People of South Asian descent possess a set of genes inherited from Neanderthals that makes them more susceptible to hospitalization from COVID-19, according to a study published in Nature.
While certain risk factors affect the severity of COVID-19 – such as age and presence of underlying health conditions – the study noted that many still contract a severe case of COVID-19 without these risk factors, implying the existence of other risk factors in our genetics. Hugo Zeberg and Svante Paabo, the study’s authors, found a core haplotype (a group of genes inherited from a single parent) that increases the risk of hospitalization for COVID-19 to occur at a 50 percent frequency in South Asian people.
The same haplotype is almost absent in those of East Asian descent, occurs at only a 16 percent frequency in people from Europe, but occurs at a 63 percent frequency among Bangladeshi people in the United Kingdom, Zeberg and Paabo wrote. They said Bangladeshi people in the UK also have double the risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to the general population, indicating further disparities in healthcare that are compounded by the genetic predisposition identified in the study.
The study comes as COVID-19 cases in India are on the rise and hospitals struggle to maintain the resources to deal with the onset of new cases. Despite being one of the world’s biggest producers of compressed oxygen, the country has dealt with a shortage of supplies due to delays in oxygen storage and production, which in turn exacerbated the COVID-19 crisis.
“With respect to the current pandemic, it is clear that gene flow from Neanderthals has tragic consequences,” Zeberg and Paabo wrote.
The study states that the fact these genes have endured over the course of history to the present day indicates they must have been beneficial to human survival at some point in time.
“Thus, although this haplotype is detrimental for its carriers during the current pandemic, it may have been beneficial in earlier times in South Asia, perhaps by conferring protection against other pathogens, whereas it may have been eliminated in East Asia by negative selection,” the study states.
However, Zeberg and Paabo found that the haplotype is notably absent in those of African descent because gene flow from Neanderthals into African populations at the time was “limited and probably indirect.”
“It is currently not known what feature in the Neanderthal-derived region confers risk for severe COVID-19 and whether the effects of any such feature are specific to SARS-CoV-2, to other coronaviruses, or to other pathogens,” they wrote. “Once the functional feature is elucidated, it may be possible to speculate about the susceptibility of Neanderthals to relevant pathogens.”
Cutting-edge research, like the one Zebery and Paabo conducted, is an important reminder that diversity in research and medicine provides a more comprehensive understanding of diverse populations and how to address their needs.
Isha Trivedi is a journalism student at George Washington University. She enjoys reading and listening to podcasts in her (limited) spare time.
One of the hottest ‘V’ words that has the entire world talking about them these days is vaccines. Either someone has recently taken them, is taking them, or is about to take them! Lately, young children have been observing adults around them—their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles—taking the all-important Covid-19 jab. Moreover, now in several countries, with vaccine trials for children underway, the book is a useful manual to help them understand what’s going on.
V For Vaccine: A One-Shot Introduction to Vaccines! (HarperCollins, 2021) is a ready reckoner to tell children everything they need to know about vaccines. Through easy-to-understand language and colorful, quirky illustrations by Isha Nagar, the book explains the preventive nature of vaccines—how they teach one’s body to recognize and fight certain germs such as chicken pox or measles—and what makes them different from other medicines.
Originally from Lucknow, Nagar was born into a family of artists and writers. In 2010, she graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi with a Graphic Design specialization. While working in the publishing industry, she discovered her love for illustrations and ventured into creating quirky, handmade illustrations. Based on the daily activities of Indians, it paved way for her own brand Tathya, which produced lifestyle products and designs. She has also illustrated for the Mini series by Nandini Nayar.
Much of the inputs for the book’s content come from Dr. Gagandeep Kang, a Professor of Microbiology at the Wellcome Trust Research Laboratory, Division of Gastrointestinal Sciences at the Christian Medical College, Vellore. Having worked on the development and use of vaccines for rotaviruses, cholera, and typhoid, she is the first woman working in India to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.
“Vaccines are a clever way of teaching your body how to fight off germs that haven’t tried to attack you yet, so that the first time these germs try to make you feel sick, your immune system is already prepared!” In this way, the prose highlights the importance of vaccines by reminding us how so many diseases in the past have been eradicated through herd immunity.
In simplified form, the book also introduces kids to concepts such as antigens as well as antibodies—“a protein shaped like a Y”—one of the most important elements of the immune system. The book also details the process of testing a vaccine in labs on humans and animals once it is created, and describes what the actual process of taking a vaccine entails: whether it hurts, how the body reacts to it and builds immunity, booster doses, and annual flu shots.
The book also lists other ways to stay healthy, including eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, getting exercise and staying active, following basic hygiene like washing hands before meals, sneezing or coughing into a tissue, wearing a mask, and practicing social distancing (particularly for Covid-19). Along the way, the book also offers some fun facts and trivia about the history of vaccines, informing that an English scientist, Edward Jenner, invented the first vaccine around 1796, using material from cowpox to give people immunity against smallpox.
In all, this short and timely book is perfect to educate young ones about vaccines, and even includes a pull-out vaccine card at the end!
Neha Kirpalis a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world.
In April 2021, the United States experienced a steady decline in the COVID-19 cases, resulting in portions of the economy opening up. However, for people in India, the worst had just begun due to the second wave of the pandemic. The new variant of concern doubled the number of infections and deaths in the nation of 1.3 billion in population, sparking a humanitarian crisis due to the shortage of medical resources for critically ill patients, resulting in an alarming number of people losing their lives.
What emerges from the crisis is a story of three entities that didn’t know each other who, out of their compassion and vision, collaboratively raised $50,000 to help their fellow human beings in India.
In response to this crisis, Dallas-based philanthropists and founders of the HungerMitao movement, Raj & Aradhana Asava, initiated a matching donation challenge on Facebook of $25,000 and raised $12,343.
The three entities combined fundraising efforts – Taiwan Center Foundation’s $11,620.00 and HTHF’s donation of $1,037, was added to the $12,343 raised by Raj & Aradhana Asava challenge on Facebook for a total of $25,000. This was matched by a donation of $25,000 from Raj & Aradhana Asava – resulting in a final donation amount of $50,000.
These funds will be sent to India through Indiasporato help set up COVID-19 Care Centers. The 10 bed COVID-19 Care Center, for a period of three critical months, will provide over 120 patients care for seven days each; and 7,000 people will be benefitted through outpatient services and utilization of various logistical support.
