Community members, first responders, scholars, policymakers, and the general public form the intended audience for this work — both to inform people about what is happening right now, and to increase understanding in the likely event of future public health and socioeconomic crises.
The diaries make clear that all Himalayan New Yorkers have been affected by a crisis that is more than just a virus. This is also a mental health epidemic, an economic emergency, and an ongoing and lived experience with unprecedented levels of uncertainty. With the virus finally ebbing in New York — 200,000 confirmed cases and 20,000 deaths later — the toll of COVID-19 on the Himalayan community (subsumed under ‘Asian-American’ in the public health statistics) is still unclear.
What is certain is that most people know or are related to at least one person, probably many, who have fallen seriously ill or died. As the ‘New York COVID-19’ project makes clear, many were sick and recovered at home without being diagnosed; others are uncertain whether they were ill, or may still be uncomfortable admitting it; many are still understandably anxious; and all have been affected, directly or indirectly, by the socioeconomic crisis that is unfolding in tandem with the pandemic.
Despite these challenges, the community is extraordinarily resilient — and is developing new strengths in response to the crisis. The diarists report an intensification of family and community ties and religious practices that were already strong, widespread adherence to and respect for public health measures, and creative mutual aid efforts and community responses that have included individual check-ups on the ill, internet-based programming for isolated elders, organised efforts to navigate complex government services for which little non-English language help is available, and much more.
Indeed, beyond organising and taking care of its own, Himalayan New Yorkers have been going much further in their professional roles as healthcare professionals, essential workers, and service providers as well as in their social capacities as good neighbours. Along with so much else, the diaries testify to the growing power and visibility of a Himalayan community in New York City that is now also a focal point of the global Himalayan diaspora. Have a listen.