Indian international students react to India’s COVID-19 situation

URBANA, Ill. – In recent weeks, India has seen a surge in positive COVID-19 cases, causing hospitals to fill up and the amount of oxygen available to disappear.

While the issue is in India itself, it hits close to home for Indian international students.

“It’s apocalyptic,” Kamalendu Ghosh, graduate student, said. “The news of the dead is kind of being normalized right now. So I was affected by this news a week ago, but now I’m expecting it.”

“I open up my Instagram and WhatsApp and it’s very depressing and it’s very devastating,” Graduate Student Debsree Pande said. “I myself is in a hopeless state.”

Because supplies, particularly oxygen, are running out in India, both Ghosh and Pande have had to take time and help in any way they can. But there is only so much they can do when they are thousands of miles away. 

Pande has tried to purchase oxygen on Amazon, however she says she has no idea where it can be now. Ghosh said he doesn’t want to purchase anything online because it would still have to go through Indian customs and that process could take up to three weeks.

The time spent locating and purchasing items and helping in other forms has taken a lot of time out of Pande and Ghosh’s time left at the University of Illinois. It is time that should be spent on homework, studying and projects.

“On a normal day I would work only on my prelims and on nothing else,” Ghosh said. “That would be my usual day – my average day as a PhD student. But I think now I spend 3 to 4 hours helping my people there.”

And on Tuesday, the Biden administration enacted traveling restrictions for anyone coming from India. This means students cannot leave the country, or else they would not be able to return until further notice.

“I haven’t been able to go home since 2019,” Ghosh said.

Pande understands that there are risks involved in going back, however she is willing to take those risks.

“Given the choice, I would still want to go back home because at least I am physically there,” she said. “Because being here and being mentally there is more worse I believe.”

Jose Zepeda

Jose Zepeda is a senior at the University of Illinois majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. He is now on his third year with Good Morning Illini, previously serving as director, reporter and crew member. He is also currently a digital intern for WILL, the NPR- and PBS- affiliate in Urbana and vice-president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists University of Illinois chapter. He also has his own podcast with fellow GMI-er Angelle Cortes called Just Chillin’. He brings previous experience as a features intern at The News-Gazette and as a daytime news editor at The Daily Illini. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @JoseZepedaTV.