Shopian June 19: It has been a year since I lost my father to COVID-19 on May 30, 2021. Last year around this time, the entire India was caught in the throes of pandemic. The daily COVID-19 cases were shooting through the roof.
The visuals of the cremation grounds and cemeteries aired by the television channels were rather horrific and the situation seemed beyond hope. Mobile phones and social media would serve as bearers of bad tidings. The long-drawn-out lockdowns to stave off the spread of virus had already begun gnawing at people. Like other parts of the country, the Valley too witnessed an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 infections. The daily number of cases ballooned from few dozens to hundreds.
The authorities continued to enjoin people, above the age group of 40 and those with co-morbidities, to inoculate themselves against the ferocious virus. My father, Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, too visited a nearby facility and received the jab. He also prodded some of his anti-vaxxer friends into getting the shot at the earliest. He kept all precaution. He did not step out of the home and hardly lowered the guard if a guest dropped in. He never believed in the conspiracy theories swirling around the COVID-19. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, he followed the COVID appropriate behavior. However, it all started in the second week of May when he suddenly ran a temperature. We reached a doctor by phone who suggested some medicines and his fever, much to our relief, went away once he took the medicines and looked more or less fine. However, a day later on May 18, it turned to be a nightmare when we checked his oxygen saturation level and it had plummeted to below 70. We rushed him to a nearby hospital where his test for COVID- 19 returned positive. The doctors immediately clamped an oxygen mask to his face and admitted him to a designated COVID-19 ward.
The hair-raising pictures of the cremation grounds and cemeteries began flashing before my eyes. The screen of an up and running machine connecting with my father’s fingers, on the other hand, continued to display his oxygen saturation level.
For the next few days, there was no significant improvement in his condition. The saturation level seesawed between 80 to 85 and the doctors finally sent him to a tertiary care hospital, hoping that he would get better treatment. The treatment, however, was well-nigh same there – the same steroids, antibiotics, blood tests and above all the same helplessness. It appeared as if doctors themselves had surrendered to fate. There seemed no chink of light. It was all gloom and doom.
The entire hospital had sunk in grief. The patients were put on artificial oxygen and the medical facilities across the Valley were overrunning with the patients. Every day the cries were emanating from the hospital wards with people losing their loved ones to the virus that baffled the doctors across the world. And then it was our turn. From the evening of May 29, his oxygen saturation level continuously fell.
The helpless doctors went ahead with the same line of treatment as he began sinking. At the daybreak, my brother called a doctor inside the ward. He performed an ECG on our father and then yanked all the wires attached to his body and left the room. The cries again came out of the ward, breaking the morning hush amidst the low and constant beeps of machines and ventilators. At around 7 am, the lifeless body of our father reached home in a hospital ambulance.
Although a complete year has passed since he left us, we are yet to come to terms with his loss. We had never ever thought that he would be in a tearing hurry to leave us. An unfinished book with dog-eared pages is lying on the bookshelf besides his black rimmed spectacles, a diary and a file carrying newspaper clippings. His phone still floods with the messages and emails from his friends, who are unaware about his death.The kids at home still say that they would play in Daddy’s room. We will continue to miss him. As I’m jotting this piece down on this Father's day, I remember Nida Fazli’s these lines:
Tumhari qabr par jis ne tumhara naam likha hai
Woh jhuta hai
Tumhari qabr mai, mai dafan hoon
Tum muj mai zinda ho .
(Whosoever has inscribed your name on your gravestone is a liar
I’m interred in your grave
You are alive in me)
Rest in peace Dad & Happy Father's Day.