The sprawling, 8 room house of the Yadav family in Imaliya Purva, a village on the outskirts of Lucknow, is empty – a stark, haunting, and devastating contrast from just a year ago when the second wave of the Covid pandemic killed eight members of the joint family within 24 days. One death and cremation – on an average – every three days.
Among the members of the family who died were 2 sisters, their 4 brothers, their mother, and paternal aunt – some of them gasping for oxygen at a private hospital, some at home.
Seema Singh Yadav’s 45-year-old husband Nirankar Singh – a farmer – died on April 25 last year after spending six days in a hospital.
“He was screaming and gasping for oxygen. He asked me to go to the doctor and arrange for more oxygen. I was begging the doctor to increase his oxygen flow. The doctor did it once but even then, my husband could not breathe. I asked the doctor to increase it further and he said I won’t even get this much. My husband overheard this and asked me why the doctor was saying this. I had to lie that the doctor was talking about someone else. He died gasping for oxygen in front of me”, Ms Yadav recounted, choking back tears.
She says getting through the year has been as traumatic as the deaths. A year on, her biggest concern is educating her 19 and 21-year-old sons. Her elder son is a student of fashion design in Hyderabad, and the younger one has appeared for his class 12 exams and helps at the farm.
“It’s very difficult to get through even one more day. I am alive only because of my children. I fell very ill and they used to ask what will they do if something happens to me. I am alive only because of them. I am educating my children because I feel no matter what happened to me, their lives should not be spoiled,” Seema Yadav says.
Kusma Devi’s 61-year-old husband Vijay Kumar Singh was also a farmer and the eldest sibling. Mr Singh died after a 10-day struggle in a private hospital on May 1. Kusma Devi is now in-charge of the home and says the government did give compensation but the future has her worried.
When asked how she managed in the last year, she chokes up, pauses, and wipes away her tears. “I only pray to God that no one goes through what we have faced. It’s okay for someone to be poor, to eat only one meal a day, but no one should have to bear this kind of sorrow. We had never seen anything like this in our lives. I am worried about how to run the house and how the kids will study. Studies are the most important. We did get compensation, we used that to pay for fees etc. but we are worried about the future,” Kusma Devi said in an interview.