LONDON — First, there was the scramble to find her father a bed in intensive care. Then came the price gouging for an all but impossible to find therapeutic injection. And, through it all, countless hours on the phone with doctors, family and friends dealing with logistical problems.
From nearly 5,000 miles and five time zones away, Anuja Vakil, 40, has been struggling for the last 12 days to help manage care for her father, Jatin Bhagat, who lies in critical condition in a hospital in Ahmedabad, in India’s western Gujarat State. She knows he has been lucky to get care at all.
“When I pray to God now, it is for my dad,” Ms. Vakil said. “He has to come back.”
Cases of the coronavirus have exploded in India in recent weeks, up to nearly 400,000 a day, surpassing all records and still rising. As they have, so, too, has the collective grief and anxiety among the huge Indian diaspora, over loved ones lost or fighting for their lives amid a health-care system pushed past the brink. In WhatsApp chats, video calls, Facebook groups and forums, a global community has worried, mourned and organized.
Some 17 million people from India were living outside their homeland in 2020, according to figures from the United Nations, and millions more have Indian heritage, making the diaspora the largest in the world. In the United States, some 4.8 million people were either born in India or reported Indian ancestry on the last census.
pooling money to buy oxygen concentrators, connecting those in need of care with doctors and using community networks to share resources.
Deliveries of aid collected by the diaspora are beginning to arrive in India, alongside government relief fromBritain, the United States, Germany and Australia among others.
Ms. Vakil has tried to focus on these positives. While it has been hard to be away from family, she says her local Indian community in London has proved to be a lifeline, and she speaks with a friend in New York whose own father is unwell. She tries to lift her father’s spirits with daily video calls, and his doctors are hopeful he can pull through.
added to Britain’s travel “red list” last week, halting nearly all direct flights and imposing an expensive and mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine for the few citizens and residents who are allowed in. And on Friday, the United States said it would start restricting travel from India beginning next week.
The restrictions, steep costs, job commitments and a fear of contracting the virus have left many unable to travel. As cases of the coronavirus continue to rise, many described painful conversations with friends and relatives at home, and a feeling of helplessness as they watched the horrors unfold half a world away.
as the government allowed cricket matches in packed stadiums, mass election rallies and a major religious festival called Kumbh Mela, where millions gathered in one city. Meanwhile, case levels began to rise exponentially.
In Britain, home to a vibrant and diverse community of people with roots in India, the pain is palpable. In a neighborhood shop in Harrow, a community in London’s northwest with a large Indian population, two staffers recounted losing a brother in the last week.
The cultural ties between the two countries run deep, with Britain’s large Indian diaspora estimated to number over 1.5 million people — the single largest ethnic minority population in the country. For many, the loss, anxiety or grief they are experiencing as family members became ill in recent weeks are compounding what was already a difficult year, and just as Britain is emerging from lockdown and hopeful about crushing the virus.
Harmeet Gill, 31, was born and raised in London, but his parents are from Indian’s northern Punjab State, and they remain extremely close with extended family there.