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Thai-Indians living in India get candid about their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic

by Aiden
Indians Living In Thailand

What has it really been like on the ground during the last year and a half?

By Natasha Sethi

With over 27 million confirmed cases and over 360,000 deaths, India has become one of the worst, if not the worst-hit, country by the COVID-19 pandemic. While other nations are getting back to normal, or rather, the ‘new’ normal, India is still battling not only the high death and infection rates, but other consequences of the deadly virus. Needless to say, being in India during this unprecedented and difficult time has been overwhelming for all, including many from the Thai-Indian community who have found themselves experiencing the pandemic there. Masala interviewed a few of these community members who tell us what it’s been like, how they are dealing with the crisis, and more.


What has it been living in India with the ongoing pandemic, and what is your best coping strategy?

This second wave has hit the country, and especially the capital, extremely severely. Not a day has gone by where we haven’t had news of someone we know succumbing to the disease.

With the Almighty’s grace, my entire family tested negative and we endured this crisis without any of us having to go to the hospital. It was frightening to lose people that we knew, but we just kept praying to God for his blessings, and remained positive.

A few ways we kept the negativity away were by meditating, spending time with family, and maintaining a positive attitude. The more we read and watched the news, the more difficult it became to cope psychologically, so we stopped watching disturbing videos and only read crucial information.

Being a homemaker, my day goes by with household chores, planning and shopping for meals, experimenting with recipes and dishes, and helping my son with his summer holiday homework. And of course, by checking in with our loved ones – a few calls with them each day really puts a smile on my face.

What have the COVID-19 restrictions in Delhi been like, and in your opinion, have they been effective?

Delhi has been under lockdown since April, which was imposed to flatten the curve and reduce the number of infections that were rising rapidly. I can say that it has been successful as we are seeing a decline in the number of cases.

There is no definitive answer as to when the situation will get back to normal, but at least post-vaccination, people will be able to get out of their houses without having to fear the dire effects of the virus.

Have you considered flying out of India at any time during the pandemic?

Yes, to meet my family in Thailand, but knowing they are safe and sound is all that matters right now. I’m hoping for good times ahead, and to be able to travel and visit my family back home.

Freelance content writer

How have you been dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in India, and what has the hardest aspect for you been?

Personally, I’ve been fortunate that it’s not been so bad for me. I’ve mainly had to deal with the boredom of being in lockdown and staying at home for long durations – there’s only so much TV you can watch! Luckily, I do have family here and cousins that are my age, so, with appropriate measures in place, we meet and hang out which really helps.

It’s not been my personal problems or hardships that have made these times so tough, but witnessing what other people are going through. It’s hard to stay in a good mood when you open your social media and all you see is the devastation in the country. I’ve found that it’s important to take a break from the news and social media, and to keep myself distracted. I feel best when I’m at the gym working on myself. I’ve also taken some time to learn to cook different recipes and do some DIY home projects. However, I must mention that the best distraction for me during lockdown has been helping out a friend by pet-sitting her cat Klaus for 10 months. I don’t think I would have coped as well without him.

What is your opinion on how India has handled the pandemic?

It’s not been a secret how India has handled this whole situation, which has been pretty disappointing. The majority of the population and the government took it very lightly towards the start of the year, which arguably was the catalyst for the second wave, which is now all over the news. I feel that majority of the people don’t take any regulations put forward by the government too seriously, so you have to take responsibility for your own actions and do your part to help reduce the spread.

I hope that the situation improves soon, but I don’t think that it’ll be this year for India, and when things do go back to the ‘new normal,’ I hope that it won’t be very ‘new’ compared to before.

What’s the first thing you’ll do once things go back to normal?

The moment I’m allowed to travel, I’m visiting Thailand, as that’s where my family is. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to visit them during the entire pandemic due to travel restrictions and other reasons.

Event decorator

What has it been like on the ground with how India has handled this second wave, and have there been any silver linings?

India has been on the news for the disaster that is this second pandemic wave. The situation was distressing and uncontrollable, and the government has failed on many levels, but given the population we’re dealing with, the difficulty level was extreme.

Unfortunately, our entire household caught the virus. During this time, India has shown that everything can happen with a snap of a finger, from a task as simple as getting a strip of medicine delivered to your doorstep, to setting up an entire ICU at home for the privileged few. CT scans and x-rays were also available for home services, and the numerous blood tests we took were all done at home. I felt lucky that I was able to connect with useful resources without leaving my house. Social media also played a huge role in battling this wave, with strangers helping each other out.

How did you cope with the whole family being infected?

Coping with this pandemic has become a norm in all households in India, and there are stages we went through as a family. The first stage was denial: we were in denial about how and when COVID-19 hit home, despite being very careful. Finding medical help was the second stage, consulting with our general physicians, and of course, WhatsApp and Google came into play, too. This led us to our third stage, letting the virus run its course. Because we were infected as a family, no one was put into isolation and the 14-day period went by quite easily. The final stage was testing negative, and although this wasn’t the end of the infection as our energy levels were still extremely low, we were happy and blessed that we survived and were able to test negative in the end.

