Not your horror story: what to know about the situation in India

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This piece was written by our Founder and Director, Ishita Ranjan. Find out more about her here. 

India is now recording more than one million new Covid-19 cases every three days.

As I sit on virtual calls and fire away pithy emails, I'm struggling to explain why it feels like half my world is on fire.

India was, and will always be my first home. Like many other diaspora kids, I bridge two very different worlds. In recent weeks, this has been especially heightened. 

It's been hard to process what's happening in India, whilst simultaneously enjoying the lifting of restrictions here.

In addition to my complex feelings, what's happening in India is in itself complex - a tapestry of politics and power, variants and vaccines. There is no simple solution, but there are some simple things you can do this week.

 

1. Do not use it as a horror story

Over the weekend, my social media feeds became an echo chamber and my feeds rapidly filled with people imploring Oxford Street protestors to go home. 

I saw people using what was happening in India as a comparison point, suggesting Oxford Street protestors "learn" from India, and pay heed to what happens if a country gets "complacent"

What's happening in India is incredibly complex. It is also not comparable (for so many reasons) to current protests happening in the UK. It is incredibly reductive to remove it from context for the sake of a pithy post.

Another problem with this approach is that it further reinforces the need for a horror story. We should all still be wearing masks and social distancing because it's the sensible thing to do, not because India is the latest horror story.

 

2. Be mindful of what you share on social media
 

There’s a well researched and evidenced link between what we see on social media and how it impacts our mental health; exposure to distressing online images and videos over time can lead to chronic or traumatic stress. 

For me (and others who have loved ones in India), my family WhatsApp groups and Facebook feeds are full of pain and fear. What really doesn’t help is the sharing of more awful images and clickbait headlines. 

If you haven’t yet come across the term vicarious trauma, it’s one to be aware of. In a previous blog, Vanessa Boachie (Psychological Therapist and Founder of Inside Out Well-being), told us

“vicarious trauma occurs when an individual is repeatedly exposed to other’s trauma or stories of traumatic events. For many it can feel like they are actually experiencing the event.”

Think about what you share on socials, and the voice you add to this conversation. This is a great time to practice your allyship - use your platforms to advocate for effective change or support grassroots organisations doing the work on the ground, rather than to add to the noise. 

 

3. Know that you are having a very different experience

In the last few years, many of my fears have manifested into reality. Religious divides deepened, politics agendas heightened, marginalised people were further ostracised. Alongside the political climate, the farmers protests and the rising violence against women and girls, my relationship with India (and my identity) feels complicated. 

This is not a strain that is felt by others (and I wouldn't expect it to be), however one of my biggest issues with cultural appropriation is that it allows an appropriator to take from one culture or community without giving due respect or power to its source. 

From yoga to chai, henna to kati rolls, much of the time, I love to see my heritage and culture being enjoyed by others. What I dont love is the cognitive dissonance between this enjoyment and its source. Be mindful that people from the Indian diaspora may be having a very different experience to you. 

 

4. Check in with your friends (and respect boundaries)

Both big picture things (like news and current events) as well the smaller day to day things (like microaggressions or stereotypes) may impact how people feel. When you spot these things happening, the simple act of checking in helps.

I’ve appreciated the people who this week have checked in to ask how I and my family are doing, and offered to talk. Whilst my day to day is here, much of my mind is there, but knowing that my friends are aware has meant a lot. 

Respect boundaries when do you check in though - be mindful that not everyone will want to talk.

5. Share, signpost and donate - but do so carefully

One little ray of hope for me this week has been seeing people and organisations rally to support India. Please do carry on taking action, and using your voice to amplify movements and drive donations. 

Do also be mindful of what you share, where you signpost and who you donate to though. 

Here are some organisations I would recommend:  

  • The British Asian Trust has launched an Oxygen for India appeal. Funds raised will be used by their local partners to support oxygen supply issues on the ground. You can donate here. 
  • CARE India is an NGO that has been working with marginalised groups for over 70 years, focusing on alleviating poverty and tackling social exclusion. Right now, the team is in Bihar (an outbreak hotspot) distributing PPE and working with local hospitals. You can donate here. 
  • Explore this guide with crowdsourced, verified Covid‑19 resources and information. You can also tag @ugaoo in verified resource updates, and we will share the information on our story and to this guide.

I’ve also found these articles on the Spark and Co. website particularly helpful this week: 

This piece was written by our Founder and Director, Ishita Ranjan. Find out more about her here.