A true story of what humans can achieve when they put their hearts and minds together!
In addition, responding to the same crisis in May, HTHF also raised $17,500 to send 2,000 oxygen concentrators and help set up an oxygen plant in India.
For additional information or to donate, check out each organization:
I live in the NY area. Perhaps, we can go to Broadway shows again soon. Maybe, we can relegate to memory those days of heartbreaking pictures of daughters looking in through the windows of nursing homes to get a glimpse of their mothers through the glass and families trying to decide whether to have Thanksgiving dinners sitting as far apart as possible in different rooms.
I do like the current optimism in the US on COVID. But for some of us, the pandemic is far from over. As an immigrant from India, I wish American media covered more world news.
For me, the pandemic is still very much alive. When I check my WhatsApp in the morning, before the fog of sleep has cleared, there is news from India. It may be that again someone we knew has passed away from COVID. In Facebook groups, someone else is looking for oxygen. The lucky ones are waiting three hours in line for a vaccine, while others don’t know when they will get a dose at all. They don’t need beer, donuts, or million-dollar lottery prizes as incentives to get vaccinated.
There is a raging pandemic going on in India and in major parts of the world. If you believe in the overarching value of human life, you ought to be worried.
I have been living in the US for more than two decades. As an immigrant, my threshold for pain is different. Even in regular times in my community, only the lucky children get to physically run and hug their grandparents once a year on a trip to India. We are lucky if we get to attend weddings of close relatives or be present when nephews and nieces are born. Every time we leave home in India, we aren’t quite sure whether we will see the very old ever again.
No, the pandemic hasn’t ended for me.
My septuagenarian father in Kolkata, India, who is disoriented after losing his wife last year in August, and has been socially distancing in the pandemic for so long, can neither go to the bank to stand in line or go to the fish market like he used to. He still has not been able to return to a fully independent life of doing the things he used to do. He has been taking social distancing seriously and I just long to hug him after my mother’s passing.
My father sits in a room surrounded by buildings that block the sky on all sides. There is no place to take a walk safely without running into people, even though that number continues to decrease because of COVID-related deaths. One neighbor, who called before my mother’s shradh ceremony (which is similar to a funeral) to inform us that she couldn’t attend, passed away just a few days later from COVID.
I talk to my father on the phone every day and tell him that all this will be over soon without really knowing what to believe myself. So, I switch to a conversation about how things are looking up in New York – at least he is happy that I am safe.
Cable news channels in the US constantly state that the pandemic is ending. Occasionally, there is some coverage of other countries on the chyron when some complex US political complication is being discussed animatedly on the main screen. While there was never very much coverage of world news through the pandemic, I had hoped that we would hear more about those that are passing, at least from here in the US.
I live in the US and have lived here for twenty years. I am hoping the pandemic ends here. I teach in a college in Manhattan. I’m fully vaccinated. I’m eager to see my students in person just like anyone else. I’m hoping everyone else will be vaccinated when I take the train to Penn Station from New Jersey in the Fall. I, too, am hoping to sit in a cafe and write. I’m glad I can bring in groceries, now, without disinfecting them obsessively. But even as I think of my life here, I’m aware of the suffering of people in other countries. That is not just because I’m an immigrant. It’s because even before I became an immigrant, I grew up with the consciousness of the world through world news in India.
For the first year of the pandemic, my experience of the pandemic in the US and India was parallel. I was looking in through the glass at my ailing mother last year all through her 5 months of sickness in Kolkata. I couldn’t visit her during the first Indian lockdown and the first wave of COVID in India. The glass in my case was not a hospital ICU wall but a phone video screen. The video was often blurred. Sometimes, I thought she recognized me on the screen. Sometimes, I thought she only saw the phone. She lost speech and then we eventually lost her in August 2020 through indescribable hardship.
For those of us, who lost someone close in the COVID world, the post-COVID world, if and when it comes, will never be the same.
For months I have been planning on how to visit my father in India safely. I have planned various scenarios in my head through the spikes in COVID cases in the US and India, and through lockdowns, flight cancellations, planning local transportation in India, COVID tests, seat availability, vaccination – tracking every little large and small last-mile problem through my mind’s eye.
Yet, I have only ended up reassuring my father in India over the phone that he will go to the fish market soon, that he will be able to stand in line at the bank soon, that it will be safe for him to walk on the teeming Kolkata streets soon. My visit almost worked out when I completed my second dose of the vaccine in the US, but that’s when the deadly second wave hit India in April. My travel plans are on hold again.
World news should matter. Worldwide deaths should matter. Worldwide deaths should matter and not just because a virus mutating in the developing world can put the developed world in jeopardy.
Death should matter just because we value human life.
Madhura Bandyopadhyay is a Doctoral Lecturer in the English Department at John Jay College, City University of New York (CUNY) in Manhattan, New York. She grew up in Kolkata, India and has lived in Florida, California, and Singapore. She lives in New Jersey now. Apart from being a teacher and scholar of writing, she blogs in her spare time just for fun on her blog at bottledworder.com
As COVID-19 makes its way down to the southern parts of India, there has been a silver lining. We have seen a surge of humanity that is lending a helping hand to India in this time of crisis.
One such initiative is by a 14-year-old school student Siddharth Ramalingam. He started The Bay Area Mask Care Project last year where he would make and sell cloth masks to raise funds for COVID relief.
“Bay Area Mask Care was formed to give back to the community in several ways during the pandemic. The COVID situation in India drove me to explore avenues to contribute to the Indian community where my close family and friends currently live,” says Ramalingam.
Parallelly in India, after the lockdown last year, when all businesses had to shut, Chennai-based designerKaveri Lalchand had an idea to start making masks which had become mandatory.
“As we were told we need to wear masks all the time as the simplest and most effective way to protect ourselves, we started making masks. And one year down the line we need to be protected now more than ever. We decided to focus on the welfare of the country and the health and safety of our employees, friends and family, and the community at large. Our masks have been hugely popular, and this was one way we could think of to give back to the community,” says Lalchand.
So, she started The Mask India Project that manufactures and distributes masks free of cost. Kaveri and The Mask India Project have joined hands with the Bay Area Mask Care Project (USA) and with Chennai Volunteers and the #MaskPodu movements to give away thousands of masks to people of Chennai. Masks are also being distributed through the Suyam Charitable Trust to children in rural areas of Tamil Nadu.
