“In December 2020, my whole world came crashing down around me when I lost my ma to Covid”

says Pooja Ganju Adlakha, who, in November 2020 started writing this story which was meant to be about coping with the grief of losing her father, Major Virendra Ganju, in 2016 to Motor Neuron Disease. However, by the time the story could come out, she unexpectedly lost her mother to Covid. In this first-person account, she writes about how, with both her parents gone, she is experiencing a different kind of an empty nest syndrome

“I had to deal with the grief of losing my wife during the 2020 lockdown. I felt very lonely”

says Sunil Kumar, a social worker and an artist based in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, who lost his wife Sarla Siriwas, 33, just a day before the March 22, 2020 Junta Curfew – a day-long lockdown that was announced ahead of the complete lockdown last year to stop the spread of coronavirus. While the whole country was anxious, Kumar was fighting a different battle at a hospital in Muzaffarpur caring for his wife, a social worker and a puppeteer, who had spent most of her life travelling across and living in some of the Adivasi-dominated and Naxal-infested regions. This inspirational story is about how he dealt with the grief of losing her

“Suddenly, while talking to someone over the phone, my grandfather started referring to my father as ‘body’”

says Eshwari Shukla, a journalist, while remembering the day her father passed away in an accident when she was only 13. In this first-person account, she talks about how, initially, it was strange for her to see her mother in a white saree. Her empty forehead would remind her of the sudden vacuum in their lives, but gradually the mother-daughter duo became each other’s silent strength while coping with their common grief

“Losing my mother to cancer and my father on the day of my wedding were the biggest setbacks of my life”

says Gurudas Pai, whose life suddenly changed in the span of four years. He had no option but to face these adverse situations, but, according to him, those intense episodes of darkness were also the best teachers. What keeps him going? It’s a poem by Walter Wintle. Read his first-person account

“Hope keeps the ship sailing … a faint hope that I will meet my mother someday”

says Darshana Shukul, a corporate communication professional, who lost her mother soon after her baby brother was born. She was just five. She still remembers seeing her mother lying on the hospital bed, pale and lifeless, and the strange deafening silence between the two. In this first-person account, she talks about how, while growing up, she wrote stories, sought solace in God’s grace, and absentmindedly befriended books, weapons that helped her battle the painful emotions of losing her mother

“I wrote a series on Facebook titled ‘From Diagnosis to Death’. Penning my thoughts helped me a great deal to process my grief”

says Nitin Naik, a Mumbai-based sports journalist, who lost his wife to pancreatic cancer in September 2015. In this first-person account, he talks about how his wife’s illness and death triggered episodes of intense darkness and depression and his coping mechanisms that include spending most weekends rearranging her wardrobe, which helps him reconnect with her

Spotting tiger pug marks, gazing at Himalayan peaks and savouring ‘Neembu Saan’, a Kumauni delicacy … Winter diaries from Almora

Eating only home-grown organic vegetables, looking after cows and consuming unadulterated milk, breathing in the fresh air, connecting with your roots, spotting tiger pug marks in your courtyard, and spending most of your day playing with dogs and pups and shooing monkeys away while working from home and fulfilling your professional commitments … if this sounds like an exciting life, writer, director, and filmmaker Kanchan Pant is actually living it

Overflowing crematoriums, unsaid goodbyes … the pandemic death story

The year 2020, which was both forgettable and unforgettable for the entire human race, is finally drawing to an end. There wasn’t a single person who wasn’t affected by the tiny virus that brought the world down to its knees. While the economic, financial, and emotional suffering was immense, death, unfortunately, topped all the sufferings, as world over, the numbers kept mounting by the day. Overflowing crematoriums, mass burials, heart-wrenching scenes from hospitals, and stories about unsaid goodbyes broke everyone’s heart. As this year comes to an end, we revisit some of these stories as never before have we, collectively, stared at death so closely

Ajjibaichi Shala … schooling grandmothers and fulfilling their long-cherished dreams

These grandmothers – all in the age group of 60 to 90 years – living in Fangane village in Maharashtra – had just one dream … to be able to write their names before they reached the end of their lives. Their dream came true in 2016 when Yogendra Bangar, a local schoolteacher, opened a school for them. Now, they proudly shun the thumb impression ink pad and put their signatures on ration cards and bank documents. These days, they are praying very hard for coronavirus to go away so they can go back to their school

The taangawaals of Lucknow, a slice of Nawabi history, are on the brink of oblivion post lockdown

Human Rights Day is observed on December 10 every year. This year’s theme focuses on the devastating fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic on the underprivileged. For the daily wage earners living across India, the lockdown was the darkest chapter of their lives. The taangawalas of Lucknow, who make their living by ferrying tourists who come to visit the many historical monuments in the city, also fall in this category. The tradition of pulling horse carriages has been in existence since the time the Nawabs used to live in Lucknow. However, the pandemic and the lockdown have threatened the existence of this tradition.

