When I covered the Delhi riots last year, I thought it was the worst I could see as a 26-year-old: violence, bloodshed, deaths and despair. Little did I know that within the next one year, I would experience even worse.
Covering India’s Covid situation has been a struggle but all of us who are in this profession are aware of the nature of the job and this is why we try to balance our profession with the sensitivity of the situation at hand. No matter how many times I reported the number of Covid cases and deaths during my live broadcasts, I was always aware that each number was someone’s parent, child or sibling. But what do you do when you know that this “someone” is now your friend or colleague? This is the question that keeps hitting me now.
Back in the first wave, the first difficult moment was when Dr. Aseem Gupta, an anaesthesia specialist of Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) Hospital, who was 56, died of Covid. I had interviewed him days before that on May 3 when the Air Force had showered flowers on the hospital as a mark of respect to healthcare workers in their fight against COVID-19. “This is a moment of pride. The whole country stands with us. This type of honour that we are getting is a sign that they are proud of us. We will try to fight this Coronavirus disease,” he had told me. I asked him how tough was it to be a healthcare worker during this crisis, considering many doctors within LNJP were getting infected themselves; he said, “Things are tough but we are trying our best.” He lost the fight against Covid after battling it for three weeks in the ICU.
Salute to Dr Asheem Gupta(56) Anesthesiologist,LNJP Hosp.Lost his life battling Corona.
Had spoken to him on May 3 aftr IAF flypast
“This is a moment of pride.The whole country stands with us.This honour shows that they’re proud of us.We’ll try to fight this disease”@ndtv (1/2) pic.twitter.com/oHIommEqPN
— Sukirti Dwivedi (@SukirtiDwivedi) June 28, 2020
In the last few weeks, I have been in and out of crematoriums and hospitals and have witnessed scenes that are beyond my worst nightmares. At hospitals from where I report on the oxygen shortage, I see relatives of even ICU patients carrying oxygen cylinders on their shoulders, a resource which they manage after dialling a hundred calls, driving for nearly 50 kilometres sometimes and paying four times the usual price. But they are among the lucky ones; many others stand there helpless. They run around asking the hospital staff and even mediapersons like me every few minutes, “Madam, aapko pata hai kya? Oxygen aa gayi kya? (Do you have any information, ma’am? Has the oxygen arrived?)” And I have no answers for these people whose dear ones are gasping for breath.
At crematoriums, I see relatives waiting for hours with the dead body of their family member. By the time the cremation is over, it is not just grief they are struggling with but also exhaustion. Exhaustion of the waiting period, of the feeling of being trapped in PPEs for hours and of even collecting the wooden logs and placing them on platforms because there is a severe crunch of cremation staff everywhere and they too are overworked.
On Monday, my cameraperson Pooja Arya and I reported from different crematoriums and burial grounds of Delhi. The next day, one of our colleagues had to carry out the burial of his child. The news was devastating for so many of us. Pooja and I sat in our car and grieved. An hour later, we were at the Sardar Patel Covid Care Centre shooting again to show how people were struggling to get a single bed.
Right in front of our eyes was a son wailing for his 52-year-old mother who lost her life in an auto outside the Sardar Patel Covid Care Centre. Her son who brought her there waited for three hours to get a bed but no help came. As she lay motionless in the auto, another son tried to pump her chest in order to revive her but it was too late. Despite the disturbing nature of the incident, we reported it because that is the ground reality and it is evidence of how the system has failed its citizens.
I am thankful to crew members like Pooja who was equally shaken with what we had just witnessed but stood as a pillar of support for me through these moments. I am thankful to colleagues and friends who message me every now and then to check on me, to check how I am dealing with the suffering that is unfolding around me each day. Compassion is the only thing that may help take us through these difficult times.
Each day, I post tweets from my handle for SOS messages in order to help people who are looking for hospital beds or oxygen. Today, I posted one for a family member who is battling for his life in my hometown, Kanpur, and is in desperate need of a plasma donor.
This is not just my story. It is the story of many reporters, camerapersons and photographers who are doing this everyday. Each of them is battling their despair and fear on a daily basis while also trying to do their job. You will not see them weep on the field but there are many who are going through sleepless nights. Many who will not talk about mental health or write a blog like me, but our stories are the same.
(Sukirti Dwivedi is a senior correspondent with NDTV.)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.