Flowers for my mother

helicopter showering flowers on healthcare workers

I have been given the duty of saving lives by staying inside. But as I look at my mother, dread creeps back into my mind. Mother hasn’t had the blessed luck to stay inside and save lives. You see, my mother is one of those people who are literally saving people’s lives. I have heard numerous stories of her adventures at work. Some fill you with hope, some scar you for life and all of them make you look at her with wonder. I have always been proud of her work. But this time, everyday as she steps out, I imagine invisible foes ready to bring her down. It feels as if this time the stakes are too high, for she is not only fighting a disease about which we learn something new everyday, but also the helplessness of the system.

Soldiers are armoured when they go to the front line. I watch my mother put on her armour - her white sari, white apron and a flimsy surgical mask. Flimsy? Because the health centres are out of N95s. I don’t even want to bring up the debacle involving PPEs. Everyday I send her off with this thought that maybe today is the unlucky day when her fragile armour falls short and Coronavirus comes home. The horror of the possibility perturbs me and leaves me terrified. I ask her to make fake excuses and stay home. I ask her to outright resign and just stay home. I brush aside any grand ideas of public service and ask her to not go out. When it comes to your loved ones, all ideas of selflessness seem futile. But she smiles and reminds me of the oath she took when she chose this profession. I curse her oath, I curse her selfless heart. But more than that, I curse this failed system. The system that spends billions on weapons of mass destruction but turns impotent when it comes to equipping the health professionals with adequate tools.

The other day there were flower showers to show appreciation. The same day I saw exasperation on my mother’s face as she asked me if this gesture means that now all healthcare workers will get enough protective equipment. Next day she goes out to work in the same old attire. I look at her walk away and agonize over the futility of flowers they showered for my mother. — Angkana Kalita