When WHO first declared Covid-19 a global pandemic in March 2020, there was a great deal of apprehension about how India — the country with the highest TB cases and diabetes, inadequate health infrastructure and a population of 1.3 billion — would fare.
Between the Janata Curfew and the first vaccinations, a massive machinery has been working as seamlessly as possible to make sure that, despite some missteps and missed infections, India conquers what has been the greatest challenge the world has encountered in decades.
Covering the pandemic from the start, the author, Abantika Ghosh has had a ringside view of India’s battle against the pandemic. A thrilling tale of unnamed thousands battling against a little-understood virus from the frontlines, “Billions Under Lockdown” (Bloomsbury) brings that gripping theatre and its dramatis personae to life.
“Journalists are usually accused of having very short memories. Of course, this is not unfair criticism as we, far too often, look at issues only fleetingly, and superficially. Having said that, in the twenty years that I have been in this business, 2020 was the first year in which, for ten months, I followed one story: Covid-19. I may even go so far as to say, that I lived in a Covid bubble. I was reading about it, writing about it, and, in whatever time I had left, I was answering questions from friend and family,” Ghosh writes.
“I have tried to keep my own opinions at a minimum to tell India’s Covid-19 story that lies somewhere between the official statements, scientific hypotheses and conspiracy theories. It is not yet fully understood, and some of what appears in this book may change over time,” Ghosh adds.
To that extent, starting from the government’s first Covid-19 meeting (it was not yet called that) on January 8, 2020 to the approvals of the two ‘Made in India’ vaccines on January 3, 2021, the book attempts to cover all the major aspects of the pandemic through the year, with the world view in the background.
The book is a valuable contribution to the growing narrative on the pandemic and how it has affected every sphere of our lives.
Abantika Ghosh is passionate about public health and popular science communication. After graduating from Presidency College, Kolkata, she did her masters in Physiology from the University of Calcutta and has worked with The Statesman, The Times of India and the Indian Express in the past. Currently, she is with The Print, where she heads the team covering Covid-19. She is keenly interested in non-cricket sports, is a voracious reader and loves to explore the intersection of politics and society. She lives in New Delhi with two dogs and some books.