As the Corona epidemic puts up a painful pause over the globe, life and living gets redefined in sweet-sour ways. The worldwide figure is close to 1.5 million with 75000 deaths. There are tears of loss as people lose their near and dear ones. Sadly, most of the deceased are not getting the farewell they deserve. New York, the city of dreams is the worst affected with around 7000 deaths so far. Pushed against the wall, the authorities are mulling over still sadder option of mass burial. It seems nothing short of a third world war, with Homo-sapiens on the one side and Mother Nature on the other.
We humans live on hope. We have this awareness of being hopeful. As a derivative of hope, we can search and contrive—even in the bleakest of situations—the moments of celebrations as well. Fighting like an ill-equipped army pitted against a far superior and stealthy force, doctors and nurses are holding the fort for one common humanity. We have many martyrs from our front ranks.
People and medical staff give an applauding farewell to the recovered patients as they leave the hospitals. They are the proof of this wonderful human system. Its natural ability to preserve the life force in it even though our best healthcare labs haven’t been able to manufacture an antidote. This system is endlessly miraculous. The more we learn, the lesser it appears. It has a mystical sovereignty. We can hardly decipher what it has to say on this. In gratitude, people salute the inherent immunity, which is churning out its own resistance in the absence of any man-made antibiotics.
It’s a gloomy picture. Many European counties have 100,000 plus cases. PM Boris Johnson of the UK is in the ICU. The leader fighting against Corona has been seriously wounded. Let’s pray he recovers to start fighting again! Death figures is scarily mounting. The US with 374,000 plus cases and more than 10000 deaths has requested the anti-malarial drug from India. PM Modi is helpless. He cannot export the only apparent solution so far against the virus. Heart says one thing, mind says the other. It’s a see-saw conflict.
Conspiracy theories are circulating as a natural corollary to any kind of disaster. In the UK, people have attacked 5G towers. A word is doing the rounds that the current pandemic is the result of the decreased immunity due to 5G radiation. China, the robotic businessman, ever eager to add to Yuans in its kitty, is now, expertly negotiating trillions of dollars worth Huwei 5G technology in lieu of medical supplies. Majority of the common people see a Chinese hand in the current situations. The governments may have their protocols so may not say it directly, but masses appear to be pretty much convinced about it.
Against a common threat, the human society is portraying both mundane and not so mundane reactions, either for the good, or for the bad. In the gardens of the gated colonies, with people stacked up on floors above floors, the policemen are once again doing all they can do. They aren’t just the stern gatekeepers who have locked people up with the entire countries being turned into mass prisons. In the gardens of gated colonies, the cops, in gym track-pants and T-shirts, gyrate to the acrobatic exercise beats and lead the people in doing some physical workout. Peering over their balconies and windows, the people catch up the strains of optimism and start exercising. It’s better to muster up strength against the enemy peering over the walls.
Let there be world-level philanthropists, goody-goody doers and charity messiah, that doesn’t intimidate and deter this slight built man from doing all he can do for the cause of humanity. The cyclist crusader has a rickety cycle decorated with Corona warning and safety messages. The cycle carrier behind has a big pot full of his cooking to feed the hungry. He dons a mask, a pair of gloves, his clothes are poor but cleaned with confidence and dignity. As he pedals ahead on the mission, the humanity takes one huge step against the invisible enemy. This is the beginning of our victory and Corona’s defeat.
Trump may have prioritized economy over people while delaying the imposition of lockdown, here in this resource-crunched country, the government sees only up to a point where lives can be saved. The economy is for the people, not vice versa. Do you get the message Mr. President? In the semi-desert district of Rajasthan, the principle of humanism is being taken one step ahead. The district administration is doing its level best to get animal fodder delivered to 300 villages. Cattle are almost family members in an agrarian economy. It shows the district administrators have decided to fight till the end.
Much to be happy about these positive developments, still the sour strains will keep pouring in as can be expected during such critical times. In a sleepy, green mountain village of Himachal Pradesh, the people show how far the feeling of insecurity, panic and fear has sunk in. It is creeping up the mountains. It’s intimidating the pure air. A woman from the village works as a nurse. She has been a steely front-line warrior woman against the virus and is granted recuperating leave for a few days at the village. The villagers but get scared and deny her entry into the village, scared that she may carry the bug to them. The district administration has to fight the people to help her enter her house. With such unwelcoming gesture, I have hardly any doubts about the villagers’ behavior during her stay here. Such social challenges are as grave as the deaths occurring due to the deadly virus.
In Sagar, MP, the priests of all religions in India walk shoulder to shoulder to defeat the common enemy. In their secular and accepting enthusiasm, they cutely break the social distancing norm by the way. But melting of inter-religious aloofness and discrimination is too big a prize for a little threat of Corona infection. Behind them masked policeman walk in marching symmetry maintaining a safe distance from each other. Let’s hope Corona gets scared by this show of solidarity. The society has to give a secular, humanist punch. Otherwise, Corona will bug minds also apart from bodies.
