This is the first of my new column One-Eyed Mama where I share the everyday miracles I encountered in my life while dealing with vision loss and an empty nest – both at the same time
I began losing vision in one eye at the start of 2021, soon after one of my kids left home. Doctors advised me to do nothing and get used to it. By the end of that year, when the other kid was due to leave, I had largely resigned myself to an eccentric eye that saw the world the way Claude Monet would have painted it.
The year 2021 was momentous for us in India in terms of the horrific Delta wave that left each one of us affected in some way even if we survived the Covid-19 virus. My career went on a cockeyed diversion, and my bonds with my family deepened to the point of extreme attachment.
Despite the loss of sight, the impending empty nest, and the lack of will to show up at work, I became ever more grateful for the abundance in my life. The universe certainly set me up for challenges but it never failed me in terms of infinite grace.
In late 2021, I travelled to Toronto with my daughter. It was the first time I was travelling ever since the pandemic began and, despite the eyesight limitations, I was excited to return to Canada after two years.
The first thing I did was to find out how to get a booster shot of the coronavirus vaccine.
I had so far managed to evade the coronavirus. Booster shots weren’t yet available in India and I had a sixth sense that another Covid wave would be upon us all soon. So, I took advantage of the Canadian public-health system and checked out my options. There was a pharmacy close by that offered Pfizer and Moderna shots to walk-in customers on certain days of the week, so I prepared to get my shot on the next available date.
Should I get Pfizer or Moderna? I had got two doses of Covishield in India six months earlier, and I now had a choice since it would be a cocktail mix either way. My heart said Moderna. But friends and family suggested Pfizer. Going by their advice, I set out on the morning of December 15, 2021, to get a Pfizer booster shot.
My daughter was still asleep when I left home. She wasn’t yet eligible for a booster shot as six months hadn’t passed since her second dose in India. It was freezing cold, raining in delicate drops. I have to walk slowly in unfamiliar places because of my Monet eye – I am no longer able to judge lines on the floor accurately, and tend to trip if I don’t pay attention. Add to that my discomfort with raindrops falling on my face and blurring visibility further. Yet I was determined to make it that day, no matter what.
My gut said it had to be done.
When I reached the clinic at sharp 9 am, there were already a few people ahead of me including a father-son duo who had an appointment for a Pfizer shot. I was told that, since I was a walk-in customer, the nurse would only see me after taking care of those with appointments, and that too if they had any vaccines left. I said no problem, and prepared to wait.
When it was the father-son duo’s turn, they were told the clinic had run out of Pfizer shots and there were only a couple of doses of Moderna left. The duo were adamant that they wanted Pfizer and decided to leave, and I was – by stroke of luck – next in line for Moderna. Which is what I’d wanted in the first place! So, though the day ended with severe vaccine side-effects for me, I was one satisfied woman.
Christmas was muted as the economy had only just begun to open after over a year of stringent lockdowns and travel bans. My daughter and I stayed largely cooped up in our one-bedroom suite in a futile attempt to avoid Covid and the cold. She had symptoms on January 1st, a day after returning from a New Year’s party.
The Omicron wave suddenly assailed all of Toronto at that time and tested the city’s resources to its limit. We were told to just stay home and isolate. But here we were, two people – one with symptoms and one without – stuck in a small space together.
Isolation wasn’t so easy.
Still, I did my best to stay away from her and we slept in separate spaces divided by a glass door, using masks all the time, washing hands frequently, and taking turns to use the bathroom. Two days later, my other daughter, far away in Belgium, too tested positive for Covid.
I was caregiving for two beloveds – one in person and another on the phone. My ‘mama mode’ was on full high alert with all the accompanying anxiety and – paradoxically – unshakeable stillness and sense of purpose.
Over the next week, I waited for my own symptoms to develop while also praying fervently to the gods at Moderna to keep protecting me. I had heard too many stories of people getting Covid despite booster shots, and I had no grand illusions about my own immunity.
But nothing happened. I escaped unscathed.
On January 10, my daughter and I finally hugged one another. My other daughter too recovered in a short period of time. Their vaccinations and youth had reduced the intensity of the symptoms and they were fine within days.
Later, I wondered what had protected me from Covid – in May 2021 in Delhi when my mom got Delta, and in January 2022 when my daughter got Omicron in Toronto – despite my exposure and proximity.
This time, it could have been the Moderna booster shot. Five days after my vaccination, New York Times reported that a booster shot of the Moderna vaccine significantly raises the level of antibodies that can thwart the Omicron variant – as much as 83-fold compared with pre-boost levels.
It could also have been my Rh-negative blood group. Two studies found that those with negative blood groups are less likely to get Covid – and more likely to be asymptomatic even if they get Covid – than those with positive blood groups, like my mom and kids.
It could have been my pranayama – I have become a regular ever since Covid descended on the planet in 2020, and do at least 30 minutes of breath work meditation every morning. The Bhramari pranayama is especially recommended for reducing the intensity of Covid infection, and I am religious about it.
Or, I believe, it could have been the protective properties of love – intense, crazy love that roots you to the ground like a beam of gold and flows out from your heart like beams of golden light. Love that envelops people like me – who are in love with their kids and worship their mothers – with some sort of superpower immune systems.
But oh, I know what it was.
It was the same divine benevolence that ensured I got my Moderna booster shot on December 15, exactly two weeks before my daughter’s New Year party by which time I had antibodies; the same stroke of fate that made me the only Rh-negative person in my family; the same divine grace that ensured I follow the path of pranayama – for one can never find the right Guru and spiritual practice without divine grace; and the same sacred shakti that cares for caregivers around the world, filling us up with reservoirs of strength and immunity so that we can do God’s work as long as we are needed.
I still have no grand illusions about escaping Covid. It may still be lurking around the corner. But I am acutely aware of the mystical forces of the universe, and I know that whatever happens will be for a higher purpose. I must stay present to it, accept it, and grow from it.
Like my vision loss.
That’s why I started this column. It’s my thank-you to the universe for all the miracles in my life, and my passing-it-forward so that others, too, recognise the miracles in their own.