How have the COVID-19 restrictions in Gurgaon affected your day-to-day life?

Lockdown was the only solution to contain the situation. The new norm has made me very comfortable with just being home; in fact, stepping out creates more fear within me.

Housewife & event planner

What has your experience been with this pandemic while in India?

I found out I was pregnant during the first lockdown, and it was terrifying because no one knew the intensity of the virus back then. I was also infected but was lucky enough to get out of it with God’s grace.

The pandemic has affected all of us in one way or another, and we’ve all been coping differently. My coping mechanism is taking care of my 8-month-old baby.

I believe that sunshine is very important so I sit on my balcony whenever I can, and I also try to follow a healthy lifestyle by walking regularly. Meditation is also a part of my routine as it keeps me grounded, along with being thankful even when times are crazy.

In your opinion, how has Delhi handled the pandemic and how have the city’s COVID-19 restrictions affected you?

I’m lucky that in Delhi, I’ve experienced no shortage of anything, and our basic necessities are available. We can still order food from our favourite restaurants and the vaccination drive is carrying on with full force, so the rate of infections has dropped. I do miss seeing my friends and family, and being able to go out.

Our lives will take a while before we get back to normal. I am praying and hoping that by October we’ll be able to travel and do the things we love.

What have you missed most during this year in lockdown?

My family is in Thailand and I miss home. I have thought about flying back, but it’s not the best thing to do with a baby. Regardless, as soon as I see some sort of green light, I will be on the next flight to Bangkok.

Digital marketing consultant

How have you coped with the ongoing COVID19 crisis in Indiaand how has the pandemic affected you personally?

It’s gotten harder as time passes by – it’s been over a year, and yet it feels like forever. I cope by having a good routine, spending time with family, meeting up with friends (mostly online but sometimes in person when the rules are relaxed), therapy, and exercise. We’re all trying to keep ourselves busy and positive in the best way that we can. This year, just as we thought things were getting better, they got worse. I lost my aunt and that was devastating for the whole family. We’ve all heard so many similarly sad stories during this wave.

Luckily, since I’m in digital marketing, things have been okay for me, work-wise. However, I think the government has been short-sighted in many cases, in terms of the economy and people’s livelihoods.

What are your thoughts on how Chennai has handled the situation?

I think with the new government in Tamil Nadu, Chennai is doing a good job. The spread has been curtailed and the central government has finally announced more vaccines. Although it’s going to take massive effort to vaccinate even 50 percent of us, I’m hopeful that things will improve by around September.

Do you have any plans to fly back home to Thailand?

Yes, I would love to fly back and I’m trying for July. Luckily, I was able to go back to Thailand in November for a couple of months, and even though I had to quarantine, it was totally worth it, as I really missed home food and my family.

Founder of BeautyEats

How have you dealt with the COVID-19 situation, and would you say anything good has come out of this pandemic?

It’s been over a year since we’ve been in this condition, and I guess we’ve all found alternative means of living. The only way to cope with this is to take all the precautions – be smart, stay in, make calculated risks, and keep yourself mentally busy and physically strong. Ensuring I have a routine and spending quality time with my in-laws and husband also really helps. I also make sure to exercise, wake up on time, and be productive. I think conscious effort and consistency is important.

I run my own business where we produce Thai condiments and curry pastes, so I’ve invested my time in expanding the business. While this is not the best-case scenario, it has worked brilliantly for my business as everybody is staying home and cooking. I’ve basically given it my all, and that’s how I’ve kept myself sane.

All in all, I wouldn’t say it’s smooth sailing but I’ve definitely come out of this pandemic stronger, better, and smarter.

How do you think India has handled the situation, and do you think there is a chance of going back to normal any time soon?

Although the rules and regulations have helped in curtailing the spread, we are an overpopulated country. The thing that really appalls me is the ideology of some that they are invincible to the virus. At the same time, I can’t blame the masses because not all of them have access to good education, but it’s unfortunate that they have the mentality that they’ll be okay even if they don’t take protective measures.

It’s very easy to blame the system, but it’s generally the people that can make or break any situation. In hindsight, I’ve seen a lot of humanity – it’s amazing that people are stepping up and doing what the government cannot do for us. For example, I’ve witnessed service that’s above and beyond, which is an incredible thing that’s come out of this pandemic.

At this point, I don’t know what’s normal and what’s the new normal. No virus has ever completely gone away so I don’t think this will be an exception, but we will find ways of living with it. Especially in a populated country like India, it’ll be years until we find any form of previous normalcy here.

Have you travelled at any time during the pandemic?

Yes, I travelled to the Maldives for a small vacation last year, and I think about flying back to Bangkok all the time. It’s been two years since I’ve been home, and a year since I’ve seen my family so I’m itching to go back home. As soon as it’s possible to travel, I’ll be the first one on the flight.

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