‘People Died Before Me’: Lucknow Photojournalist’s Horrific Tales

“Lucknow has lost a lot,” Sumit Kumar tells The Quint, as he captures the devastation around him amid COVID crisis.

3 min read
No hospital was ready to admit Sushil Kumar Srivastava without a COVID-19 test report. He died a day later in Lucknow.

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Muskuriye ki aap Lucknow mein hain...(Smile, now that you are in Lucknow...)” is an ancient quote associated with the city.

However, the saying doesn’t sound as appealing owing to the current COVID-19 situation in the capital city of Uttar Pradesh.

“The city has lost a lot,” says Sumit Kumar in a conversation with The Quint, as he captures the devastating scenes around him amid the crisis.

A freelance photographer for eight years, Kumar said: “I feel helpless when I see people die before my eyes. You see that the patient is desperate for treatment but you cannot do anything about it. It’s COVID reports, laws, rules and queues everywhere...”
‘People Died Before Me’: Lucknow Photojournalist’s Horrific Tales
(Photo: Courtesy: Sumit Kumar)

‘Hospitals or Crematoriums, the Queues Don’t End’

Kumar leaves his house every morning with the hope that the situation will improve, but it hasn’t changed in a month. There are queues everywhere for beds, hospitals, and cremations. People are breathless but have to wait for hours for oxygen supply, he said.

Kumar clicked this image at the King George Medical College and Hospital:

‘People Died Before Me’: Lucknow Photojournalist’s Horrific Tales
(Photo: Courtesy: Sumit Kumar)
“This woman arrived at the hospital in front of me. I realised that she needs immediate medical attention. I was standing at the hospital gate. She breathed her last while her husband had been trying to get her admitted. Just imagine my plight – I was witnessing everything – helpless, speechless, holding back my tears,” Kumar said.

“I met this uncle at a refilling center in Nadarganj. His name was Sushil Kumar Srivastava. His son told me that no hospital was ready to take him in without a COVID-19 report. I clicked his picture. When I called the next day to check up on him, I was told he has passed away. I was shocked, I felt so helpless,” Kumar said.

‘People Died Before Me’: Lucknow Photojournalist’s Horrific Tales

Kumar said that the pandemic has distressed people to their limits this time, as queues keep growing longer outside crematoriums.

“There have been queues to help your loved ones rest in peace. There have been times when the crematoriums have run out of wood,” Kumar told The Quint.

‘Truth Must Be Brought to the Fore’

While authorities claim that everything is under control, the reality is far from it. Kumar said that the people must know the actual situation on the ground. He said that amid claims by the authorities, showing people the truth is his only motive.

“If everything is alright, why are there queues for oxygen, why are relatives of patients struggling outside hospitals?” asked Kumar.

‘People Died Before Me’: Lucknow Photojournalist’s Horrific Tales

He said that he has his own dilemmas while stepping out for taking pictures, fearing his own family’s safety.

“I have even blocked my family members on Facebook and Twitter. I keep the mask on while reporting and try to be as careful as I can so that my family doesn’t get into trouble,” Kumar said.
‘People Died Before Me’: Lucknow Photojournalist’s Horrific Tales

The pictures clicked by Sumit Kumar and scores of photojournalists like him will bear testimony to the sufferings of the people whenever accountability and responsibility will be demanded of the authorities and the governments. It will bear testimony to the damage suffered by the city of Lucknow.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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