If pain is personal and individual, which is so often the case, it can drag us down a solitary hole. But when it becomes shared and collective, pain can lift us out, extracting us from solitude into the company of those who are suffering as well.
For days, I nursed my pain deep within me. Being the elder son who had to look after the ill parents, mourning the loss of their loved son-in-law to Covid, I didn't have the time and space to process my emotions. I had to be strong for my sister and her two teen children who lost their partner and father in the cruelest fashion. I couldn't cry in front of them. Could I?
I vented one day in a Facebook post. I had to recount each and every horrid detail that I and my sister went through to clear the burden in my heart. That post was me crying out loud. Writing, as they say, Is cathartic.
Then came a deluge of calls, messages from friends, from people I know, as also from total strangers. Thousands poured their hearts out. They showed support, they shared my pain. I got some of the most poignant and emotional messages from people that I had lost touch with or haven't met or spoken to in years. I welled up reading some of those.
Many shared their own horrid experiences and what they have been going through. I felt their pain. We became one.
Our timelines and inboxes are a tide of grief and suffering. Who would have thought that condolences, RIP, broken heart emojis would become the top prompts on our phone keypads. All around us is a deluge of pain, desperation. Everyone is overwhelmed. We ought to share it. Tell others about ours and listen to theirs.
No one will emerge unscarred from this pandemic. Everyone has been hit in some way.
My heart cries for kids orphaned in a sudden, brutal stoke. A dear friend, who is part of a counseling collective, was asked to talk to a 5-year-old who lost both his parents to Covid. The child tells her that everyone around is mourning and hasn't had the time to talk to him. "But I have lost my parents, no?" Just five. What can anyone tell that boy to make him feel better?
I cry with a professor friend whose husband is battling for his life in the ICU. She couldn't properly mourn a friend she just lost. "I have to stay strong for my son and husband," she tells me sobbing over the phone. I let her cry for some time. There are a few people in front of whom you can cry your heart out; for others, who look up to you for strength, you put on a brave face.
What do you tell a single mother who loses her only son, just 17, to Covid? Will any words ever bring any closure for her? You can only share and feel her pain.
A very close relative looks after a special needs child at home while his wife is struggling for life in ICU. He himself is unwell, but cannot think about his own health. The child asks him "Is mamma going to become a star?" Thankfully, her mother came back home.
On a video call arranged by a good doctor, a young kid sings "Tera mujhse hai pehle ka naata koi..." to his mom breathing her last. Final goodbyes, no matter how painful, are very important. Can you ever listen to that song again without shedding a tear?
A 19-year-old nephew, who recently recovered from Covid, goes to donate plasma in the middle of the night to a total stranger after an appeal on a social media platform. His mother is scared about him going to a hospital in the middle of the night. But she allows him to do so, staying awake and praying till he returns. They both feel good about helping someone in need. The nephew gets to know the next day that the person didn't make it. He grieves a stranger.
Pain binds us all. This bond is the only "System" that is working today.
I haven't had a positive dream in many weeks. I wake up in the middle of the night palpitating, throat drying up, only to realise it was another of those nightmares. Of loss or of the desperation of being stuck in a terrible situation.
Every sob, every cry, every scream, every share, every blank stare, every helping hand, every fading heartbeat, is a monument of our shared grief. We will carry it and mourn it for the rest of our lives.
All the incidents that I have noted above are real people, real families. I chose not to name them as it doesn't matter. Because we are no more just individuals who are suffering. We are all a part of this collective of pain that is India today.
(Mohd Asim is a Delhi-based journalist.)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.