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COVID deaths are not just numbers. This story is The Quint's effort to put a human face to the many tragedies witnessed across the country during the deadly second wave. It was an emotional journey for me, meeting children who had lost their parents at a young age. Please support us by becoming a Quint member and help us bring you the stories of India's COVID Orphans.
"I often think about how I can help my mother. My sister and I should study, so that we get good jobs when we grow up... so that papa and maa feel happy."Ajay, COVID victim's son
Fourteen-year-old Ajay (name changed), though shy, spoke to me like a grown-up about his father. When asked about his future plans after his father Arjun's death, he said he now feels responsible for his mother Kavita and younger sister Avantika (name changed).
Arjun died of COVID at 43 on the day of his marriage anniversary, 18 April 2021. He has left behind his wife Kavita and two children Ajay and Avantika.
While Ajay said that his papa wanted him to 'earn enough to live a respectable life,' Avantika said her father wanted her to 'become a good teacher'.
Avantika (12) found it difficult to express her feelings, but Ajay continued sharing his memories of his Papa.
"Papa was very caring about everyone in the family. He was hard-working and never considered any work small."Ajay, Arjun's son
When asked about the future plan, Ajay said he wants to be like his Papa who was a good human being. Arjun had shared anecdotes about his own tough childhood with his children.
"Papa told me that his parents did not have enough money to support his education. So, he took up a job to pay for his education."Ajay, Arjun's son
Ajay and Avantika’s mother, Kavita, is a homemaker. She recalled the harrowing time the family went through in an attempt to save Arjun’s life, but failed.
"The government kept saying extra COVID beds have been set up; that oxygen supply has increased. But we could not find a single bed or oxygen. Had my husband been treated on time, I would not have blamed the government for his death."Kavita, Arjun's wife
The family used to rely entirely on Arjun’s salary. He worked for an NGO and earned Rs 35,000 a month. After his death, with no money to pay the monthly rent, Kavita and the kids shifted to her sister-in-law’s home.
"My husband’s salary was the only income. I don’t know how to handle the expenses or how I will educate my children. We could not pay the house rent. My husband had taken a personal loan. I am getting calls from the bank for payment. But I have no money."Kavita, Arjun's wife
Kavita has managed to get a job that pays her Rs 8,000. But that's not enough for a family of three.
'Took My Husband to 7 Hospitals In a Day'
Even as her present worries trouble her, Kavita's memories of trying to save Arjun’s life are also fresh. She said she took him to seven hospitals in Delhi in just one day. But all the hospitals turned them away.
"In one day I took him to Brahm Shakti hospital, Nav Jeevan Hospital, Hemraj Hospital, Mahavir Hospital, Deepchand Bandhu Hospital, SGS Hospital, and GTB Hospital. When I took him to Brahm Shakti hospital, he was very critical. I requested them to give him oxygen. But Brahm Shakti’s doctors straightaway said that they did not have beds to admit him. I started crying; I folded my hands and requested doctors to at least check him once. But doctors did not see my husband. He was lying in the car."Kavita, Arjun's wife
Arjun died when they reached Delhi's Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital's gate. Kavita recalled what she saw at the GTB Hospital when the COVID-19 second wave was at its worst.
'I Could See Only Dead Bodies'
"GTB Hospital was in a bad state. All I saw inside was dead bodies. Hospital staffers were throwing bodies, with no respect for the dead. I could not bear the sight. In the Emergency ward, there were five patients on a single stretcher. Patients were even sitting on the hospital floor."Kavita, Arjun's wife
Kavita got Arjun’s COVID-positive report three days after he died. She said the doctors behaved very insensitively and did not take proper care of patients, which could also be because hospitals were understaffed.
"Doctors behaved very insensitively. They would only say, go away, there is no bed. The doctors could have seen the patient at least once. How could they ignore critical patients just like that?"Kavita, Arjun's wife
Kavita knows the coming years will be tough. She wants the government to help her in raising and educating her children. She said that only good education can ensure a bright future for her children.