I am COVID-positive in India but I’m one of the lucky ones

New Delhi: Like most people, I passed through a gamut of emotions last year over the virus.

There were days when my 24-year-old son and I felt a visceral fear on reading about how patients in hospital could be laughing at lunchtime feeling so much better, and be dead by dinner time. Or the broadcast CT scans showing the frightening damage done to lungs. Or how so many other organs could be affected. Not to mention the dreaded “long COVID”.

Delhi-based journalist Amrit Dhillon.

At these times, we would lock eyes and say ’“we must do our utmost, whatever it takes, to avoid getting it”.

On other days, suffocated and bored at our flat in New Delhi, and hearing how most people had only mild flu symptoms, our mood tilted towards the “might as well get the damn thing and get it over and done with” school of thought.

After successfully dodging the bullet for all of last year and a good part of this year, the virus finally caught up with me 10 days ago. Seeing the word “positive” on the test report left me shaken. Hard reality is always so different from theory. I’d had painters in the flat for a long overdue makeover and I am guessing that, despite all the measures I put in place, I must have got it from one of them.

A relative of a person who died of COVID-19 breaks down during cremation in Jammu, India.Credit:AP

It’s ironic that I caught the virus at a time when, owing to the painters, I was following strict protocols but didn’t catch it earlier when the cases had fallen so dramatically that some of my friends and I let down our guard, once in a while.

And now here we are with 24,000 fresh cases in a single day in the city alone.

I am one of the lucky ones. My symptoms have been mild, I am sure, thanks to having had my first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. None of the side effects I had feared took place. Friends who were cancer survivors feared the worst but were fine. Friends with co-morbidities (it’s hard to imagine a time when we didn’t use that word) were equally apprehensive but fared well.

Given how virulent the strain in this second wave is, I think the first dose might have saved my life or spared me hospitalisation. I have barely felt unwell at all. When I see TV images of people on oxygen or ventilators, I shudder. It could so easily have been me, if I had not had the jab on March 12 before the cases began exploding at the end of the month.

The experience of being COVID-positive has been surreal. After more than a year of writing about the pandemic in India, watching it unfold, and talking to patients and experts, here I was experiencing the story first-hand with the virus firmly settled inside me.

For me it’s been easy. I have been confined to my room. A doctor has been in touch for online consultations. Nice nutritious meals and snacks are left for me outside my bedroom door. All I have to do is clean my room and bathroom.

Had my symptoms been serious though, I could have joined those begging for oxygen. And not getting any. It’s been a sobering thought.

New Delhi-based journalist Amrit Dhillon is a regular contributor.

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