Just moments before I left my house to get my second COVID-19 vaccine dose, my family received a phone call from India and found out my father’s brother tested positive for COVID-19. At this point, only one week has passed since my mother’s cousin, his wife, and his wife’s father died from COVID-19, just days apart from each other.
As I arrived a few minutes before my scheduled appointment, the news of another family member contracting the coronavirus continued to weigh in my mind while I went through a smooth check-in process to get vaccinated with zero wait time and only a few individuals around me. I thought of my cousin, who lost both his parents and grandfather in the span of a week and then tested positive for COVID-19 along with his wife. I thought of how he must have felt as he rushed his father to the hospital and hearing medical personnel announce that they ran out of ventilators. Helpless.
For my family members who have recently been diagnosed with COVID-19, I worry about what will happen if their condition worsens and if there will be resources to help them if that time comes.
Before this crisis, I was worried about figuring out my identity. As a first-generation Indian American, merging my American and Indian identities is not easy. When I interact with friends and family, thoughts like, “Am I too American?” and “Am I Indian enough?” would confuse me and make it harder to reconcile my two identities. Now, my identity crisis has been replaced by a public health crisis in my family’s native country.
The stark contrast between the new realities of the United States and India is quite jarring. The U.S. appears to be turning a corner with a drastic downturn in the number of COVID-19 cases, yet India is reaching record highs with nearly 4,000 deaths daily. While this is a public health issue, there are global health and economic consequences from this crisis.
As the fifth-largest economy, India contributes significantly to global economic growth. Our technology, healthcare, and other clients with operations in India are experiencing the impact on their people and organizations. International travel restrictions are causing further implications. The pharmaceutical industry in India, the third largest in the world, is responsible for producing COVID-19 vaccines for other low-income countries; however, these exports have been postponed or canceled, leaving many countries vulnerable to fresh waves of the virus and new variants.
As communications professionals, it’s important to be informed on all fronts and be cognizant of how a crisis in an important market can affect your clients professionally and personally. Helping them develop effective and appropriate communications can positively impact how they are viewed by their stakeholders, especially during such an uncertain time.
Though we are currently marking Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month here in the U.S., I personally find it difficult to celebrate when I continue to hear news of more family members’ lives at stake. I haven’t been to India in the last five years and hadn’t considered it my home. However, I now think back to my last trips there, where I visited countless relatives, including grandparents, who made me feel so welcomed whenever I was there, even between large gaps of time. As I continue to explore my identity as both an Indian and an American, it is clear that a crisis like COVID-19 makes that distance feel much smaller.