Lavanya Daradhalli Jaiprakash says she has barely been able to sleep for two weeks.
When her group WhatsApp chat suggested she try yoga and meditation, her reaction was immediate, the 41-year-old said: “No, no, it’s not going to happen.”
Daradhalli Jaiprakash, a managing director at public relations firm Hudson Cutler, was referring to her anxiety and stress around the ongoing coronavirus crisis in India. She has been in the United States since 2004 with her husband, but otherwise, her family and relatives live in India, where 300,000 new confirmed covid-19 cases were reported for the sixth day in a row Tuesday.
Like many people of Indian descent — Indian Americans, expatriates, students studying abroad or nonresident Indians, she is watching the situation in the world’s second-most populous country spiral out of control, feeling largely helpless.
It is hard to get an exact figure for how many cases and deaths the country is dealing with, as cases are outpacing tests and resources, including hospital beds and cremation sites. Satellite photos show the grave reality of funeral pyres.
In the capital, New Delhi, one person is dying every four minutes.
After initial success containing the virus in a country where cities are densely populated and have extreme class disparities, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declined to institute a nationwide lockdown as the country struggles with a limited oxygen and vaccine supply, hospital bed and supply shortages, and misinformation.
The Biden administration has pledged “oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials and therapeutics.” The U.S. supply of 60 million Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, which have not yet been cleared for domestic use by the Food and Drug Association, will be distributed to other countries. It is not yet clear how and when they will be distributed or how many would go to India.
Daradhalli Jaiprakash is spending all of her spare energy compiling and updating a Google document of aid organizations to help people and local news organizations on the ground.
It’s not as simple as giving to the Red Cross or an international humanitarian group, she says. She wants to shepherd aid to places that can get it to people quickly as well as groups that have the ability to process international credit cards. That is not the case for all mutual aid groups in India because of government regulations. She is also vetting the groups enlisting the help of her network.
Sana Javeri Kadri, the founder and chief executive of Diaspora Co., an ethically sourced, direct-trade spice company based in Oakland, Calif., has been doing the same.
“I’ve been finding every single donation platform, making sure it’s vetted and making sure that it can take [U.S. dollars],” she said. “One dollar to 73 rupees can go really far.”
Between Friday and Monday, she said, Mission Oxygen, one of the groups she highlighted, was able to order 1,300 oxygen concentrators with the money they raised.
“The biggest, most urgent need right now is for feeding people. So many migrant workers and low-income workers are losing their jobs when things shut down and don’t get fed,” Javeri Kadri said.
What the 27-year-old entrepreneur really wants though, is to explain to people why they should care, especially when empathy is lacking.
If you “create content around Indian cuisine or Indian culture, if you teach yoga, if you celebrated Holi recently, if you source anything in your supply chain from India, this is on you,” she said. “If we can’t see India getting through this, the culture that we all profit from will not continue to exist.”