For the rest of his life, Sushma Mane worked.
At 8, she helped the business of decorating weddings for her family. At the age of 20, he got a bookkeeping job in Mumbai, where he was born. He worked in the public library for 32 years before retiring. She later became an insurance agent, making phone calls and visiting clients for 15 years. Along the way, she raised three children, separated from her husband, helped a daughter whose marriage was broken, and became a stepmother for her granddaughter.
On August 30, 2020, he died of COVID-19 in a Mumbai hospital. He was 76 years old.
“When you think of your grandmother, you have a picture in your mind – swinging chairs, knitting needles, books,” says Viraj Pradhan, Mane’s 28-year-old granddaughter. He was Grandfather. ”
Pradhan grew up in a suburb of Mumbai, clinging to middle school. The family rushed to put food on the table. Her parents divorced when she was 12, and it was Mane who adopted her and her mother.
While Mane’s daughter was working 12 hours as a librarian at school, she got into her shoes, rode Pradhan to school, attended PTA meetings, worked on school committees, supervised homework, and cooking – in addition to working full-time.
“It was just me and him,” Pradhan said with a smile. “Before I went to school, I used to hang out with people at business. We became very close. ”
Mane was a senior employee at an insurance company where he worked. It didn’t matter. He walked around the city, choosing to go public rather than expensive to visit customers; He carries a heavy bag full of documents on each shoulder and often rejects the opportunity to help carry it.
“At this age, they help me to stay healthy,” he once told his manager, Swati Mittal.
“I don’t think I’ll ever meet someone like this again in my life,” Mittal told BuzzFeed News. “He often says he’ll work as long as he’s alive.”
The first cracks in Super Granny’s armor came in 2017. A routine medical examination revealed a strange electrocardiogram. Later, Mane began to bleed internally, and her hemoglobin level dropped. Doctors could not determine his whereabouts. “After a few months, when his hemoglobin level dropped, he started to weaken and had difficulty breathing,” Pradhan said. He was too tired to move around the house. ”
After that, Mane has to stay in the hospital every few months. Medical personnel bleed often, and their skin is as thin as paper. They often need oxygen machines to breathe. Pradhan said: “We had a long oximeter long before it became ubiquitous because of COVID-19, and oxygen masks were a new thing for us.
However, the crisis strengthened their relationship. Mane spent his days on the porch of their small house chatting with his crops, which he calls his children, listening to old Bollywood music, and making pictures that Pradhan called him on the phone. Like many Indians, connected to WhatsApp, they often send jokes, funny videos, and “morning” messages to her granddaughter. She regularly texted him, her long emails were sent as old letters:
Did you eat?
Are you on time?
How was your meeting?
Be cool and invigorating.
Take your medicine.
I am well.
What time will you be back?
Have a nice day, baby.
– Aaji (“grandmother” in Marathi)
At the end of 2019, Pradhan quit his full-time job at a digital company and went on his own to have enough time to take care of his grandparents. Their role had changed. “She used to be a very trustworthy person,” she said, “but now she trusts me. She wasn’t ready to do that.”
As a result of his grandfather’s illness, COVID-19 appeared on the radar of Pradhan before the world was aware of it. He read reports of foreign diseases in China, then in Italy, terrified. He says: “Although we frequently went to the hospital, I had a habit of controlling things, but I thought that if the virus came here, I would not be in control. I was terrified by what would happen to my grandmother. ”
In March, India ordered that it be tightened universal closure little warning, Pradhan prayed that his grandmother would pass by again. Within a few days, her hemoglobin level again dropped.
In the first three months of the country’s closure, Mane had to go to the hospital three times, which was the worst case scenario. Its symptoms – coughing, shortness of breath, and fatigue – are so similar to those of COVID-19 that doctors often refuse to examine him without COVID tests, which were difficult to diagnose at the time. Later, when hospitals in the city were overcrowded with COVID-19 patients, simply approval was difficult; there were not enough beds.
On August 25, Pradhan arranged for his grandmother’s COVID-19 test at home. The test lasts 24 hours. That night, he was not hungry, and he was so tired that he needed help walking a few steps from his bed to the toilet. Pradhan fell asleep for a while, then called Uber to take him to a nearby hospital in the middle of the night. They refused to accept him until the effects of COVID-19 were discovered. He slept through the night in a hurry on his way to various hospitals until the next day, while Mane was admitted to the state hospital, where treatment is mostly assisted, as opposed to a private hospital.
The good news was followed by two bad episodes: Her hemoglobin count was low, and, the same day, she was tested for coronavirus.
“Crying doesn’t come to me easily – but the first time he was put on a ventilator, I started,” Pradhan said. When he and his mother were tested shortly after, he was found to have COVID-19 as well. They had no symptoms.
“I try not to think about where we got the virus and how we passed it on to my grandparents or to my grandparents,” she said. “Thinking like this will probably make me think that I could have prevented this from happening.”
Their last phone conversation – before Mane was put on air – lasted 45 seconds. Pradhan’s uncle was able to send Mane’s phone to the sick room through a nurse. Pradhan told her to stop worrying about money for the hospital, to recover, to eat, and to return home as soon as possible. He told her not to worry about him and to eat his food in time (“when he is in bed dying!” Pradhan said).
At the end of the call, he said, “somehow he had an idea[he’d] maybe I talked to him one last time. ”
Mane had never wanted a big funeral again, and the plague made him long. Only three people went to burn him – Pradhan, one of his children, and a family friend who was like a son to him. Mane’s daughter could not go; he is placed in a private hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Like all other people who died in hospitals due to coronavirus, Mane’s body was sealed in a bag. He worked with staff who were dressed from head to toe in their self-defense equipment, and no one was allowed to touch him. Pradhan said he could not come to see her. She asked her uncle, Mane’s son, to write a letter to her feet, thanking her for everything she had done, including flowers and sari.
“What always bothers me is that he went to the hospital alone,” she said. “He always wants to get into his house, on his bed.”
Mittal, Mane’s manager, said he was surprised to be called. “My breath has stopped,” he said. “They like to be in the hospital most of the time, but we get used to returning home every time. We never thought that this time he would never come back. Wherever they are, they are spreading joy. I believe that. ”
A few months later, Pradhan’s phone only appears on photos and videos taken by Mane. He said he couldn’t look at them, because it was so painful.
In her WhatsApp there is a message not to be read from her grandmother. It’s time to dump her and move on. It’s been months, and it still isn’t open.
“Maybe it’s something else, like a ‘good morning’,” he said. “I have not inquired yet. I have no courage. ”