Ashok Mohan woke up on Tuesday, April 27, to the news that his brother-in-law had died from complications due to COVID-19.
Vijay Sharma, a 72-year-old retired bank manager, lived in Jabalpur, India when he was infected. He was taken to the hospital after experiencing difficulties breathing and died within 10 days of contracting the virus.
“They wouldn’t give his body to the family,” said Mohan, a West Kelowna Realtor who’s been living in the Okanagan since 1980. “The hospital arranged for the funeral and only two people were allowed to go watch the cremation.”
When Sharma’s son broke the news to the rest of the family, Mohan said everyone was devastated.
“The funeral was done yesterday while we were sleeping. I told him to be careful himself. You just don’t know,” he said.
India is currently in the midst of a COVID-19 crisis: the country set a record high of single-day cases on April 28 with 379,257 new cases, according to the World Health Organization. There are more than 18 million confirmed cases with 204,832 deaths.
“It has affected my mind,” he said. “I phone my friends around here (the Okanagan), and everybody is losing one or two relatives there (in India). You phone anybody — somebody has lost someone.”
He shared the story of a friend in Summerland whose sister and nephew living in India died on the same day due to COVID.
“Everybody I phone, they tell me about their family. Usually, we used to phone each other for condolences and stuff like that,” he said. “We’re all concerned, but we don’t know what to do.”
His fear now is with his brother, who lives in the city of Bhogal. He is currently relying on an oxygen cylinder as his lungs recover from the virus after becoming infected alongside his wife and their son.
“(My brother) sent me a message on WhatsApp saying he can’t talk. He said his lungs are infected and he’s having difficulty breathing,” said Mohan. “But, he said that all hospitals are overwhelmed, that you’re very, very lucky if you find a bed in a hospital.”
The worst part, he said, is that he can’t physically be there to support his family.
“You want to help them out, but how? We can only help with money, but money’s not everything,” he said.
He described feeling helpless and frustrated about the whole situation.
“You don’t know. You just leave everything to the will of God,” he said.