Indian American Tampa resident shares with the American Bazaar his harrowing experience on a visit to India.
Arjun Rao, an Indian American living in Tampa, Florida is just back in the US after recovering from a bout of Covid during a visit to India grappling with a deadly second surge of the pandemic.
While there are Good Samaritans on social media working to help Covid patients in India, the situation on the ground is one of apathy and ignorance, says Rao.
Describing his experience as a “nightmare” and “nothing short of living hell,” he says he was shocked to see the apathy he was treated with in India as ten members of his extended family caught the disease.
Rao, who was in the US during its worst Covid crisis last year says the way the situation is handled in the two countries is dramatically different.
As India continues to be a hotbed of a new Covid surge, Rao advises Indian Americans not to travel to India, ask their families in India to stay indoors, dispense with household help and buy them dishwashers and iRobots.
Here, Rao shares his story with the American Bazaar:
“I am a software professional based in Tampa, Florida. A couple of months ago, when the Covid situation was clearing out both in the US and India, we decided to make a long overdue visit to India.
“Since my parents and relatives are in India and we had an urgent family matter to attend, I decided to travel with my wife and two kids. “We flew to Chennai, my hometown, and things were going well. We were taking all precautions and were trying to be safe.
“Our original plan was to return to the US. However in March, cases began rising in India and things took a downslide for us as at least 10 members of my extended family were tested Covid positive.
“Initially, when we got Covid there were enough medical supplies, but within a few hours I could see a lot of people looking for hospital beds and medicines. Even now, people message me to find out if I know someone who can provide oxygen support.
“Indian government should totally lockdown for at least 30 days. The cases are going up and lots and lots of people are getting sick. Many of my relatives passed away.
“My mother who lives in Chennai in an apartment was the first one from our family to get the disease. I took due diligence and informed the apartment administration.
“We quarantined ourselves in our house and were not meeting anyone. Despite our care, we were treated with apathy and made to feel as if we committed a crime.
“I really want people in India to show some more humanity. Even though we all know that no one wants to contract Covid, at least help each other.
“My mother who is over 60 had to be admitted to the hospital. Since I was Covid positive too, they did not let me go out and see my mother.
“She needed an emergency medicine and it wasn’t available anywhere. No one was ready to help. I was shocked by the way people treated us during the Covid and even after wards.
“It was an awful experience. Right from local authorities to apartment management everyone was making it more difficult.
“Some 10 people from apartment management were monitoring me if I was going to the hospital and where my car was parked. They even asked me to get admitted in hospital, even though I didn’t need to.
READ: US helping India significantly: Joe Biden (May 5, 2021)
“I decided once we all recovered and completed our quarantine to travel back and bring our mom along with us.
“I am very worried about elderly living alone in India. If they contract Covid, who would go help them. We had a tough time. I was asked to use the stairs instead of the lift.
“Imagine if I got breathless? Instead of asking us if we needed any help, we were being questioned as if we did a crime.
“Things were so bad that at one point my mom was critical in the hospital and I had to go and arrange some medicines, but the apartment management were threatening me that they would inform the collector. The medicines were overpriced and general mismanagement was rampant.
“There is a big difference between the situations in India and in America. I am glad I got my mom here.
“Right now, my strict advice to everyone in America is – Do not travel to India. Ask your parents to stay indoors. In fact, there should be no maids. One should get their parents dishwashers and iRobots in India.”
US helping India significantly: Joe Biden (May 5, 2021)
Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella rushing aid to covid-hit India (April 26, 2021)
Vinod Khosla offers to help Indian hospitals with import of oxygen (April 24, 2021)
Covid tsunami hits India with record 332,000 daily cases (April 23, 2021)
READ: Don’t let the ‘America First’ derail India-U.S. ties (April 24, 202)