When Ramalingam heard about this project, he stepped up to help raise funds for relief work in India by reaching out to his network of people in the USA. “I have always been impressed with Ms. Kaveri Lalchand’s contribution to society. When I heard about ‘The Mask India Project’, I decided that partnering with her would be the best way for me to serve the Indian community. I am excited and honored to be part of this initiative,” says Ramalingam.
The lockdown has also affected businesses and daily wage earners. Through this initiative, we have been able to provide eight tailors with machines to work from home. As a brand, we supply all the materials used in the mask free of cost fabrics, elastic, and threads. The tailors are paid for every mask they stitch. They have done a fantastic job with the uninterrupted supply,” says Lalchand.
The masks that are distributed as part of this project are 3-layer, reusable cloth masks. The top layer is linen and the inner two layers are cotton. “The mask is printed with our logo – the map of India with a heart at its center. The heart is to honor the memory of all those who have lost their lives due to COVID-19,” says Lalchand.
The Mask India Project also works with Chennai Volunteers, a voluntary organization started by Rinku Mecheri, that manages welfare and relief work in fields like gender equality, disaster relief, and uplifting the less fortunate. Lalchand has tied up with the Chennai Volunteers to distribute our masks to the people of Chennai.
The #MaskPodu movement was created to bring about awareness about the importance of wearing a mask and wearing it right (not under your nose or on your chin!) This was created by two responsible citizens of Chennai, Kishore Manohar, and Siddarth Ganeriwala. They have spread the message using a very catchy tune that has been written by Aravind-Shankar the musician who made the famous Chennai Super Kings song “Whistle Podu.
“We will be giving our masks to them for distribution amongst the people of Chennai. The song has also been made into Kannada and Malayalam with the Hindi version underway,” says Lalchand.
As the predicted third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to affect children the most, the Suyam Charitable Trust decided to raise money to provide masks to children across districts of Tamil Nadu. With vaccinations for children still a little further away, masking up is the only proven method to protect oneself.
This is also why Maya (16) and Eka (13) Kachibhatla, a sister and brother duo from Chennai wanted to contribute towards COVID relief in a more meaningful way and associated with Lalchand and her team. They started to raise an amount of Rs 30000 (USD 410), which they could surpass and now The Mask India Project is providing them and the Suyam trust with 7000 children’s masks. And to make the masks more fun, the masks are being printed with a heart or a star or a design of an elephant or some other cute design.
Since its inception, the team has started seeing a sustained increase in the demand for masks. “We have now committed 1000 masks for an entire village in Haryana. We have also tied up with the Apollo Shine Foundation to distribute masks to students from disadvantaged backgrounds and we hope to help more,” concludes Lalchand.
Bindu Gopal Rao is a freelance writer and photographer from Bangalore who likes taking the offbeat path when traveling. Birding and environment are her favorites and she documents her work on www.bindugopalrao.com.
More than 3.5 million people have died worldwide from COVID-19 infection and the numbers are only rising despite more than a year into this public health emergency, specifically in developing countries.
Although the clinical manifestations of this disease are well-established the long-term consequences are still evolving and are being studied. Infection with ‘Black’ fungus is one such complication that is increasingly seen in patients with COVID-19 infection, particularly in India and other Asian countries. ‘Black’ fungal infection, known as Mucormycosis or Zygomycosis in medical terminology, is an opportunistic infection. It is labeled as ‘black’ due to the physical appearance of dead tissue caused by this fungal infection.
As a physician, some of the common questions that I frequently encounter from my patients, family, and friends are on ‘Black’ fungus. Here, I attempt to answer the questions:
How is black fungus infection acquired?
The most common causative organisms of this illness belong to genera Rhizopus, Mucor, and Rhizomucor. They are found ubiquitously and are commonly acquired through the inhalation of spores. This is typically seen in patients with severe immunocompromised states.
Who is likely to get black fungus/Mucormycosis?
Mucormycosis is not seen in all patients diagnosed with COVID-19 infection. But some of the underlying comorbidities can make patients more susceptible to acquire this infection. Patients with uncontrolled Diabetes Mellitus, cancers (particularly blood cancers), organ transplants, and those on immunosuppressive therapy are at increased risk of getting this fungal infection.
Why is black fungus increasingly seen in COVID-19 patients?
The relationship of COVID-19 infection with Mucormycosis is still unclear. But it is known that the fungi causing this infection thrive well in high glucose and acidic environments. It is important to remember that steroids, which are commonly prescribed in the treatment of COVID-19 pneumonia, increase patient blood sugar levels and suppress one’s immunity. This can put him/her at risk of acquiring Mucormycosis.
What symptoms to watch for?
Patients at risk should watch for symptoms such as nasal discharge often with fevers, facial pain, headaches, orbital pain or swelling, decreased / loss of vision, or double vision. Blood in cough or vomitus may also be seen. The development of any of these symptoms should prompt immediate evaluation by a physician.
Is there any treatment for Mucormycosis?
The fungi causing Mucormycosis spread rapidly and invade blood vessels resulting in the death of infected tissues. Patients diagnosed with Mucormycosis typically require hospitalization and initiation of antifungal therapy as soon as possible. This illness has a risk of significant morbidity and mortality. Patients require urgent surgical debridement to remove the dead and necrotic tissues. Hence consultations with ENT and or a maxillofacial surgeon are required. Ophthalmology consultation is also required if orbits are involved.
What can be done to prevent this fungal infection?
Patients who are on chronic immunosuppressive therapy should consult physicians before initiating any new medications. Indiscriminate use of steroids, such as using steroids for patients with mild COVID-19 infection, should be avoided. Over-the-counter dispensing of steroids should be banned and strictly enforced by pharmacists. Patients who require steroids should have their blood sugars monitored and sugars need to be corrected, typically with insulin injections. In short, controlling blood sugars well mitigates the risk of Mucormycosis.
Dr. Shivaraj Nagalli is a board-certified Internal Medicine physician and a fellow of the American College of Physicians. He practices Hospital Medicine at the Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster, Alabama.
India is in one of the largest humanitarian crises in history. The devastating headlines and heartbreaking pictures show that millions are suffering. People are dying on the street, frantically searching for hospitals and oxygen for their loved ones’. Crematoriums are overflowing with bodies. Over 500 doctors have sacrificed their lives to save others. My own grandfather, a dedicated orthopedic surgeon, succumbed to the virus treating his patients.
