Staying at home during the lockdown is hard, but it’s worth it
I would like to begin today by being very candid, and to some extent vulnerable. This is not easy for me, but I feel it has to be done before I can say what I want to say in this column today.
As I write this, Dhaka has gone into a second lockdown. Sort of. I keep seeing that this and that business is still open, and some people are complaining how the lockdown makes no sense.
As I write this, nine family friends, parents of people I went to school with, are covid positive. Most of them are doing ok and should continue to heal. But at the back of my mind, I know how precarious life really is.
You see, in a really sad way, I have nothing to worry about. The four people I loved the most, my parents, and my khala and khalu, have passed away already. In fact, I lost my khalu and my mother within five weeks of each other, in the last six months. The only family I have left is my sister in the USA. In a deeply heartbreaking way, I have no one to worry about and mourn for in the city where I spent more than 80% of my life.
Except that is not completely true. I still have a large extended family, friends that I grew up with, and their parents who always made sure I was well fed on Eid day visits. It is almost unreal, and oddly touching, how much I still stand to lose from this pandemic ravaging the world, and my small home city.
Which is why I felt I have to write this today. The lockdown is frustrating. People are concerned about their livelihood and their mental health. Many are openly saying they do not plan to abide by these restrictions. I simply want to urge everyone, please do. In fact, I am going to selfishly say, do it because I am tired of this parade of death. I am tired of the number of deaths going up every day.
I completely understand the stress that stems from being cooped up indoors. For the past one year, I have been in a tiny basement room. This room is where I work from, eat, and sleep in. This room is where I took the call that informed me my khalu has cancer. Three months later, in this room, I got a call saying he is no more. I am a lot more tired than anyone has any right to be, but I continue to sit in this room except for groceries. And even then I wear a mask, maintain distance, and wash my hands as soon as I get home.
But I do not do any of these things because I am scared of death and disease. You see, even in this new city, I have loved ones. People who came stood by the curbside to talk to me when I was grieving for my mother. People who asked me if they can drop off some groceries so that there is one less thing I have to worry about. And when I take all these precautions, I do it so that the next time one of them stands a bit too close to me, I do not pass on a killer virus that was lying dormant in my body but will be fatal for my friend.
As much as I want to step outside, dine in a restaurant, and not have to wear a mask that sometimes belabors my breathing, I have continued to stay home as much as possible, wear a mask when I have to go out, and maintain distance from others. I do so because I do not want doctors I know, doctors who are my friends, to have to make decisions about which people they will choose to save and which ones will not be given the oxygen cylinder that literally stands between life and death.
I guess what I am trying to say is, please stay home. When you must go out for essentials, please take every precaution you can. Many may have been telling you that your life is at risk, and that is something you may find hard to believe. I certainly remember being younger and thinking I am immortal. But I am telling you, that the life of your parents, your elders, your children, is also at risk. The life of healthcare professionals is at risk. And while nothing is more important than life, even the mental health of all those fighting this pandemic from the frontlines is at stake. After all, how many times can you see the person you were fighting to keep alive breathe his last breath, before it kills something inside you too? If something we do can spare our doctors that nightmare, we owe it to them to do so.
Hammad Ali is a PhD student and a lover of fountain pens