2021: A year of Love, Labour and Loss

Love is a mystery. Love is unitive. Love is how we connect as human beings with one another and with the whole universe together. Love is how we learn, how we become better, and make the world a better place to live, for us and others. Love needs freedom to breathe, equality to thrive, and openness to flow and grow. Love is personal, political, sexual, philosophical, social, historical, metaphysical, transcendental, et al. Sadly, we have only one word to describe an emotion so complex. The ancient Greeks had six different words, but even that’s not enough. 2021 taught me new ways to describe the complexity of love and its various hues. Love lost on many counts, but like a phoenix, it miraculously sprang on a few occasions. My vocabulary of LOVE was defined and redefined by people who touched my life one way or another this year.

shillpi a singh

LOVE IS GRIEF: Dr Amit Gupta

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Lao Tzu

While graduating from a medical school, like others of his ilk, Dr Amit Gupta, 39, must have also taken the Hippocratic oath to consecrate his life to the service of humanity and make the health of his patient his first consideration. Little did he know that years later, the oath would be put to test by COVID-19. Dr Gupta is one among those 1,492 doctors, who lived every word of this pledge while being on duty during the first and second waves in India and sadly succumbed to coronavirus infection, according to data released by the Indian Medical Association earlier this year. They are our frontline health workers, our real-life heroes who bravely served their patients without caring for their lives and eventually lost the battle for breath.

LOVE IS GRIEF: DR AMIT GUPTA


It was on April 18, 2021, senior resident Dr Gupta of Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra Hospital (SRCH) in Narela, New Delhi, returned home after being on duty for 80 hours at a stretch. He was doing his job with utmost sincerity. The second wave of COVID-19 was at its peak. Clad in a PPE suit in that sweltering heat, he was there in the hospital, round the clock, and contracted COVID-19 while serving other patients. In spite of his busy schedule, he never forgot to check on others in his family and friend circle who were COVID infected, sending them medical advice and medications as well. The hospitals across the country were fast running out of beds, and oxygen cylinders were scarce, but the doctors were still keeping their chin up and busy fighting the war against the deadly virus, clinging on to hope to save as many lives as possible.
Dr Gupta was initially hospitalised at SRCH for a few days, and then at a private hospital in his neighbourhood, and from there moved to Medanta Gurgaon. The virus had severely damaged his lungs by then. The doctors suggested that he required extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support. His family decided to take him to a hospital in Secunderabad early in May.
Meanwhile, on May 18, 2021, Delhi government health minister Satyendar Jain announced that “the state government would bear the entire cost of treatment because Corona warriors are our strength.”

The Hon’ble minister’s promise gave Dr Gupta’s family immense support, but the official procedures were tardy, and the clearance of bills took longer than usual. The family was back to square one. They were still running helter and skelter, borrowing money from friends, relatives to meet this unforeseen medical emergency. “We spent our entire savings, took huge loans to cater to the medical expenses. Desperate for financial assistance, we even started a fundraising campaign, till the state government cleared a part of the promised amount, and that too after National Human Rights Commission’s intervention,” says his wife, Dr Srishti Mittal.

LOVE IS GRIEF: Dr Srishti Mittal and Dr Amit Gupta

Dr Gupta’s deteriorating condition and the mounting expenses were a cause of concern for the family, but they hoped for the better. “That may be the treatment would work, and he would be fit as a fiddle, if not today, maybe tomorrow for sure. We took loans from all possible quarters hoping to return when the Government would clear our bills because they had promised to do so,” adds Mittal.


The treating doctors in Secunderabad advised lung transplant, and the family left no stone unturned to arrange the organ. The transplant was successful, but the post-operation complications bothered the recovery of Dr Gupta. After a courageous four-month-long battle, he gave up and left for his heavenly abode on August 14, 2021. He is survived by his wife, son, and elderly parents.

DR AMIT GUPTA WHILE HE WAS HOSPITALISED.

Dr Mittal has resumed duty at SRCH, serving patients just like before, deeply engrossed in work, working in shifts, and living up to the Hippocratic oath. It is the same place where she once worked with her life partner, Dr Gupta. Her co-traveller abandoned the journey mid-way, leaving her all alone to put up a strong fight on all fronts, professional as well as personal, but that hasn’t deterred her. She is fighting to clear the debts amounting to Rs 1 crore 67 lakh by following up with the government officials, and once that is done, she will live on for the couple’s little boy and his elderly parents.

Her decision to return to work at SRCH is perhaps a way to beat the deep grief that is like a river — ebbs and flows. It is the last act of love that we give to our loved ones. It is never one thing. It deposits the memory of the past as sediments one day; it eats it away as a shark the next. But it is never one thing. Grief is but non-linear, spread over as carpet of our desire kept under the circumstances: grief ebbs and flows.

Grief is like love. It is a burden and a privilege as well. It is the ache of longing for all that is lost but seeing through the darkness of death, Dr Srishti Mittal is living with gratitude for the gift of time and love she shared with Dr Amit Gupta, and that alone gives her the courage to live on.

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