The entire healthcare system is collapsing. I am horrified at the tragic situation relayed by family members who are frontline professionals. I hear stories of casualties and devastation from my aunt (who is a covid warrior awardee and treats hundreds of covid patients on a daily basis) and uncle (who does covid-related black fungus surgeries). My own grand-uncle passed away from the virus recently.
The second wave of COVID has been catastrophic and the current infrastructure is ill-equipped to handle the recent surge in cases. As of now, India has recorded 28.1 million officialcases with over 330,000 deaths. These are only the cases that have been reported– the New York Times accounts for gross underreporting and estimates 540 million real cases. Every 5 minutes, someone dies because of COVID, unable to find oxygen gasping for breath.
To help those affected by the COVID crisis, we have partnered with Give India, the largest on-the-ground organization providing urgent relief resources. So far I’ve raised $26,600 to provide critical aid to those suffering in India.
The funds will be used for:
Oxygen. Hospitals’ oxygen demand is as high as 700% in some areas. Donations are being used to manufacture oxygen generators, ventilators, and cylinders.
Testing and Vaccination sites. Hospitals are erecting sites near hotspots such as airports to minimize the spread and obtain an accurate count of cases.
Setting up COVID Care Centers. Sick patients are turned away from overcrowded hospitals, forced to treat themselves without proper equipment. Funds are used to set up COVID Care and Isolation centers, fully equipped with quality care services to treat patients.
Food. The World Bank has found that poverty in India has doubled during COVID, as families struggle to pay for treatment. Your donation will be used to provide meals and ration kits to communities struggling to make ends meet. Just $6 is enough to provide an entire week’s worth of rations for a family.
If you are in India:
Please stay isolated and masked up. Follow all COVID protocols to protect others.
Donate blood plasma if possible
Get vaccinated immediately
Do not purchase or sell overpriced medical supplies
Return your empty oxygen cylinder so it can be refilled for someone else
Help your family with continually checking up on family and their symptoms
Report orphaned children to helplines, distribute meals to the homeless, feed stray animals
Practice good hygiene and spread awareness
If you are outside of India:
DONATE. Know that anything that you give can save someone’s life: Donate Here
Share resources on beds, medicines, plasma
Raise awareness on recovery at home
Volunteer at Covid Centers
Help orphaned children get protection, sponsor their education
Help organizations provide oxygen cylinders and concentrators
Check on family & friends
We urge you to donate during this time of need. The suffering will not end unless we make the change. Any and every amount helps! I encourage you to join this COVID support group to interact with others and receive updates and help on your recovery journey: https://www.facebook.com/groups/covidrecoveryjourney/
Yuvraj Walia is a 9th grader at Mission San Jose High School. He is passionate about medicine and hopes to make a difference and save lives during the COVID crisis with this fundraiser.
Every 5 minutes, someone dies because of COVID in India, usually on the street, unable to find oxygen. Fremont High Schooler, Yuvraj Walia has partnered with GiveIndia to provide resources! Donate today @GiveIndia #covidinindia #covid19 #covidindia #covidinfo #indiacurrents
“Everyone in my family is sick, madam, our father has been having high fevers for several days. My wife sickened 5 days ago. She was pregnant and had to have an emergency c-section delivery…baby is in the NICU…now my brother has developed a cough. They were unable to be vaccinated ma’am, they went to the center but by the time they got there, all vaccines were gone…”
On the monitor, the man gulped visibly, obviously distraught. He was the first of several patients whom I would triage remotely – a volunteer effort led by non-resident Indian physicians to help with the COVID-19 surge currently ravaging India. I had already seen many patients with similar stories: recently symptomatic, terrified of having to seek care in overburdened hospitals, and frustrated with the inability to access the life-saving vaccines being administered in other countries.
As the newspaper headlines report on a daily basis, the toll of COVID-19 IS skyrocketing in India. Patients must “hospital shop” to find beds and oxygen. The situation is dire and could have been mitigated if the population had better access to vaccines. It is imperative to promote resource equity: pandemics cannot be managed by political agendas and microbes disregard both party lines and geographic boundaries. This is why I applaud the Biden administration’s decision to support a waiver on intellectual property (IP) rights for COVID-19 vaccines. It is a critical first step towards ensuring sustainable access to vaccines, particularly in hard-hit countries like India and Brazil.
Over 80% of the more than 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses distributed globally have gone to high-income countries, while low-income countries have received a paltry 0.3% of the supply. Pharmaceutical companies, profiting from filling orders of wealthy countries first, have not made countries like Brazil and India a priority until now when their monopoly control on the vaccine was threatened by the possibility of an IP waiver. Yet, these are the countries where a resurgence could cause incredible upheaval and are the most vulnerable to the sequelae of this pandemic.
Moreover, there is a growing risk of prolonging the pandemic as the virus rages on unchecked. Science confirms that fact: the longer the virus is allowed to replicate in a population, the greater the possibility of mutation, which ultimately jeopardizes the health of every nation, resource-rich, or poor. History has also shown that since the original SARS epidemic in 2003, there have been dramatic leaps in the genetic variation of these viruses, which have increased transmissibility and virulence. The likelihood is that this pattern will continue into the next decade, creating more rapidly mutating and perhaps more lethal viruses, which is a threat to all humanity. Expanding vaccine equity now will help to combat our current crisis and may even quell the incidence of new mutations in the future.
The U.S. announcement is a humanitarian, practical response to the global phenomenon of a rapidly mutating pandemic. It is a great first step. The hard work is yet to be done. The World Trade Organization must meet to hash out the specifics of the policy. Other nations will need to commit to the waiver in order to for the policy to be actionable. Simultaneously, there must be commitments to compel technology transfer and resource allocation to the countries that are suffering the most.
My hope is that eventually these life-saving health care innovations will not be treated as the spoils of free-market competition and will be available to patients like my own without negotiation, wherever they are most needed.
Maya Nambisan is a physician in San Joaquin County. She is of Indian ancestry and still has many family members there. She has an M.D. from the University of Illinois and an MPH from Yale School of Epidemiology & Public Health. She is currently volunteering her time with eglobaldoctors.com, an effort by nonresident physicians of Indian origin to help with the covid surge in India.
