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Karachi was easy somehow- biggest city perhaps, better organised facility and personal contacts…. And “healthy” people willing to engage. Our work has been going smoothly since the last Month. And I think our art-workshops, at the least, have given lots of people the breather we all deserve in these consuming times.

Hyderabad is different. To start with perhaps the hottest day so far this year. We end up in the civil hospital where there are around 25 quarantined people and roughly the same amount of seriously ill COVID-19 patients. In the one day that we are there there are 2 deaths. It is a very dramatic experience for sure and the boys are a bit shaken. And me sober. As I look at the wooden coffin waiting to be loaded into the ambulance, alone it stands- and people standing a good 20 metres away, I look at the grieving relatives and wonder what I am doing here… I cannot give them the mental psychosocial support they need- and neither to the rather orderly crowd- subdued and silent. The fear is tangible. And of-course the courageous staff at the hospital who I have been observing since morning- always in motion. My guided tour of the hospital earlier in the day convinced me of what I knew- the courage and beauty of these front-line workers.

Our host, the good doctor, appears in full protective gear. I do not recognise him of-course and only look directly at him when he is close to my face. He says that our session needs to be cancelled. “Of-course, I understand “. I can’t tell his emotions or feelings or anything else from the two dark tired eyes that peer at me from behind all the layers he has on. They seem smaller then they were when I met him in the day. I am tempted to put a hand on his shoulder but of-course don’t. We will visit again tomorrow I promise him.

I wonder what we are doing and why I am here. I remember the voice of the elderly survivor woman I spoke to earlier in the ICU. She was still on oxygen but was improving by the hour. I asked her what she had learned about herself. She replied that she had never taken care of herself despite all her co-morbidities. She realised how important her body was to her. I think now of her words and hold myself- feeling my tired body and I try to give me some love. And the psychosocial support?

I guess for now it is simply to be present and to witness.

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