Sombre Days: Infections rising again, fear of death pervades: Bangalore lockdown diary

Jul 9, 2020 by

Vinay Samuel continues his lockdown diary from Divya Shanthi Christian Community Services, Bangalore

Sombre Days: Infections rising again, fear of death pervades

The mood in weather matched the monsoon weather in Bangalore last week with its dark clouds and rare sunshine. The city was congratulating itself on the lowest rate of infection among large cities in India since the end of March. The easing of the lock down began in mid June with the hope that people will continue to maintain the precautions they did for three months. This was expecting too much and many regulations were breached. Nearly every day last week the virus infections doubled.

The Government ordered every private hospital, that account for over 60% of health services in the city, to allocate 50% of their beds for Covid patients. It was reported that by the middle of last week all the hospital beds in Bangalore were full. From a fairly safe city four weeks ago we have become one dominated by fear of death. Last week an elderly man from a low income area heard that his test results showed positive. He was terrified that if the neighbors found out they would throw him out of the area, called the ambulance and started walking towards the main road. The ambulance was delayed and he collapsed and died on the road. The ambulance came and could not remove the dead body which had to remain on the road for three hours for a hearse to come. The fear of the disease is compounded with the fear of the attitude of neighbours.

Volunteers needed

The headlines this morning highlight 50% staff shortage in all Bangalore hospitals. A heartfelt plea from the head of a private Muslim hospital for volunteers to help in hospitals went viral on social media. I have been very encouraged by the rise of volunteering in India among young people in the past two decades. For many years I have been disappointed by the level of volunteer involvement in social care. But the sheer complexity and the dread of this virus are now reducing the number of volunteers. Unless one has a strong sense of God’s presence and protection in one’s life, venturing out to help others will be most difficult.

Pastors among the poor

We had two deaths among those we work with last week. An independent pastor’s wife in her late 40’s died of kidney failure. A male church member in his late 50’s died, possibly due to lack of attention to his medical problems in the past three months. We work closely with 80 “pastors” of Independent Churches all among poor Dalit people in Bangalore. We provide training in pastoral ministry and also support them with their children’s educational needs and health care. Most churches have an average of 30 families worshipping regularly and the pastors live on the weekly giving of their members. The current situation has put enormous financial pressures of the pastors, particularly at a time when their members need their ministry the most. We work with these Christian ministers, as they are closest to the poor and trusted by them. Our focus has been to ensure that they have food provisions and some assistance to pay housing rent. They are the evangelists who grow the church in the City.

Last week again identified the continuing need to monitor the care of toddlers among our poor families. We have resumed support to provide milk to the children and have also begun to provide monthly provisions to families.  We will be putting classes online for our school on July 10. We have converted one of our buildings closer to the main road to a computer centre that children with no access to laptops or smart phones can use to access online classes for two hours each day.

Sundays are total curfew days and our ministry continues online but the hunger for face-to-face fellowship is very strong. We keep hoping that day will come soon.





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