As America celebrates the loosening of the mask mandate, on the other side of the globe, there is a contrasting scene unfolding, complete with doom and gloom. Since April 2021, India has been battling the second wave of Coronavirus. Mass funerals, new variant reports, vaccine shortage, and an overwhelmed healthcare infrastructure are the new themes in the Indian media outlets.
Whatsapp is abuzz with concerned messages from loved ones as well as news of losses and hospitalizations. Social media is brimming with not only political whodunnit analyses but also generous fundraising efforts.
Stories abound on how nepotism and bribery came to the forefront, especially when procuring a hospital bed. While in the same thread, we hear heart-tugging stories of kindness and sacrifices, where the human spirit has triumphed.
If you are an Indian immigrant living in the United States with family back home, then you are likely living the nightmare you have always dreaded – that late-night call.
The fear that you are unable to be there for your family during their darkest hour.
The survivor’s guilt has possibly reached its peak within you.
Indian immigrants are experiencing high levels of anxiety right now. Some are grieving, some are feeling helpless or guilty. The impact these emotions could have on their health and wellness is unimaginable. Especially given the always-on work culture in corporate America.
As Indian immigrants continue to power through Zoom meetings, work deadlines, and deliverables, there is little empathy shown in most Corporate American settings. There are not enough conversations about the toll this second wave is taking on the wellness of Indian Immigrants in the United States.
The anxiety attacks.
The sleepless nights.
The emotional eating disorders.
The survivor’s guilt, which is probably the hardest to reconcile.
While we continue to hope for the situation in India to improve and demand immigration policy reforms, here are five things we can do to take charge of our well being right away:
PLAN A FAMILY ACTIVITY: While our families are in lockdown in India, create a simple daily or weekly activity together, where you and a family member are bonding. Here is an example for inspiration. Bring out a new book and write down recipes from your mother, father, grandmother, or sibling. And even attempt cooking it! Food is love and food is nostalgia, and hence a powerful medium to stay connected. Also, most family recipes are hearsay and rarely documented in a structured format. So this will be a prized possession for years to come!
FOCUS on BASICS: Sleep & hydration. During extreme moments of anxiety, insomnia could surface for some of us and sleep quality and quantity may be negatively impacted. In addition, watching our water intake could take a back seat and we could be hydrating ourselves poorly. When you are going through a rough phase, it is best to keep things simple and focus on basics i.e. Sleep and Hydration. Moreover given these are emotional times, our food cravings could also come back with a vengeance. Maintaining good sleep hygiene and staying hydrated will help with those food cravings too.
GET GROUNDED IN NATURE: With the weather warming up in the northern hemisphere, getting out in the sun and soaking in the abundance that nature offers, will help destress and calm those nerves. Also, feel empowered to take a social media break, a news break, or a complete digital detox to reconnect with nature in any way that feels most aligned with you.
GRATITUDE JOURNAL: It has been hard to stay positive for even the most optimistic person in the room. And hearing for the nth time “Stay positive” or writing affirmations may neither be effective nor helpful right now. But having a gratitude practice, especially in the form of a journal can be transformational. When you bring paper and pen together, the brain is able to process the emotions a bit better, especially those of anxiety and grief. Write 3 things every morning that you are grateful for before you get immersed in the daily grind (Note: this can be the littlest thing!).
FACE THE GUILT: Lastly and likely the most challenging, as facing the Survivor’s guilt requires a great deal of vulnerability. Becoming aware and acknowledging this guilt, which may be wrecking those who have had losses amongst their families or friends is hard. Moreover, there is still a fair bit of stigma around getting help from a therapist or a counselor in the South Asian community. However, try and step beyond that stigma if you can and get help from a licensed practitioner to process this guilt.
India is a country that is not unfamiliar with disasters. Earthquakes, tsunami, political unrest, religious violence…they’ve hit this country with deadly force periodically. In fact, India is like that one unfortunate kid in daycare who gets every single illness that enters the room, and furthermore, gets it the worst.
This exaggerated disaster-prone nature of the country often receives bad press internationally. And each time one of these calamities strike, the world has a field day. The sheer color, contrast, and variety that India offers in every single aspect of life are then splashed across newspapers and television screens throughout the world…of course, through the prism of the disaster du jour.
This COVID pandemic is no less and no more than the usual scenario, providing striking pictures and stories – the mass rallies of the election, the colorful and fascinating pictures of the Kumbh Mela, the horrifying snapshots of oxygen being administered in front of hospitals, the macabre visuals of rows and rows of cremation pyres, and so on.
To me, this catastrophic situation has once again delivered a number of lessons. It has shown the best and the worst of people and their behavior.
The COVID crisis in India has certainly exposed the country’s vulnerable areas, it is true. But to my mind, it has also exposed the hypocrites of the world. While watching the vultures with hindsight or political commentators and gurus feed on the living, a bleeding country that is in the throes of a disaster of epic proportion, I feel what I can only call a sense of disgust mixed with awe. While I do not seek to defend any political party or government, I want to ask some questions of all the people who were quiet before the disaster unfolded, but are now out baying for blood.
Yes, the government and authorities didn’t act fast enough. But can you imagine a disaster that wells up in days, out of practically nowhere, and turns into a tsunami?
India should have stockpiled vaccines, oxygen, drugs and revamped the entire medical infrastructure in the country. Agreed. Hell, they should have begun building more electric crematoria, instead of cutting down all the trees in the land for the cremation of the dead.
How long did they have before the disaster struck? Two weeks.
When you take into account the size and population in this great country, you will admit that it can’t be expected to turn on a dime. And it is not like this situation ever had a ‘yes or no’, straightforward, one-dimensional solution. The truth is many miscalculations were made that became magnified when the situation headed south, resulting in an unforeseen tragedy.
As for the government, they were truly stuck in the worst of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ scenario. They had immediately imposed a lockdown last year, and people have called it ‘draconian’. They enforced the total lockdown, and people called it authoritarian. They shut down mass gatherings and people called it a blow to basic rights. They shut down non-essential industries, and people howled that the economy was devastated. When the numbers began to come down, they began to open up which people are calling it disastrous handling of a terrible situation.
It is not like any country has really shown the right way to handle the pandemic. There is no handbook, rule book, or manual that shows the perfect way out of this maze.
