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Worlds apart with no end in sight

The global pandemic means Midhun's heart is torn between three countries.

On one hand he feels incredibly grateful to be in New Zealand, and safe from the COVID-riddled India. On the other hand, not a day passes without Midhun worrying about his parents, his sister, her new-born baby and his friends and extended family, who are all back in India.

The Auckland resident speaks to his family daily, catching up on how they are coping in the South of India, as COVID-19 ravages parts of his homeland.

The state of Kerala, where his family live, is among those hardest hit.

Just last Friday his mother, Thandu told him they were now “in a containment zone”. Neighbours of the family had tested positive for Coronavirus, forcing the neighbourhood into a lockdown. Visitors were not allowed in or out of their neighbourhood.

As at 3 May 2021, India had recorded 19.6m cases and 216,000 deaths.

On 2 May 2021, India recorded its highest single-day toll of 3689 COVID-19 deaths. Experts have warned that number could peak at up to 14,000 a day.

For Midhun, the heartbreak doesn’t end in India. His fiancé works in Ireland as a nurse in a rest home, with no sign of the pair being able to reunite any time soon.

The couple had been due to marry in India this year but all plans were put on hold last year amidst the onset of COVID-19.

“It’s been a bit hard for her too,” says Midhun.

The pair video call each other every single day.

Midhun says his Mum and Dad received their first dose of the vaccine because of their being over 71.

There is now a shortage of vaccines and they are waiting to receive their second dose, while those aged 18-45 have been unable to get their first dose.

“Mum and Dad are really scared. At first they were worried but that has now turned into being scared.”

Amidst the crisis, Midhun’s sister gave birth, adding to the family’s worries. Her husband works in Dubai and missed the birth but was able to fly home to be with the family, only after completing a quarantine period. He met his child for the first time from the safety of the family’s front gate, to avoid putting anyone at risk.

“My parents are now caring for my sister and her one-month old at home. Mum is ensuring nobody leaves the house at all. Dad was allowed to go out to get food supplies to keep them going for the next wee while and that’s it.”

For Midhun, there is the worry about the pandemic, its impact on his loved ones, as well as his inability to fly home.

“Some of my closest friends are struggling to find work too, after losing jobs in the pandemic.”

“I’m worried because my whole family is there. In a way I’m the luckiest.”

It’s been hard for the Auckland warehouse manager to process his “luck”.

“I’m safe but I’m worried because my Mum and Dad are old so I should be there looking after them.”

Midhun has been living and working in New Zealand for the last six years and is still working towards getting his permanent residency. It makes returning to India impossible, without being locked out of New Zealand in the current climate.

“My whole life is here but if I were to return to India, I would never get back.”

His only wish now is for everyone in India and around the world to take COVID-19 seriously and pray for everyone in India.

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