Fighting Covid, Gaining Acceptance: A Story of Daksh, a Doctor in India


Dakshinamurthy Natarajan, a general physician from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, has worked with more than 5,000 Covid patients. While fighting the virus, he managed to change his patients' and hospital colleagues' attitudes towards his sexuality. We speak with Daksh at the newest episode of NARA podcast.

A lockdown in Tamil Nadu state in Southern India started with the second wave of Covid. It reached new heights from May to July and still the end is uncertain. Lockdown there is extended at least until the 9th of August.

"The distance from my house to the hospital is 18 km. Every area that I passed had its check post with the police. No one except doctors and ambulances was allowed to travel anywhere", says Daksh on a Zoom call from his home.

Before the pandemic, Daksh was struggling to find a job as a doctor in Goa, India. He believes, because of his sexuality. But at the very beginning of the pandemic, he was hired to a private Covid isolation ward in Goa international airport. "Suddenly there was such a demand for doctors, they didn’t care if you are gay or straight. That was an opportunity for me to work and handle an emergency. I took it as an opportunity."

Daksh remembers that during the first wave patients came to the hospital even with mild symptoms because of fear and uncertainty. “Everyone was in panic mode. Because I was a doctor my landlord asked me to vacate the house where I lived in Goa. They were scared that I would bring the disease to the flat.“

Dakshinamurthy moved back to his hometown city Chennai, the East Coast of India, in the midst of the pandemic. "Before I moved to Chennai I had already treated 800 patients. None of them died. Day by day my confidence increased. I saw nothing had happened to any of those people. I had an impression that I know Covid and it’s nothing", he recalls.

But in Chennai, the doctor's perspective has changed. Hospitals there had much better equipment to examine patients’ lungs. "Now I have treated around 5000 people of all ages. Some people suffered a lot. My dad got Covid and he is 80 years old and diabetic. I was treating him and I was very scared. I was panicking a lot."

India is believed to be the place where the Covid Delta variant emerged. The efficiency of current vaccines against it is not certain. According to official data, there have already been 425,000 Covid deaths in India. However, the researchers explain that excess deaths were estimated to be about 10 times higher.

Specialists experienced in medicine and epidemiology, such as Dakshinamurthy, are extremely valuable. Today he is being recognized for his work and not for his sexuality, as people previously defined him by. Daksh works excessive hours now. But he confirms that for him “to work more is better than to be discriminated against and not work at all."

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