India’s Covid disaster hits close to the heart

• Chakra Restaurant owners Sonia and Kumar are devastated by news from India and wanted to help. Photo by David Bell

SEEING devastating scenes from Covid’s latest wave in India, the owners of Inglewood’s Chakra Restaurant held a fundraiser night to help their birth country’s collapsing medical system.

India was doing relatively well against Covid until last month when it was hit by a surge of the more infectious UK strain, exacerbated by mass gatherings allowed to go ahead because the worst of the pandemic was thought to be over.

Mass cremations

Now almost 400,000 new cases are reported each day, hospitals are running out of oxygen supplies and demand for wood to fuel the mass cremations is so high people are asking if they can strip the trees in local parks.  

Chakra co-owner Sonia says she was moved to act after seeing footage of “mass cremations back in India”.

She says on April 28 “the first thing I saw that morning was a community park filled with bodies”.

She could hardly believe it and had to call home to confirm if the images were real. They were.

Many Indians observe structured burial rituals to honour the dead, and Sonia and her husband Kumar say it would be especially hard for people who’d lost loved ones to have to forgo the comfort of those rites. 

“We’re enjoying a cup of coffee here, and people there are struggling, the conditions are really bad,” Sonia says.

“The stories from friends and family are devastating.

“The residential buildings are sealed, so kids are not even allowed to come out of their houses.” 

Sonia is originally from northern India and has lost two family members to Covid-19. 

The medical system is under so much pressure train carriages are being used as hospital wards.

One of her former students recently reporting he was struggling to find an oxygen cylinder for a family member. Other family friends have died within days of showing symptoms, one just in his 50s.

“Two of my dad’s friends died in one day. That was scary. My in-laws,” Kumar’s parents, “both of them are there, and can’t go out.”

After the fundraising night donations continued the next day as patrons found out about the cause and wanted to contribute and a total of about $4,000 was reached. Now another restaurant has heard the call and got on board.

“Some very good news,” Sonia says. “Odyssea City Beach restaurant… they said ‘we’re so happy to see you  did a fundraiser and we want to help raise funds for India with you on a larger scale’.” The collaboration will see Chakra cooking at the larger venue for a sold-out 130-head fundraising night on May 17.

“We’re excited that people are supporting it,” Sonia says. 

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