The second wave of COVID-19 ravaged India as hospitals and then crematoriums ran out of space. Families struggled to find beds, oxygen, or even medicines to save their loved ones. While cities were hit first, the second wave soon reached rural parts of the country. Hundreds died due to poor or no access to good healthcare facilities. Most of them were not even able to get a Covid test done.
Many such families suffered in various rural villages of CNI SBSS project areas as well. These are the stories of Lalu Bhengra and Esrani who both lost their spouses to COVID-19. Their families were supported by CNI SBSS.
“Ma is no more”, said Lalu to his two small children, with a heavy heart and red eyes due to long sleepless nights. Lalu Bhengra is a resident of Kajurdag village which comes under Torpa Block in Jharkhand. The family of four lived a humble life with simple means. Though inadequate, the couple managed to put food on the table every day and sent their children to school. Lalu and his late wife Kunwari Bhengra had big dreams for their children. But the day came when Lalu lost his better half at the hands of the deadly COVID-19 virus. During the second wave of COVID-19, many families in the villages faced financial crisis. Loss of livelihood and shortfall of food and medicines made many families depend on everyday miracles. Lalu and his late wife were struggling as well. But being there for each other and enduring together held meaning. But the dreadful day came when his wife took to bed due to COVID-19 and never recovered back. Her prolonged sickness made life hard and frustrating for the whole family. After fighting for more than three weeks, Late Kunwari Bhengra went to the heavenly abode. Survived by her husband and two children. As the days passed, it became difficult for Lalu to manage both work and home. His little one demanded special attention and care. Things began to slowly settle in the village. Lalu every day woke up early to cook food for his children, attend to household chores and prepare himself to work in the fields. The aftermath of COVID-19 had slowed down agriculture work in the village. There was no immediate income to survive on.
At such a time, the support of Rs. 10,000 given by CNI SBSS helped Lalu to pay off some debts he took for his wife’s illness as well as to buy some essentials for his children. He also set aside a portion of the money for his children’s future needs and bought some seeds and manure for his field. Lalu continued to be part of various COVID-19 awareness and vaccination campaigns organized by CNI SBSS Chotanagpur project area. His main focus in life is to earn a sustainable income to take care of his young children. He is engaged in reviving his 1.5-acre land so that he can get some produce to consume as well as sell, and also doing daily wage labour.
At Bhikara Toli, Bano in Jharkhand, another family lost their only earning member at hands of COVID-19. It was not just an economic loss, but a deep loss of a loving husband and parent. Peter Jojo lived with her wife Esrani and daughter Evlin. He worked as Electrical Mechanic. During the second wave, he suffered from severe fever and cough. His health could not revive and he passed away. After his death, his wife and daughter were left alone. They did not have any financial support as Peter Jojo was the sole bread earner in the family. Esrani, Peter’s wife is a paralytic and had no option of getting a job as a daily labourer also. Therefore, his daughter Evlin had to leave her studies and look for a job. During this time Evlin herself needed money to get admission to the Intermediate first year. But everything got collapsed and she had to concentrate on how to restore her family income. She began taking tuitions at home and started teaching in a private school. “I have shifted my mind and heart to teach others. Make their lives better through education. The joy I have achieved in the last 18 years of schooling, I want to share with other children of my village. This is one of the ways to keep my father’s memory beautiful and alive.”
But she still desired to complete her education and study further. With the financial support received from CNI SBSS, Esrani and Evlin were able to buy basic provisions and medicines. Evlin also set aside some amount for her higher education in the bank. Esrani also applied for widow pension with helped of CNI SBSS Chotanagpur project staff. The mother and daughter are striving to move on in life and hope for a better future for Evlin.
Grieving the loss of a loved one while coping with the fear and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic can be especially overwhelming. Though many families faced a hard time during the pandemic, and faced loss of life and livelihood, they pressed on to survive each day. CNI SBSS is standing with them and facilitating them in their journey for a better future.