"And once the storm is over,
You won’t remember how you made it through,
How you managed to survive.
You won’t even be sure
Whether the storm is really over.
But one thing is certain.
When you come out of the storm,
You won’t be the same person who walked in.
That’s what this storm is all about."
— Haruki Murakami
Having experienced many crises during my medical profession, I was confident of facing many more. But nothing prepared me for the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India. Day after day, physically and mentally exhausted by 18-20 hours of nonstop medical consultations, I would go to bed eager to catch a wink, but the stories of despair made my nights sleepless.
I witnessed patients gasping for oxygen as they ran from one hospital emergency to another, desperate for a few extra breaths of life. I felt the helplessness and frustration of people as they fought hard to save their loved ones. I watched as confused and frightened children saw their parents leave to never return. I observed families grappling with the loss of loved ones and constantly living with the paranoia of losing another. The grief was intense, insurmountable and utterly frightening.
Life suddenly seemed so finite. Death seemed so close, so real.
How did we reach this state of utter helplessness, inadequacy and despair? Was the government to blame or the people of the country, for their laxity and false sense of security? Could we put the onus once again on the size, the population and the social structure of the country? Or would it be safe to say that the surge happened because the virus had mutated into a highly transmissible and virulent strain?
This is the second wave of the pandemic. We seem to have reached its fag end. But we may face more such waves in the coming months, and maybe even more pandemics in the coming years.
Photo: India Today
What have we learnt from the second wave? Here is a summation of some lessons.
1. Do not underestimate the virus. It is mutating to forms that are more virulent, more transmissible and less susceptible to current vaccines; and it will continue to do so.
2. The virus is still lurking around. Lockdown has distanced us from the virus, but it has not gone away.
3. Precautions against Covid-19 must be continued. We need to make them a habit instead of resisting them.
4. Vaccination may not prevent infection, but it will definitely boost the body’s ability to fight the virus.
5. It will take a few years to roll out the ideal vaccine. All vaccines may need to be regularly tweaked to build the required armamentarium to fight newly mutated strains. Until then, we have to take the jabs that are available to us for whatever protection they can offer, for this is a dynamic process.
6. Mutations do not mean a never-ending pandemic. With the build-up of herd immunity — whether through natural infections or through vaccinations — we will be able to continually fight with old and new variants until the virus’s virulence becomes negligible.
7. We cannot fight this disease individually. Each one of us has to understand the importance of transmission and act wisely, else we will lose more of our near and dear ones.
8. We have seen death closely during this wave. Life is finite. Value it, enjoy it and take it seriously.
9. We will face more pandemics if we continue to play with nature. Climate change and land exploitation are throwing us into contact with more and more ancient and exotic viruses. Please learn from this pandemic and change the way you live.
10. We will also face more waves.
Let us work on the fallouts we faced during this wave, and use our collective intelligence to fight new waves. After all, humans are the most intelligent of all living beings, including viruses.