How remarkably short are the memories of these political pundits! The United States conducted its elections in the teeth of the pandemic and aside from a few aspersions thrown at Donald Trump, the whole world watched avidly. But India shouldn’t have conducted elections.
Many of the Republican party’s rallies were attended by maskless people, but awww, that’s okay. But, gasp, Indian rallies were maskless! By all means, let us forget the rallies in the US and European countries where people were protesting against masking. I do agree that it was stupid to have vast rallies with people without masks, but honestly, all laypeople thought the pandemic was over. Our numbers were way down. Many countries were loosening regulations too. What else were we to think?
Recent experiences have embittered me and given me a hatred of journalists and commentators. All they seek is sensationalism and sound bites, headlines and graphic pictures, forums, and platforms to puff themselves off and justify their own existence. Articles and opinion pieces blasting the Prime Minister and his decisions…predictably all dating to the time when the situation had gone way out of control.
One wonders: where exactly were these people in the months of February and March? But for a few, whose genuine warnings were unfortunately ignored, the rest had crawled out of the woodwork to dance around the pyres of the burning disaster.
Other scums of the earth have also emerged. People who reserve beds in the names of unknowing asymptomatic patients only to turn around and sell them to symptomatic patients for Rs. 50,000, people hoarding and selling vital drugs and oxygen, hospitals overcharging desperate patients…these ‘entrepreneurs’ are also flourishing to some extent.
On the other hand, this calamity has once again brought India into focus. Last year, when many countries including Italy and the US were in need of ventilators and other medical supplies, India stepped in to help out. Among other reasons, it is the goodwill that this country has built up that is now ensuring that the entire world is coming to help it in its hour of need.
Meanwhile, within the country, age-old values are emerging again. Neighbors are helping out by providing food for those stricken by the disease. People are actively using social media to connect those in need of medical supplies and help those that can provide them. Volunteers are helping out the poor by supplying food and daily necessities. Religious and community groups are coming forward to establish medical and oxygen supply field hospitals.
There is fear and panic in every heart, but on the streets, there is still human decency and respect for each other. As always, we will ‘adjust’ and we will ‘manage’. The wonderland that is India will endure.
Lakshmi Palecanda moved from Montana, USA, to Mysore, India and inhabits a strange land somewhere in between the two. Having discovered sixteen years ago that writing was a good excuse to get out of doing chores, she still uses it.
In the third week of April, I was planning to fly to India to check on my mother and extended family. My sister was in line for her second shot of the Covishield vaccine against COVID-19. We were excited to celebrate April birthdays and Mother’s day after 2 years. My bags were packed.
India, the second most populated country in the world with over 1.3 billion Indians seemed to have a decent handle on the pandemic. The world watched the initial twenty-day lockdown in India, followed by the mass exodus of migrant workers. Perhaps innate immunity to tropical diseases was helping Indians against COVID. Was the blistering heat not conducive to viral proliferation? Was the COVID-19 strain in India less infectious?
The Serum Institute of India was gearing up for vaccines for domestic and international use. Before Indian citizens were vaccinated, Indian vaccines were exported out of the country. Indian government and citizens were confident of their innate immunity. Steeped in a false sense of bravado, India reopened for business in early 2021. Unmasked gatherings, cricket matches, political rallies, and weddings continued while the B.1.617.2 variant of COVID-19 was raging in a vulnerable unvaccinated population.
Meanwhile, the weeks-long Hindu Pilgrimage congregation in Haridwar (Kumbh Mela) was not canceled. This year Hanuman Jayantiwas on 26-27th of April the night of the pink full moon (Chaitra Purnima). This holy dip in the Ganga (Shahi Snan) was considered to be very auspicious. Many devotees tested positive and spread the disease in crowded trains and buses and to their contacts back home. The infectious curve changed from a plateau to a wall. The health care system was overwhelmed. Hospitals ran out of beds, oxygen, medicines. Meanwhile, there was an acute vaccine shortage, and hurdles in getting the vaccine.
My friends and family members are not fully vaccinated to date. So many innocent lives were lost! Fires burnt nonstop. In the first wave, it took five months for the 98,000 a day caseload to about 10,000 a day. This time, the peak is much higher and the downward trend of the second wave could be prolonged. The only hope is to raise herd immunity by mass vaccinations.
I composed two poems, out of my anguish. My idea is not to criticize. I am trying to process the trauma in my community. My poems document our complex human frailty.
“I will make such a wonderful India…” @Narendra Modi 4/11/18
Maskless. He addressed them.
Rows upon rows, their
brains steeped in fervor.
They cheered and rallied, then
thronged on the shores of a
weary Ganges, sullying her body
of water. Over and over again.
Inviting Lord Yama to extinguish
He came with a vengeance.
Coronavirus vanquished thousands.
Breathless, their bodies crumpled on
No oxygen. No vaccine. No potion.
No healers. No chant. No mantra.
No yantra. No tantra. No soothsayer.
No friend or family member
could save them from their own folly.
They burnt in communal fires in
parking lots. The stench of death
smearing the khadi shawl of
Mother India. She wept
and rued their misguided deeds.
The pandemic raged on,
mindless of caste, creed, age, gender
or status. Even the mighty were
But who will be held accountable
for cremating those innocent souls
who died without rupees for firewood?
Flying Monkey Moon
The moon maiden was full
and deliciously pink
A bit pompous,
A butter macaroon, freshly baked
Double pink peony daydream.
Cumulus cloud carpet
Covered the midnight sky.
Sweet salutations were whispered
She smiled and lowered her veil.
Millions gathered on the bank of
the Holy Ganges to take a religious
dip with the Moon and floating diyas.
The last day of the Kumbh was
specially ordained to wash away
their sins. Coronavirus raged in
homes, hotels, sky scrapers and
hovels. Hospitals were out of beds,
doctors, nurses and life support ran dry.
Fires burned day and night in open
crematoriums. Mortals chanted the
Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra for protection.
Hanuman opened his eyes and flew
across the heavens. He thought,
they only remember me on
I do not want to criticize the government, their policies, or the people who helped spread this scourge.
I am very worried. I am one of the millions who do not know when they’ll be able to see their dear ones – parents, daughter, son, grandson, brother, sister.
In the interim, I keep watching the news, donate money for COVID relief, pray to Hanuman every day.
Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.
