WHEN STIGMA TRAV­ELS FASTER THAN VIRUS

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - FRONT PAGE - TANBIR DHALIWAL

They are the first of­fi­cially des­ig­nated Covid-19 pa­tients of Pun­jab, Haryana, Hi­machal Pradesh, Jammu and Kash­mir and Chandigarh. Two months on, they have re­cov­ered and emerged stronger and grate­ful but are still strug­gling to em­brace nor­malcy in th­ese ab­nor­mal times.

CHANDIGARH:When Fiza Gupta, 23, a man­age­ment stu­dent at Lon­don Busi­ness School, landed at Am­rit­sar air­port on March 15, she was up­beat about al­most mak­ing it to the safety of her home in Chandigarh. Lit­tle did she know that three days on, she would be mak­ing head­lines as Pa­tient Zero, the first con­firmed case of Covid-19, in Chandigarh.

When the doc­tor at Govern­ment Med­i­cal Col­lege and Hospi­tal, Sec­tor 32, dis­closed to her that she had tested pos­i­tive at 12.30am on March 19, her life turned up­side down. “I couldn’t be­lieve it. I was 200% sure that I wasn’t in­fected. I pan­icked. By the next morn­ing, it was trau­ma­tis­ing as I re­ceived hun­dreds of phone calls. Peo­ple whom I had not spo­ken to in years were call­ing up. Strangers and jour­nal­ists were ap­proach­ing me. My med­i­cal re­ports had been made pub­lic on so­cial me­dia!” says Fiza, de­scrib­ing how she was trolled and blamed “for bring­ing the virus to Chandigarh”.

TAR­GET OF SO­CI­ETY

Two months on, she ad­mits that deal­ing with coron­avirus is far eas­ier than fight­ing the so­cial stigma. “It’s easy to deal with coron­avirus but tough to fight a so­ci­ety that tar­gets you for get­ting in­fected. I was called a su­per­spreader. My pho­tos were cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia. I had to de­ac­ti­vate my Face­book ac­count for my men­tal peace,” she says.

“It’s sheer stu­pid­ity. I re­alised that ‘What­sApp univer­sity’ is real. Peo­ple be­lieve any­thing cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia. I am ed­u­cated and I know how to be­have re­spon­si­bly,” says Fiza.

PER­CEP­TION CHANG­ING

Pub­lic per­cep­tion started chang­ing af­ter she do­nated plasma for ther­apy.

“Coron­avirus has left me feel­ing grate­ful and blessed. I value my fam­ily and friends even more and want to give back to so­ci­ety. I do­nated plasma to help in the treat­ment of other pa­tients re­cently,” she says.

“Some ex­pe­ri­ences make you re­alise more about life. I still won­der at how an in­vis­i­ble virus turned my life up­side down. Now, I’ve learnt to cher­ish lit­tle things. I used to plan a lot ear­lier, but the virus has made me re­alise that we should take life as it comes.”

Fiza is at­tend­ing vir­tual classes th­ese days but looks for­ward to get­ting back to her aca­demic rou­tine in Lon­don.

“Be­ing pos­i­tive is not a big deal but be­ing the first pos­i­tive case in town sure is,” she says about the un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence.

Fiza Gupta

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