? What am I going to tell my kids? I was lost…
A partner of 22 years, a partner in crime, a partner who spoiled me, pampered me. You went away without saying a word but left behind loads of memories and responsibilities. I am never scared of my duties, but I am scared to be alone. I can’t hold you anymore, neither can you hug me back. I am all alone…
Alone… I am standing alone in the middle of nowhere.
My shadow still believes in me, sticking through thick and thin.
Alone… I am wandering alone in busy streets,
Looking for you in every corner of the alley.
Alone… I dwell alone in the middle of this materialistic world,
Trying to wade through the puddle of mud.
Alone… I am alone in every thought, in every dream of mine,
I am father and mother to my kids now. The “man of the family” now that I hate to be. Please come back even though four months have passed. You never ever liked the idea of solo trips. It was always me who wanted to go on one. But instead of me, you took away my idea and ventured out on a complete solo journey that too to a place where we can’t reach out to you. Very bad dear! I am so upset with you. How could you? How could you do that to me, to us?
I have a long list of complains… a long list. With love and support, you have nestled me. In every corner of our home, in every piece of furniture, in every person you have touched… you live on. You haven’t gone anywhere. You are just looking out for a better place. So Happy Journey my love❤️ and remember, “We love you more than 3000”.
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