COVID-19 survivors’ tales: grit, gumption and abiding hope

COVID-19 survivors’ tales | Hakki-Pikki tribal from Karnataka wins battle against the virus

Members of Karnataka's Hakki-Pikki tribal community stand outside a COVID-19 isolation tent. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Life has never been easy for Vatsala from the Hakki-Pikki community, a resident of Angadihalli in Hassan district in south Karnataka, but last month was worse than ever after she contracted COVID-19.

Like many people of the tribal community, the 35-year-old mother of four earns a living by selling mani-sara (necklaces) and drishti bombe (dolls), travelling from one town to another.

Along with her husband Somu, she had been to Mangaluru to sell the knick-knacks last month. After she returned, Ms. Vatsala felt tired and had high fever. She visited the Primary Health Centre at Hagare, a neighbouring village, where she tested positive for COVID-19 and was later admitted to the Hassan Institute of Medical Sciences. She was under treatment for about a week and was advised isolation later.

But isolation is next to impossible for Ms. Vatsala, and many like her in the community live in makeshift houses with metal sheets for walls, not having secured land for cultivation despite decades for struggle. Except for a few members of the community, most do not have pucca houses.

So Ms. Vatsala’s husband, with the help of relatives, put up a tent near his house. “Of course, we don’t have rooms for isolation. The tent with a roof covered by plastic sheets was ready by the time she returned to the village,” said Kanchana, Ms. Vatsala’s relative.

Ms. Vatsala stayed in the tent for about 15 days, avoiding contact with her family members, who brought her food regularly. Ms. Vatsala returned home last week.

But now her husband and two children have developed symptoms and they have moved to the tent, while she stays in the house with the other children. “I am taking care of them [those ailing now] by supplying food and ensuring that they get medicine regularly. I have no doubt all will recover soon,” said a confident Ms. Vatsala.

But she worries about how the lockdown will impact her and many like her. With restrictions on movement, they have lost sources of income. “The government has not bothered to provide us land, despite our repeated demands. Whenever lockdown is imposed, we struggle hard to fulfil our basic needs,” said village elder Hooraja, who represented the community at the Republic Day parade in Delhi in 2020.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 4:34:25 AM |

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