Sunil Kumar (36) knows all too well the risks being faced by healthcare workers across the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic. For the last three months, he and seven members of his family — his wife, siblings and their partners — have worked at hospitals and primary healthcare centres in Delhi and Rajasthan, all on coronavirus duty. To keep their children safe, the couples have sent them to their grandparents in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu.
Kumar is a nursing officer at Delhi government’s Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar hospital while his wife, Sunita Kumari (30), is a nursing officer at Lady Hardinge Medical College. The couple, who live in Rohini, have an eight-year-old son. Last month, she tested positive for Covid-19, but has since recovered and joined work.
In every call, Kumar is bombarded by questions from his son on when he will see his father next. The couple haven’t met their son for three months. Recalling one such conversation, Kumar told The Indian Express, “He keeps asking me questions and I don’t have any answers — ‘Kab le jaoge papa? Agle hafte to le jaoge na’… To distract him, I ask him to make a list of toys he likes and have promised to buy all of it once this is over.” Kumar is currently posted in the hospital’s general ward.
Kumar’s eldest sister Vinod Kumari works at a primary health centre in Jaipur and supervises corona-related activities. Her husband, Vijay Pal, is involved in planning day-to-day activities of ASHA workers at virus-hit zones in Jhunjhunu district. They have a son, who is in Class IX.
His elder brother Anil Kumar works as a nursing staff in JJT University in the district. The entire university has been converted into an isolation hospital. His wife works at Delhi’s GB Pant Hospital. They have a five-year-old son.
“Our parents are the biggest support. Most of us have shifted our children to the ancestral home till the time we are on Covid-19 duty. They are the real warriors. Every day, they motivate us to work harder… They watch the news throughout the day and when we call them at night, they ask about our health first and then the cases,” said Kumar, the youngest among the siblings.
His second sister, Babita Kumari, lives in Rajasthan’s Bhuda Ka Bas village and works in the nearby primary health centre. Recalling that it has been months since she saw her husband, who works at a private hospital in Ghaziabad, Babita said: “It’s been three months and all our family members have been working tirelessly for the country. While healthcare workers in states might be getting quarantined at specialised centers, we are following rules at home. My mother-in-law is paralysed so we have to take all precautionary measures.”
Kumar’s father retired from the Army in 1989. He and his siblings wanted to become doctors but none of them could pursue MBBS due to lack of funds.
“In our district, if you are born into a middle-class family, then opting for a government job is the most prestigious thing. My elder brother and sister wanted to pursue MBBS, but we did not have the money… So, they applied for a diploma course in general nursing and midwifery. As both of them were selected, the rest of us also applied to the course and were selected,” said Kumar.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines