It's Deadlier Than Covid-19!
It's Deadlier Than Covid-19!7 mins 357 7 mins 357
India is grappled with fear. Covid -19 has been declared a pandemic by WHO. A nationwide lockdown has been declared. The level of anxiety among the general public is high. There is uncertainty regarding the dos and don’ts during the period. Everybody is coming up with their versions of rules and regulations. Some are anxious regarding the availability of the essentials while there are some who do not even know if they would be able to eat a full square meal in the coming days.
In a rundown neighbourhood near the Kozhikode railway station, Kerala, the radio had been declaring the highlights of the lockdown.
“All the services and shops closed except pharmacies, hospitals, banks, grocery shops and other essential services. All places of worship shall also remain closed until further notice. All shops under beverage corporation shall stay closed during the period of lockdown. Educational institutions, industrial establishments and...” the announcement I the radio died in the sound of a huge thud. Sumathi ran out to the sit out. Her husband, Venu, aged 37 years was sitting on the parapet since this morning. Though the radio was turned on, he seemed to be lost in his thoughts.
Sumathi found Venu lying sprawled on the floor. He was staring at the ceiling motionlessly. His limbs had turned stiff and it was practically impossible for the frail Sumathi to lift him. She panicked and wondered what to do. Despite her cries, the neighbours were hesitant to help. So much was the fear of the novel coronavirus and more so of the law enforcement authorities. But then they did place a call to the health centre nearby. By the time Sumathi dragged Venu on the bed, the doctor had arrived. Sumathi wiped her sweaty forehead as she waited for the doctor to complete his diagnosis. She kept fidgeting with the pallu of her cotton sari. Leaning against the battered almirah, cold sweat kept rolling down her spine. She folded her hands praying fervently, muttering away all the prayers that she had learnt since childhood. Not that she knew many for she wasn’t a very pious lady. The doctor's voice brought her back from her reverie.
They walked towards the sit out. “Don’t worry. His blood pressure spiked up all of a sudden and hence he lost consciousness. This sudden announcement of lockdown has taken the entire country by a shock. Let him rest. I have already given him an injection. He would wake up in a couple of hours or so. Call me if there are any issues” Sumathi sighed in relief and asked,” you sure there is nothing to worry right. I really cannot afford that kind of treatment... All would be fine right...”. Looking at her sunken eyes full of pain, the doctor placed his hand reassuringly on her shoulder and said,” Don’t worry. All will be fine” before leaving.
Seeing her husband sleeping, she wiped her tear-streaked face with the corner of her pallu and sat down on the floor. Though the doctor's words did feel a little comforting, the pangs of anxiety and stress engulfed her from within. Though she was sweating hard, she felt her limbs going numb with the cold. Her Gods knew she could not afford an illness now. Venu was a daily wage labourer. He would be paid the day he worked. Whatever meagre amount he earned was spent at the liquor store two streets down. Coming home in an inebriated state, he would abuse Sumathi and best her for no evident reasons. Those days that he had no work and therefore no money, he would beat her up for money. Sumathi was working as a domestic help in a few flats in a high rise building behind their colony. She would help those wealthy madams with their cleaning, dusting, washing and wiping. She even cooked for a couple of bachelors in the evenings. She struggled the entire day to make ends meet. It was already late evening by the time she woke up. She had dozed off worrying about their plight. She got up and checked on Venu. He was wide awake. Her joy knew no bounds as she started,” you are up already... Why did you not call me... You would be hungry... Lemme get you some rice gruel”. Saying so she walked out to her kitchen hurriedly.
Despite our NaMo drive of providing every household with LPG stoves, Sumathi wasn’t that lucky. She still burnt firewood. Effortlessly she got the fire moderated to her needs and placed the dark bottomed pot to bring the gruel to a boil. She rushed back to her husband's side with a glass of water. She was confused. He lay there still starting at the musty ceiling. The doctor said he would be better by the time he wakes up. ‘Maybe he is tired', she thought. She wiped his face with a wet towel and helped him drink some water. By then the gruel had come to a boil. She fed him slowly wiping the dribble off his face.
After having had his fill, he dozed off again. Sumathi was worried sick. She called the doctor on her Nokia 3220 for further instructions. She was not sure whether to take her husband to the big hospital in the city centre. The doctor said he would visit again the next day. Sumathi helped herself with some gruel and slept on the mat beside Venu's cot. There was no change in Venu's health the next morning. He was lying like a log starting at the ceiling. The doctor arrived and checked for the vitals. It was all fine. The doctor said it was stress and pres some anti-anxiety pills before leaving. Sumathi thanked him profusely. So now Sumathi's new routine included looking after her husband as though he were a small baby- from feeding to bathing to wiping; she had to do it all. Days passed by.
The covid situation seemed a teeny weeny better. The government was going to lift the lockdown in phases. Sitting by the cot, Sumathi was talking to her sister over the phone. “once the lockdown eases, I'll need to get back to work. It was only due to lockdown regulations that those big madams asked me not to come for work. I don’t know how will I manage work with Venuettan being like this.” She nodded and hummed in response to her sister's words before continuing,” yea... The rules have started easing here... The malls, beverages shops will open from tomorrow and...” a big clinking sound was heard and Sumathi jumped up to her feet. The glass of water that was kept beside the cot fell. Sumathi was ecstatic. She immediately disconnected her sister's call and placed a call to the doctor.
The doctor came over and inquired as to what caused Venu to move his hand. Sumathi did not have a specific answer. “ mmm... Nothing out of the normal... it was a mundane day. After giving him food, I placed a call to my sister. We were talking about how I would manage everything once the lockdown eased”. ‘Probably her husband was moved by the difficulties she would face once she would be back to work.’ Thought the doctor, as he asked her if they spoke about anything else. She thought hard before replying,” we were discussing the unlock. The easing of rules.. opening of malls, beverage store and...”. Again, Venu showed some movement. His lifeless eyes had a twinkle. He tried to ball his fists as though he wanted to run out of the room... The doctor slammed his hand to his head and looked at Sumathi. This reaction made Sumathi very tensed. Her stress levels were already over the roof. The doctor looked at her and said in a very serious tone,” your husband was suffering from ‘no-liqour-obia'. He is good now. He shall regain his lost vitality soon.” Baffled, Sumathi asked the doctor to elaborate. The doctor nodded his head and said,” This is a disease that has affected quite a majority of our population. As the symptoms vary from person to person, I wasn’t able to diagnose it correctly.
Lockdown is the main cause of it. Due to lockdown, the beverage stores have closed down. They cannot get their daily quota of liquor and hence they are going into a shock-hibernation mode to be broken only upon receiving the news of the beverages store opening. The only medicine that will work wonders for him are the magic words that you just said. Keep repeating them and he shall soon recover”. The doctor's words left Sumathi speechless. She wondered if she should ever mouth those words. She was better off having her husband in a vegetative state.