His Mom Was Sick In India During The Second Wave. He Wrote A Poem About It — And Hope Manas Ray, a biochemist in Cambridge, Mass., wrote "Praying From A Distance" about the toll COVID-19 has taken on his family in India. He submitted it as part of an NPR poetry callout last month.

His Mom Was Sick In India During The Second Wave. He Wrote A Poem About It — And Hope

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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

With COVID case numbers coming down in India, some of its major cities are reopening. But just a month ago, India experienced its highest daily infection rate, topping over 400,000 cases in just one day. There have been days when hospitals ran out of space, and crematoriums were at capacity. Only about 3% of India's 1.3 billion population has been fully vaccinated. More than 350,000 Indians have died. Rachel Martin spoke to Manas Ray of Cambridge, Mass., about his family in India. He wrote a poem about what's happening there as part of our recent poetry callout.

MANAS RAY: Sadly, last four weeks, I'm hearing so many infections including in my home and family and friends. We've got some family members actually expired. And my Mom got infected. My niece got infected. And some of my friends, family also got infected and expired. And it's very hard, also, on me because I'm so far away from them and cannot help personally to be there.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: How often are you able to get updates from your loved ones there?

RAY: Yes, actually, the social media mostly - the WhatsApp is very useful. We have a friends group, Whatsapp group where we communicate among friends to be each other's support.

MARTIN: What are those conversations like?

RAY: It was mostly around how long that they can survive, they can keep their composure. It's pretty hard when you do not have any infrastructure where we can go and get some help. People have to get the help at home. In our case - you know, in my friend's case, we have seen that they're looking desperately for an oxygen cylinder to bring home and find a the technician who can set it up at home because they know that going outside in a hospital, in a clinic, you know, there is no way that they can get that help because either those infrastructure is totally not there, or those doctors are not available to take care of them. So it's totally an impossible level. The healthcare system has become your own responsibility, totally, at home.

MARTIN: Well, we so appreciate you putting all of your thoughts into a poem that you sent to us. And I'd love if you could read just an excerpt for us.

RAY: (Reading) What I can do to help my mom, how I can guard my niece from infection. First week went by with fever, body aches and diarrhea. There is no help available outside hospitals are open, but no doctor. Clinics are open, but no nurse. Those who taken the loved ones - they had to attend themselves. This I hear - we cannot send Ma to the clinic or any hospital now. She may not come back. It's eighth day. Is Ma doing well? Yes, she's better. I went to bed with some relief. Then a call came in at midnight. She's in convulsion. Her oxygen level went down to 50. We need oxygen immediately. Who can help? How can I save my mom? A neighbor came as a life-saver with a cylinder of oxygen. A local technician helped setting it up. My mom's oxygen level went up to 90. She's OK. She's OK. She's still here. She's with us. Next 48 hours, one cylinder after another became her life and death. She survived. But still, she cannot walk. Saturation level goes down if she tries. But she's living. So I see hope. So I see light. Then my niece got infected. But still, I rise.

MARTIN: Well, that was just beautiful. Your poem is so haunting and important. And I so appreciate you sharing it with us.

RAY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANOUSHKA SHANKAR'S "PRAYER IN PASSING")

MCCAMMON: That was Manas Ray of Cambridge, Mass., speaking with Rachel Martin.

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