“The need of the hour is to provide assistive devices at reasonable prices and accessibility to persons with disability”

As this article is being published, Ekta Bhyan is busy preparing for the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics. However, it was only accidentally that she stumbled upon club throw – a para athletic event meant for athletes with limited hand function – a sport that changed her life completely after an accident in 2003 left her in a wheelchair

“We need more training institutes and special coaches”

As a college student, Kartiki Patel would sometimes bunk her classes to play basketball, a sport she was passionate about. However, after an accident that left her in a wheelchair, in the absence of proper information, good infrastructure, and trained coaches, she had to wait for long to get back on the basketball court. This is the story of almost all para-sports persons

“International players come with an entourage. Many of our players don’t even have proper wheelchairs”

Naik Suresh Kumar Karki’s life is akin to a battlefield. Born in Nepal, he joined the Indian Army in 1995, his battalion was posted in Naugaon when the Kargil war was being fought, and in 2004, during an insurgency in Assam, he met with an accident that left him in a wheelchair. However, his second innings as a para-sportsperson is an indication that he is still a soldier at heart – brave, focused and determined

The hauntingly beautiful Spiti Valley stood completely deserted this whole year

Spiti — a cold desert mountain valley located high in the Himalayas in the Northeastern part of Himachal Pradesh – was barren this summer. It was peak season, but there were no tourists because of the coronavirus-induced lockdown. It’s going to be a cold, dark, and long winter for the locals as tourists have been advised to give Spiti a miss until further notice. For homestay and hotel owners, tour operators, drivers, trek-organizers, horsemen, porters, and locals, who are dependent on tourists for survival, the pandemic has meant zero earnings. This story is like a postcard from Spiti … words and pictures telling you individual stories

“My comics have done wonders to my mental health and given me sort of an unshakeable self-esteem”

says Tanika Godbole, a journalist and a comic artist, who started making doodles in 2017 to get out of a bad phase and randomly shared them on social media platforms. She was surprised that people found her work relatable and funny, and her Instagram followers kept on increasing. In this interview with Swati Subhedar, she talks about how ‘missfitcomics’ has helped her deal with her emotional issues and how art can be a saviour during the pandemic

“As a journal and poetry therapist, I highly recommend therapeutic writing as a way to manage emotions”

Anjana Deshpande, a licensed clinical social worker based in the US, tells Swati Subhedar in an interview how we can use our rich tradition of art, storytelling, and poetry to heal from the collective trauma that we are experiencing presently because of the coronavirus pandemic and elaborates on how, as per a study, people who wrote for at least 15 minutes a day about a painful moment are better equipped to deal with painful circumstances

“A person never commits suicide. He/she dies by suicide”

says Shyam Mithiya, a Mumbai-based psychiatrist and sexologist. In this interview, he talks about how the recent death of a Bollywood actor and what followed after that was an opportunity lost, in terms of starting an honest and open conversation on mental health

When these children living in Adivasi hamlets in Aarey, Mumbai, got smartphones, they danced with joy!

Just two months back, these children were staring at an uncertain future because they didn’t have a smartphone and were moving one step away from education with each passing day. After Mumbai-based journalist Sohit Mishra did a story on them, help poured in from India and abroad and he personally went back to Aarey and distributed around 85 smartphones. In this first-person account, Mishra talks about how because of the positive response that the story received, the journalist in him could sleep better at night and why there is a need to tell many such stories and do quality journalism during a pandemic

“We only ask for a level playing field that fulfills our basic right to equal rights in education and employment”

says Preethi Srinivasan. In 1998, while she was on a college trip to Pondicherry, a freak accident left her paralyzed below the neck. Life has been a constant struggle after that, but the sportswoman in her is always determined to take each problem head-on. If you are a girl/woman, you must read this story

“It’s a task for me to move from one building to the other. So, I attend just one lecture a week”

Because of infrastructural woes, thousands of students with disabilities are grappling with the challenges of access and inclusion. Garima Vyas, who is in a wheelchair ever since she met with an accident in 2016, is fighting a lone battle as her university says it needs a nod from the government to make alterations in the heritage structure of the building to accommodate her

“My husband is my spine, and my daughters are the miracle that completes my life”

says Rafat Siddiqui, whose journey to motherhood began after her life-altering accident in 2010. In this interview, she talks about her supportive family, the special bond that she shares with her husband, embracing motherhood and her daughters who mean the world to her

‘Unbound’ … a spinal cord injury awareness series

Unlike some of the countries in the Western part of the world, in India, because of attitudinal barriers, persons with disabilities continue to grapple with the challenges of access, acceptance, and inclusion. To sensitize people, September is dedicated to spread awareness about spinal cord injuries. Our series, ‘Unbound’, is an attempt to bring to you their incredible journeys

“If you are hiring a person with a disability, you don’t have to lower your expectations”

Mrunmaiy Abroal is a communications professional, who is presently working with Amazon in Bangalore. In 2011, she suffered an injury in her spinal cord, which left her in a wheelchair. In this story, she shares her journey of recovering from the accident, getting back to work, and the challenges of working in an office

“There is no dearth of talented sportspersons in Kashmir. Give us facilities”

In 2019, Kashmir was virtually cut-off from the rest of the country after Article 370 was revoked and the state was put under lockdown. Why the Indian Army and the Jammu and Kashmir police were tracking down Ishrat Akhtar, a wheelchair basketball player, is a fascinating story, but also a grim reminder about how difficult it has been for sportspersons, especially para-sports players, from Kashmir

Two sleepy villages, two very special Banyan trees, and a manmade miracle

What does it take for two Banyan trees to live again? It’s a magical formula of social media blitz, genuine efforts, and quick action by politicians and concerned authorities. If you need to save one tree today, this is the story you must read. And share