WHEN STIGMA TRAVELS FASTER THAN VIRUS
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.
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.