April 22nd, 2020
This last trip-work-stay in India has been the most difficult one since the experience during the 2004 Tsunami. When we have decided to fly back home, anticipating the departure of a month because of the virus, it was already too late. We managed to get a booking only because we are a good team, getting the last few seats over the phone or the internet, until we received an email from the airline confirming that our flight scheduled the next day was cancelled. And so on for days, until we finally boarded our Trivandrum – Abu Dhabi – Athens flight. Planning to fly to Rome the next day.
The initial blocks at the airport were no good omens, but in spite of the virus, the masks, my son Simone staying back in India for his professional commitments, sure that he will soon join us (he is finally flying back home today), we were happy to go back home.
Landing in Athens, an overnight stay and Italy next day: NO WAY!
Here we are, a group of 10 people, including my 9-year-old grandaughter in front of the usual “CANCELLED” sign.
We quickly find an accomodation in the countryside not far form the airport and the search for the last flight begins.
Phonecalls, emails, waiting, more waiting until, 9 days later, we are informed that an Alitalia flight has been scheduled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So after hiring 9 cabs for 10 people (Athena and I allowed to travel together) we come back to Italy and then to Sardinia, where we live.
But, and here comes a BUT as big as the Universe, what is left of all this experience? Apart from the time we have been waiting, fears and worries for the contagion? Fears well fed by the mass media? What will happen to us?
What will happen to the poor, today more desperate than ever?
Why do we witness to violent, paradoxal events, to facts without any consciousness and compassion for others? For those who suffer more than us, those more desperate than us?
What is such an event teaching us?
First of all that we are all ONE, the pandemic has shown the fact that it is fine to acknowledge what led us here, but more importantly to help each other and consider our nature and why we are on this planet. Perhaps children that rarely fall sick because of this virus, some of our children will tell us where we have mistaken and why.
We are at our village, as usual committed to help everyone who is in need. The whole village is locked down too, so there is a gigantic problem as poverty doesn’t give room to anything, no hopes, no dreams of course nor any plan or projection for the future.
Until the social machine keeps working, even the most desperate have the hope to make it, even through begging, but when everything is shut there’s nothing left for anyone.
The misery of the poorest is terrifying and there’s no escape unless someone else’s support is received. Our aim is to save people in deep trouble tangled up in hopeless conditions. Today, everything is so extreme.
So we are trying to bring some hope first and a food support wherever we can. Both in the village (outside our area) and elsewhere in India we are supporting an NGO engaged in opening “social kitchens” to support the hundreds and thousands men, women and children living on the streets or people who have lost their jobs. People living on the streets have literally nothing. Despair is all they know.
Same thing: how can anybody locked home (very few have one) think about survival?
So, along with the fear to get infected, there’s that extreme feeling of hopelessness. After many years I have empathized with this feeling: it’s like being sentenced to be dead while being still alive, this is what we try to avoid whenever we can.
We would like to support all those who are struggling, like everywhere else, but it somehow harder to operate here, bureaucracy destroys every possibility, but brotherhood doesn’t. Brotherhood can help.
We are planning to “adopt” people in difficult conditions due to sudden loss of employment or can’t count on schools or kindergartens, senior citizens alone or in homes, single mothers, desperate folks.
They are many and, as usual, their tiny weak voices of despair are unheard.
I fear many will have psychological breakdowns because not just the virus but fear too is pandemic. As follows, my son Simone’s letter about the Indian scenario, I hope in your support more than ever. Thank you infinitely with all of my heart.
Valeria Viola Padovani
India – April 2020
We are witnessing History. Every corner of the world we are sitting in, our life has been physically, technically or emotionally hit by the pandemics.
The emergency has made many illusions and many certainties collapse. Our habits, vices, finances, standard procedures have been hit.
My thoughts go to all the women victims of violence, to our senior citizens in hospices, to migrants, to daily wagers. Because this lockdown is not democratic, “social distancing” is not the same for everyone and everyday I notice a different shade of this concept… Let me explain…
I try to refrain from the media pandemics, the kind you should watch out what you read, what you say, what you post because it may be true, it may not, it may be confusing in a confused time. So, I refrain, but I do share and talk to my friends about our lockdowns.
In New Delhi thousands of immigrants started walking towards their homes hundreds of miles away. They gather at bus stations, at State borders with the only objective to get home. For the love of the family? Not only. Their living in pitiful conditions in Delhi is justified only by the daily wage. No wage… I can’t stay… I can’t spend. I go back home. By foot. Simple. Primal.
Fishermen in our village in Vizhinjam can’t go out fishing so they have no income, they are forced to stay in their small houses burning under the sun on the metal sheets. There are no windows, no walkpath, no garden, no PlayStation, no air conditioning, not even a bathroom. There’s just nothing. One may mend fishing nets while gasping like a goldfish and melting your brain in front of movies filled with moustaches and drama.
Even worst in Mumbai’s slums.
This entire scenario resets my priorities, reminds me about my being human.
Yesterday I got a call from my friend Nina. She was about to venture to the hypermarket looking for some fresh fruits and vegetables. She asked if I needed anything. A sentence from an old t-shirt of mine popped up in my mind: “Acts of kindness are contagious”. It’s true! Acts of kindness are contagious, indeed.
So I prepared for Nina and another friend a small bag with a few things important to me, able to portray me: some Italian olive oil, a chunk of parmesan, some Italian chocolate. Very valuable stuff for expatriates, now able to convey an exponential importance.
I look around myself, I am in a university campus. Alone, yes. Some greenery for jogging. And then I have some notions, things I know, I just need to fight my laziness. I can write, I can practice yoga, I can get ready for the day the emergency will end and we will be called to be brave, not to forget.
Love is what makes us unique beings. A smile, a small gift, a caress in a so uncertain moment. Let’s share all we have, joys and sorrows. Boredom and laughter. It’s the only way to avoid the “Usual Suspects” , at the end of the emergency, will be the ones to enjoy the opportunities that any calamity will, naturally, bring along.