It’s been two years now since the world has been grappling with the novel coronavirus. Yes, the deadly Coronavirus disease of 2019 has trailed well into 2021. Causing global social and economic disruption, devastating millions of people, who are dealing with untimely bereavements, isolation, loss of income. Not to mention the onset of mental health issues. We are at the end of our tether!
Recently, the situation in India has become grim. In a vast country with an immense population, imposing restrictions like social distancing had taken a backseat. And that was a grave mistake.
You may think there isn’t much one can do to improve the situation in the world, but we can surely start by taking small steps to keep ourselves and our homes safe. Charity begins at home! And we all need to walk the talk. We need to change a few rudimentary things in our lifestyle and go back to our wise Indian cultural practices.
There is no revolution we need to stir, all we need to do is change ourselves. The first thought that strikes us is how changing just ourselves is going to change 100 crore or one billion of us? Not only is it a laudable thought, but I am also convinced it is an achievable one.
Since this is a difficult time of the pandemic, we will focus only on those lifestyle changes at our level which will make us safer at home.
What do we do when we meet an outsider? A traditional namaste has been replaced by a handshake followed by a clumsy hug or maybe a peck on the cheek. Not to mention which cheek to go for first, creating some comedy-filled moments. Now the world acknowledges the value of folded hands—Namaste—which conveys all your feelings with poise and dignity. We should adopt it not because it symbolizes our civilization, but also because it’s the safest greeting in these difficult times.
Traditionally, we (including visitors) left our footwear outside the house before entering. This isn’t the case anymore. We wear designer shoes with our designer couture. So, leaving our footwear outside is like being half-dressed. However, on our recent visits abroad, we noticed that it’s quite normal to leave your shoes outside and slip into slippers provided by the host or move about barefoot in a spic and span house. The logic behind being that the members of the family have to clean the house most times, and the parquet flooring doesn’t shine if dust falls on it. This has been picked up by the west from our culture. We should readopt this practice. Patent it perhaps?
Definitely, during the pandemic, it is essential to keep all invasions of germs, dust, and filth out. In the years gone by, it was customary for guests or any member of the household to wash their hands and feet before entering the house. We must ensure that anyone entering should remove their shoes outside and then either wash/sanitize hands. Seems difficult! You’ll be surprised how easy it will be if you bring it into practice, strictly following the rule yourself first.
Use a spoon when eating snacks
Avoid using hands to eat snacks like bhujia, peanuts, roasted chanas, etc. Use a spoon or serve all the guests in individual bowls. The same goes for serving saunf, elaichi and chooran after a meal. For the same reason, I never take the complimentary sweet saunf that is presented in any eatery after a meal.
Always wash your hands before a meal even if you have not stepped out. Sometimes we unconsciously touch our eyes, mouth, or nose and if there’s an infection lurking about, nip it. This should be strictly followed in every household.
Use cutlery when eating at the dining table
Eating at the table is the norm. Most of us have lost the ability to sit cross-legged on the floor. In certain circles, it’s considered chic to use hands while eating. Which is fine, but let’s not forget that in the olden days we would sit on the floor and eat with our hands, but never touched another vessel other than our own thali, as someone else would serve us.
But now if you are using your hands, you touch the serving spoon to take another helping—in the process, soiling the spoon with your saliva. I feel Indian food like chapattis should also be rolled up and the vegetable or dal should be eaten with a spoon to minimize contact with one’s hands or else after serving yourselves once, the serving dishes should be removed from the table. It may sound rude but all dieticians say that to remain healthy, one must never go for a second helping. And this should be our mantra during these terrible times.
Are napkins needed?
If we use cutlery, the use of napkins automatically becomes negligible. Westerners often kept the napkin as an adornment, hardly touching it to their mouth after a meal and almost never leaving a stain on it. Our Indian way of eating soils cloth napkins, rendering them useless for further use especially if they are light-colored.
Some curry marks are difficult to obliterate. During the pandemic, one should use disposable paper napkins if required and completely withdraw the cloth ones. It has become a norm to keep a paper napkin along with a cloth one. Table etiquette demands that you do not even touch the starched white napkin. Use the disposable one leaving the cloth one unsoiled. During this time of infection, showing off table layout is not as important as keeping oneself safe, so do away with cloth napkins.
Limit the numbers you entertain
Do not entertain more than 4-6 people (depending on the size of your living area) inside your house. As far as possible, entertain in the open—your lawn or balcony—but if indoors, ensure that at least everyone is seated 4-6 feet apart. Invariably, we maintain good social distance practices, and please forgo the photo! To fit everyone in one frame, we break the rule and invariably this is the time we talk/laugh the most in close proximity. A picture on Facebook is avoidable at this stage.
Abide and don’t complain
A lot of exploration and analysis goes into the matter before certain restrictions are imposed. Do not try to reinvent the wheel. Abide. It is easy to protest or grumble. Do it only if you have something constructive to contribute. Wear a mask if required, a double mask if needed. Wear it the way it is meant to be worn, covering your nose and mouth. Don’t just wear it on your chin. You are not doing a favor to the authorities but a service to yourself and your self-preservation.
After receiving the first shot of the vaccine, people thought they had won the battle and defeated the virus. Even after repeated announcements by health officials appealing to people to not drop their guard, you could see bazaars full of people, liquor shops overflowing with masses, large wedding celebrations, religious and political gatherings. The result was the surge of the second spike of Covid, far more dangerous than the first one.
Sneeze in your sleeve
Make small changes in your everyday habits, like sneezing into your sleeve.
Open doors with care
Open doors with your elbow, or while holding a sanitizer tissue or regular tissue.
Care in elevators
Carry toothpicks or tissues to press elevator buttons. These do not require a lot of space and can be easily disposed of, after use.
Practice healthy habits
Starting the day with Prayanam or breathing exercises, some stretching, yoga or a brisk walk keeps you rejuvenated for the whole day. Pushing them off for later in the day can sometimes make it difficult to get to. Best to get done with them in the morning when you have more control over your time. These practices, especially yoga which originated in India 5,000 years ago, is becoming a la mode in the western world.
A full night’s sleep is a must for a healthy body
In the days gone by, we rose with the twittering of the birds and retired at dusk like them. Several studies attribute issues like the risk of a recurrent heart attack, stroke, and abnormal heartbeats, such as atrial fibrillation, leading to serious health issues including death to lack of sleep. During the pandemic, a lot of us were forced back into this tradition not out of choice but for the lack of opportunity to stay awake. With all theatres, restaurants, nightclubs, discos, pubs, and casinos shut, it was enforced confinement.
