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Amid India’s Covid Crisis, Community Mobilizes


As California prepares to reopen, another crisis unfolds on the other side of the world. India on Thursday recorded about 410,000 cases of the coronavirus, a new global high, and 3,980 deaths, the highest number of national daily deaths in any country outside the United States. Experts believe the actual number of cases and deaths is much higher.

As the crisis has worsened, many Indo-Americans are struggling to cope with the trauma unfolding at home, juxtaposed with a vaccination campaign that has reached nearly half of Americans and the anticipation of a “return to normal” by July 4th. Many watch friends and relatives die from afar, unable to travel to see grieving loved ones, as they witness the collapse of India’s medical system.

“I don’t know of any American-Indian family in this country that has not been affected in terms of knowing someone who is dead or very, very ill,” said Representative Ro Khanna, Congressman from the 17th District of California, in a telephone interview this week. “The magnitude of this is unimaginable. It doesn’t just affect the poor or the people in the villages, it affects the rich, it affects the middle class, it affects everyone.

There are more than 712,000 Californians of Indian descent, according to AAPI Data, which compiled information from the US Census Bureau. In recent days, many Indo-Americans have turned to raising funds for oxygen and other necessary supplies for those in India, and are pleading with state and federal authorities to do more to close the immunization gap. On social networks, many have worked to collect lists of resources, whether places to donate to grassroots organizations or even translations of healthcare recommendations.

Khanna credits the work of lawmakers, entrepreneurs and everyone else who has raised public awareness in pushing the Biden administration to act to make vaccines more available in India and the rest of the world. First there was the release of millions of unused doses of AstraZeneca vaccine. Then on Tuesday, the administration spoke out in favor of lifting intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines. This move would allow countries like India to boost production and increase access to vaccines.

“It’s really heartwarming to see the Indo-American community come together and put aside any difference in politics or religion, and really say, how can we help in this humanitarian situation?” Said Khanna. The congressman said he had been in contact with voters in Silicon Valley, listening to their concerns and pushing the private sector to help them.

When the crisis in India began, Vinod Khosla, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, pledged $ 10 million. Google has also pledged $ 18 million to provide oxygen and other supplies, while its founder, Sundar Pichai, has personally pledged $ 700,000 for relief efforts.

Khanna stressed, however, that help is not just coming from big companies. “I have heard stories of ordinary citizens raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to get oxygen there, to help get materials there, to put medical beds there,” he said. “It really affects everyone.”

Several community organizations across California have also mobilized to help vulnerable and marginalized groups. Parivar Bay Area works in partnership with local organizations in India to meet the basic needs of transgender people affected by the crisis. A first GoFundMe page raised $ 10,000 in 48 hours. Anjali Rimi, who founded Parivar in 2018 and identifies as trans, said the crisis hit her at home – her parents were hospitalized in India with Covid-19 last year.

Ultimately, Khanna said he was moved by how the Native American community, many of whom are immigrants far from their own families, embraced and supported each other during this period. “I think this will be a defining moment for Indo-American identity, bringing us closer as a community,” he said. “I’m just very proud.”

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The lotus flower, which blooms in muddy waters, has long been a symbol of elevation above suffering. Dozens of Buddhist monks hope the flower can signify healing amid the trauma of racial violence in the United States. On Tuesday, they gathered for a national mourning ceremony in Los Angeles where they lit candles and honored their ancestors. They also used thin paintbrushes to fill in fractures in a ceramic lotus with liquid gold leaf, following the Japanese artistic practice of kintsugi.

“Our liberation is not actually about transcending ourselves or moving away from trauma or pain and suffering, but it’s about recognizing how we can transform ourselves, our communities, our nation, our world, from all of this. pain, ”said Duncan Ryuken Williams, a Soto Zen Buddhist priest and president of the School of Religion at the University of Southern California.

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Priya Arora was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and graduated from UC Irvine. They are currently social media editors on the Audience team and also write about South Asian pop culture for The Times.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UC Berkeley.

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