India is a beautiful country. I remember as a child going every summer to my grandmother’s house in New Delhi. The city is like any other city: crowded with people, some smiling, some not quite as happy. I remember people coming to our door every morning to sell us fresh vegetables. I would wake up to hear my grandmother arguing with the vegetable seller to give us the freshest vegetables at a lower price. It’s a tradition every household knows well.
In the evenings, we would go visit our relatives across Delhi. In Indian culture, our boy cousins are our “brothers” and our girl cousins are our “sisters.” Our aunts and uncles are as close to us as our own parents.
Even with all the COVID restrictions that started over a year ago, my family across the world stayed close. We messaged each other quite a bit on WhatsApp. A group of 42 of us sent messages daily – lots of forwards, memes and jokes. There’s always someone having an anniversary or a birthday. And the festive messages normally start at 2 a.m. Texas time
But on April 20, the tone of our messages changed. They turned into pleas from family members here in the United States that the rest of our family in India stay safe. We started sharing ideas on how we thought those in India could keep safe, and got assurances from our family that they were staying quarantined. I remember when I heard one of my cousins was not feeling well, I thought, “She is young, she will be fine”. I was wrong. They did everything they could. Still, she passed after getting infected with COVID-19, and our family is completely heartbroken.
From Texan to Texan, I plea that you listen to me right now. We live in a country and in a state where we can take the vaccine. My first plea to you is that if you have not been vaccinated, please go get it. As someone who has lost a “sister” to this horrific virus, let me tell you, it is not worth the risk to you and your families.
My second plea is this: many people from India are first- or second-generation in this country; please check on us. The second- largest population of Indian Americans live here in the great state of Texas. Indian Texans are your neighbors, your coworkers, your friends. I can guarantee you each of us knows someone who has suffered or is hurting due to the pandemic back in India, and we need your support.
My final plea? Stay safe, hug tightly those you are quarantined with in your household and please wear your masks. For the past eight nights I have been lighting a candle to pray for India and to pray for our world. If you have it in your heart, join me by lighting a candle in your home. Pray for India and pray for our world.
Remember my cousin – my sister – the one I thought was too young to die from COVID? She was 50 and passed away on April 25 in New Delhi. I still have the last text message she sent me: “How are you faring during the Texas storm”? Her love was so strong it reached across oceans all the way to Texas. May our love be as strong, and reach our brothers and sisters in India.
Pooja Sethi is is an immigration attorney for Catholic Charities. She is also a commissioner for the city of Austin’s Asian American Quality of Life Advisory Commission.