Once you get a good night’s sleep, you feel rested and calm in the day. It becomes addictive and besides your beauty sleep will keep your dark circles, puffy eyes, and headaches at bay. Soon you’ll be a slave to this miracle health mantra. Besides, it keeps stress levels low, thereby keeping immunity high. Something that’s a need of the hour these days!
Consume a lot of water
I remember as children gulping gallons and gallons of liquids, especially in the summer. There was always whey water (lassi), nimbu pani, bhel juice, aam panna, jal jeera and many colored drinks like kewra (yellow), khuskhus (green), rose (red), all made at home and roohafza, which we had with water or milk. Even if one had one drink of each, our daily hydration requirement was met.
Over the years, these natural flavors got replaced by fizzy soda drinks like Coke and Pepsi, which have their own set of adverse effects on health. They were almost addictive and took over the entire beverage industry. Also, with the excessive use of air conditioning and intolerance of heat, people tend to stay indoors and the need for hydration reduces considerably. Just drinking water when the body doesn’t seem to need it seems silly and actually one forgets to drink water. It happens to me often and my kids keep reminding me to drink water.
Water plays a very important role in our body. It takes nutrients and oxygen to our cells, flushes bacteria from our bladder, aids in digestion, prevents constipation, normalizes blood pressure, and protects our joints and tissues. So many virtues by merely drinking a 5-6 glasses of water! Just worth it. Make it a habit, and in no time, your body will start demanding water.
Eat right to build immunity
Indian cuisine is possibly among the most nutritious and balanced. Every meal of dal, sabzi, rice/chapatti, curd, and green salad takes care of our nutritional needs like proteins, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins. Masalas and herbs like turmeric, cumin, coriander, cardamoms, cloves, pepper, carom (ajwain), mustard, asafoetida (hing) and use of ginger, coriander, green chilli, tomato, garlic, onion and desi ghee that go into preparing our normal everyday food add not only a lot of flavor but also boost immunity thanks to each spice’s medicinal value. Having said this, it’s always nice to experiment with something different every now and then.
Eating out/ordering food at home should not be a norm but a diversion. Eat healthy, remain healthy. The fast food/junk food culture that we have adopted from the west makes life easy but sooner or later we will pay a price for it.
See symptoms and act fast!
If you experience even bourgeoning Covid symptoms, do something about it immediately. Isolate and get tested. If you test positive, announce it in your community. There are people who can help if you share your predicament. Take active steps to deal with the situation. To protect yourself and your loved ones, maintain an uncompromising quarantine for 14 days. Put in all your energies to overcome your situation by doing the right things. Exercise to keep the oxygen level high and take paracetamol for keeping the temperature in control. If anything goes out of control, consult a doctor for further action.
Watch your nutrition
Always, but especially during this time, take nourishing food. Often your sense of taste and smell is compromised thanks to the virus. As a result, food is unappetizing. This should not be an excuse not to eat. Do eat enough food to build immunity and get energy for the body to fight the virus.
Become as self-reliant as can be
I contacted the virus and was isolated for a fortnight. During this time, I was washing my own utensils, cleaning my bathroom, and washing my own clothes. After the first couple of days, I used to look forward to this monotonous routine. I realized my bathroom looked cleaner than before and my clothes washed by me had a sparkle that was previously missing. The whites looked whiter and the colored clothes got their gleam back.
In those 15 days, I wanted to run through my entire wardrobe to bring back the luster into my drab clothes. It’s very easy to slip back into the complacency of throwing all the clothes into the washing machine or ignoring a few lapses in cleanliness. But I resolved to look into some matters actively and taking action personally once my quarantine was over. It gives you a feeling of empowerment and self-reliance.
Ignore vaccine-related rumors
We have waited for the vaccine for a year, so why the vaccine hesitancy? Hearsay is misleading. Believe in scientists who provide research and scientific proofs in front of you. If required, certainly go for medication or any other medical intervention. But don’t solely rely on home remedies.
It is very important to keep yourself suitably occupied instead of only watching the news that can be misleading and anxiety-inducing. However, keep yourself updated on the current scenario through authentic news. You can divide your time doing things you enjoy. Read, catch a film on Netflix, hear music, meditate, or pursue spiritual/religious activities if it gives you peace. You can also get crafty – tatting, knitting, crochet, painting, writing or embroidering, have their therapeutic merits.
Verify social media news
It’s critical to verify the news that you circulate within your friend’s circle via WhatsApp or any other media to avoid the spread of misinformation and falling prey to it.
Besides following a routine of washing personal effects, it should be a norm for everyone irrespective of whether you have contracted the virus or not to always wash your mask or handkerchief oneself. Mask sanitation should be personalized. Even children should be encouraged to do that.
Wear a mask all the time
Mask wearing at all times, even at home when you are together should be followed. Wear a double mask when stepping out of the house.
Learn to groom yourself instead of depending on beauty salons for pedicures, manicures, massages, threading, head massages, facials, and haircuts.
Spend less time with gadgets & electronics
Instead nurture family bonds, revel in the sounds and beauty of nature around us. During this pandemic, a lot of people have lost their dear ones. One hopes one had spent better time with them. Don’t miss this opportunity to re-establish these bonds. Over the last year, a lot of people have posted pictures of their gardens, blossoms on trees, and the changing skies. I personally enjoy the sunrises and sunsets a lot more than ever before.
Instill a sense of discipline in your children and other family members by becoming a role model.
With that said. In a strange way, perhaps the pandemic came to heal the world and its people living on the planet through harsh but valuable lessons. Human beings have plundered the earth, abused nature, oppressed our natural resources, victimized wild and marine life, and overburdened the atmosphere with toxic pollutants. The losses that we have incurred are difficult to obliterate, the lessons we have learned are difficult to ignore. The values that we overlooked need to be reinstated. Let it be a lesson for a lifetime, and not disregard it once the crisis is over.
Let us be the change we want to see.
Poonam Kirpal is a Post Graduate in Child Development from Delhi University. A freelance counselor, she has three books to her credit: ‘Fast Forward’, ‘Saccharine and a Lot of Spice’, ‘Amma’ and ‘Ma + Ma = Grandma’. You can read her blog at www.midlifeuphoria.blogspot.in