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Good, bad and ugly: Covid management in Ahmedabad, a veteran journalist's experience

Nachiketa playing mouth organ
By Rajiv Shah
Living in Covid times in Ahmedabad has made me curious as to how the health establishment, which is under the joint control of the municipal corporation and the Gujarat government, is managing the pandemic. As I don’t go out much or meet people, the information that I get is from individuals who have had Covid treatment. One such person is Nachiketa Desai, a veteran journalist who also happens to be grandson of Mahatma Gandhi’s secretary Mahadev Desai. 
Nachiketa is a pretty well known name, especially among Gujarat activists and journalists. He, apparently, contracted the disease following a visit to a hospital for some treatment. On a second visit, the doctor told him that he perhaps had contracted Covid, as he had fever and was coughing. After waiting for a couple of days, both he and his wife got themselves tested in a private lab, and they found on the next day that they had tested positive.
“As the labs have to obligatorily inform the municipal authorities about positive cases, I found a municipal ambulance on my doorsteps on the very same day. They took me away to the new Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel hospital, controlled by the authorities, adjacent to the old VS Hospital”, he told me. “I was put a senior citizens’ ward, where most of the staff consisted of third or fourth year MBBS students or trainee nurses... They appeared to be on contract”, he said.
Complaining, Desai said, “It seemed to be a harrowing experience. It appeared that to be that I was a high profile jail’s seventh floor. Their behaviour wasn’t what it should be while talking with senior citizens. Often they were too rude. As initially I was on intravenous, nobody would come to disconnect though I wanted go to toilet. I had to shout, only then they would responsive.”
Desai had other complaints, too, including that the clothes he was given to wear weren’t changed for three daysas he was told that the ‘dhobi’ turned up, that the food wasn’t tasty enough, that the senior doctor would come but wouldn’t talk to anyone, only look at each patient and go away – usual complaints we hear from patients in any hospital, private or government.
As he is a very senior journalist, some colleagues phoned up municipal authorities in Ahmedabad to put Desai in a special room. He was promptly shifted. “However, I found it to as if I was an isolation cell. I requested to shift me back in the general ward, where I could talk to others. I made friends, would talk with other senior citizens. Some of them were found to be unhappy about the way their family had treated them. I would listen to them.”
“For the first three days, I was coughing heavily. I often had vague thoughts that I would die. But despite my comorbidities, as I had bypass, and I suffer from several diseases, including blood pressure and high sugar, my lungs appeared to respond pretty well”, he said, suggesting one reason could be he has been regularly playing mouth organ, almost daily. He was freed from the municipal hospital on the 10th day. “A friend sent me a car, and I reached home”, he said.
“What about your wife?”, I asked him. “She was home quarantined in a room with a separate toilet which others in my house didn’t use. She would given food from safe distance. Municipal staff would come to deliver medicine daily and check how she was progressing.”
That was good, no? I asked him. This suggested the municipal authorities took care of him and his wife, and despite all the “difficulties” that they faced, both of them have recovered from a dreaded disease. He appeared to smile (we were on phone), commenting, “It was all class three or four staff that would come to our house.”
Now that he is well, what does he propose to do? He has been a regular traveller across India. “Well... I haven’t yet recovered fully. But I have started doing work from home, as I am attached with a TV channel, editing text of their stories, putting them in news form. I do it for two-three hours. But I want to travel, especially to Odisha, from where my mother hailed. I have been telling my relatives I want to come... Let me see how it works out!”

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