‘Why Is My Family Being Shamed for Revealing We Got COVID’

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‘Covid causes extreme bodyaches and headaches and yet the calls from insensitive relatives caused greater distress than what Covid could.’

IT ALL started with a Facebook post. An unfortunate Facebook post.

I had recently been talking to a friend whose father is admitted in SKIMS. While waiting for the Covid test reports, there was a lot of dilly dallying. When he confronted the officials at the test center, they revealed that a lot of people start panicking once they know that their patient is positive, and behave as if the person is already dead; hence the delay in revealing the reports.

Since I had also felt the symptoms and a family member was positive, I decided to create a Facebook post so that people can learn from my experience and calm down a bit. After all, getting Covid is not akin to being sentenced to death. The post was quite clean and merely had things that led to awareness, or so I thought.

Soon after our phones started to ring. Mine and of my family’s. And the trouble started.

The first call I got was from my brother, who was in hospital with my father at that time, and asked me to edit the fact out that our parents had been to tayizat. Hmm. Okay. I did as he asked, just to calm him down.

The next one blew my mind.

This lady is quite close to my mother and even though knowing the scenario and all, questioned my mother as to why I had put this up on Facebook. That all these people will be quarantined and the family might be questioned as to how more than 20 people visited them for condolences. This she said without any thoughts or consideration that my mother was simultaneously wondering whether her critically ill husband was dying and the kids were not telling her the truth.

The next day, another relative called my sister-in-law saying, “I am angry. Why did she post it on Facebook?” Many other calls followed. To the point that mother forgot about her critically ill husband and began thinking of how all these relatives were behaving; doubting that I had posted something I shouldn’t have. And hence might bring about some wrath or something unpleasant for these so-called concerned relatives.

At a time when the family was distressed and our kin and kith should have extended help and support, they were busy in shaming me for putting up our Covid positive status on Facebook. Is being Covid positive such a huge deal?

Five adults at my home fell prey to Covid and only one of them needed medical attention. Should this not relieve people instead of anger them? I recovered without any medication and all others merely took Azithromycin. Should that not bring relief? None of the three kids even fell ill? Should all parents not be glad to know kids are immune? Why is my family getting calls and being shamed for revealing we got Covid? Why the taboo? The hush hush around this disease?

It is a shame that we, as a society, have associated stigma with Covid. Is it not like any other disease, only more communicable? Do the affected not need support like other patients? How is it justified that the society shames positive patients and when they themselves fall prey to it, ask for plasma of recovered ones? With what face?

This stigma is what prevents people from getting help at a good time. People avoid getting tested just because of how people would react if they get to know, and hence pay up by losing lives. So many people recently lost their lives because they reached hospital late. Are we, as a society, not responsible for these deaths? Do we really need to stop talking to our neighbours and cover all the heights with polythene and tarpaulin? Does that even help? Is it just on our part to put people through such misery?

Unfortunately we live in a place and a society where even a genuine suggestion is taken otherwise. A lady shared her paranoia with her colleagues and one of them suggested her to fumigate her place, just to put her mind to ease. This small suggestion was taken in such a bad taste that it was exaggerated enough to reach higher authorities and almost cost the guy his job. This happened in one of the hospitals in Srinagar. With doctors themselves causing such ruckus and stigma, what can be expected of a layman?

If we all can come together for a marriage ceremony, with 500 people as guests, can we not have at least 5 families who come forward to help these quarantined people?

If we can still go for taziyats, marriages, and visit markets, can we not go and drop essentials at these quarantined homes?

If mohalla committees can take care of funerals, why not of people who cannot move out of their homes to cater to their needs?

And if we aren’t ready to shun our bias, our stigma and help these people, then with what face will we ask the recovered to donate plasma? Would we not be ashamed then?

Covid causes extreme bodyaches and headaches and yet the calls from insensitive relatives caused greater distress than what Covid could.

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Hirra Sultan

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