I shared this picture on my WhatsApp status recently. It is a depiction of Goddess Durga who is revered in Hinduism for her powers of protection, her strength and her determination to overcome evil.

“She looks sad and startled,” stated a dear friend in a message. “I know. That’s how I feel right now, ” I replied. Of course, he then went on to try and cheer me up.

Upon deeper reflection a few days later, I realised that that’s exactly how 2020 has made many of us feel… sad and startled, some more than others.

Generally this time of the year is one of carefree abandon. But this year, our hearts are heavy. We think of those who have had their income cut short or have lost their jobs as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19. We mourn the loss of loved ones who have succumbed to the deadly coronavirus. Just as heartbreaking is that we have been robbed of comforting their families in their time of grief.

Sadly, as it stands right now, the best way to show our loved ones how much we care about them is to stay away from them.

I have dealt with my own trauma this year. I spent six weeks in hospital and was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition affecting my blood. It was in July at the height of the first wave of the pandemic.

It was extremely difficult for me to come to terms with what was going on because there were no major warning signs or prior conditions that I had suffered from. But there I was… day after day, week after week, with no familiar faces or visitors allowed. Forget familiar faces, I couldn’t even put faces to my doctors because they were dressed in full personal protective equipment. I resorted to searching for their pictures on the hospital website. But I never saw them smile like in their pictures. How could they? The virus weighed down heavily on them and their patients and they still had other COVID-negative patients like myself to treat.

Since being discharged from I have attempted to write about my trauma as I always find writing cathartic. I have many incomplete blog pieces simply because it’s too painful for me to articulate into words exactly what I have been through. More so, because my recovery is still very much a work in progress and the side effects remain, every day.

And so I look to this depiction of Goddess Durga. Yes, she looks sad and startled, like how I feel again tonight. South Africa has recorded the highest number of cases ever since the start of the pandemic – 17 710. For all the naysayers, conspiracy theorists and those who criticise government’s every move, these numbers cannot lie. These are no longer just numbers, they are names of family members; of friends; of neighbours.

I look closer at this depiction, and I see what eluded me initially – steadfast eyes. It mirrors what we need right now… to be steadfast in our actions to sanitise, social distance and wear masks to stay safe. Until we know any better, these are the best defense mechanisms we have.

I remain steadfast in my faith too, and pray for us all. Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika¬†– Lord, bless Africa.

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