On the streets of Hyderabad, the police carries out a road show. A beautiful mix of ‘matter of fact passing the message’, a show of strength along with an icing on the cake in the form of a sense of aesthetics. A lovely concoction! The bike riders wear Corona helmets, the evil-spiked ball. There is a four member column of horse-mounted policemen with a steely resolve of going to war. Foot-soldiers march carrying glaring placards and banners about the Dos and Donts in the face of the epidemic. The music tempo blares rhythmic beats to mellow down the typical policing frigidity. It looks half admonishing and half celebratory.
Dear brothers and sisters, many a marriage have been postponed for some better sunny day. Not too many people seem eager to start their conjugal duties in such a depressive environment. Those who still itch to jump into the bed, do it almost stealthily, as due to the lockdown rules one cannot have congregations and ceremonies. There are instances where the bride and groom take hurried circles around the holy fire, their faces covered with masks and just 5,6 people witnessing the occasion.
Now, something about the most worrisome aspect of Corona, especially in India: communal consequences of Corona. Already there is a lot of polar ice kind of coldness between Hindus and Muslims in India, the roots going back to the partition time slaughters and even before when Muslims ruled the country for almost 1000 years. Currently, it is a massive political tool for all the major political parties. The religious differentials are so glaring that it is always like a livewire ready to give a blast.
Of course, the triggering agents are very few on both sides. But once the trigger is pushed, it lets out a cascading effect, aided and abetted by rumors and hearsay to take masses in the middle in its wake. The stony knots in the rigid communal hearts of a few Tabligi jamatis have landed in the communal cauldron. It has splashed the boiling waters on many a few simple minds both among the Hindus and Muslims. With around 4000 active cases, and a third of these being directly related to the Markaz congregation in Delhi, the entire country is seething with anger. Even to the most secular minds this high percentage is too much to pass it off as mere chance happening. The figure tell a glaring story and people have every right to cook up their conspiracy theories. Majority of the Hindus now believe that it has been a well-planned bio-terrorism by the Jamatis who deliberately took the virus to every nook corner of the country to teach the Hindus a lesson. Almost everyone is believing that it has been deliberately to put the country down to its knees.
In Muslim majority areas of South Haryana, dozens of absconding and Corona positive Jamatis have been traced after much boil and toil. The state government has been forced to seal the entire areas where these Corona carriers are supposed to have moved. Under such massive sealing measures, the common Muslims are bound to feel offended and a feeling of discrimination and alienation creep in already insecure minds. In the countryside, people see any skull cap as a potential Corona terrorist. I think the communal consequences of Corona will be the worst in India.
At the Kanpur medical facility, where the Markaz Corona suspects are quarantined, they are on the path of Jehad. They have misbehaved with female medical staff. They are seen spitting around, threatening to infect all and sundry. In Lucknow, a few absconding Jamatis are caught hiding in a crowded bazaar adjoining the army cantonment. There are daily reports of law enforcement tracing down the Jamatis who have gone underground. No wonder, most of the Hindus see it as a well planned ploy to spread Corona throughout the country. It may be true, it may be not. The problem is, in both scenarios only a tiny group is involved, but the entire Muslim population is being put under a scanner now. In reaction, even the common Muslims are reacting. They are refusing to cooperate with quarantine teams. They are insisting to do group namaaz just to prove that they have every right to practice their religion. In such circumstances, all the epidemic time restrictions appear like Government of India is targeting them. Well, that’s what the communalists want. In Kannauj, 40-50 namaazis are caught gathered for group namaaz. It’s good for faith, but not for health. The government is forced to restrict all religious ceremonies across all religions to ward off the community spread of the virus. When the police teams reach the place, they are attacked with bricks and stones gathered on the top floor. I think all the hard core Mullahs who are putting the lives of common Muslims under risk by taking such rigid stance should be sprayed with chlorine mixed waters till the virus of communal hate vanishes from their hearts. Corona on skin is less lethal than the communal virus in hearts and minds.
The entire country is glued to news these days where you hear only and only the tales of Corona. All these communal strains of Corona are infesting the commoners’ minds far and wide. Hindus and Muslims usually stand very cold and detached from each other. In my village, there are some migrant Muslim laborers and a few Muslim families who stay in fruit farms having taken them on yearly rent from the local farmers. They are under scanner now. The villagers are in panic and suddenly some rumor starts that some Muslims have seen in the streets at midnight. Then you hear that they are hiding some Corona positive Jamati who is still untraced. You can very well imagine the condition of a few dozen Muslims among thousands of Hindus. These common people are the ones who are at the maximum risk of communal violence. But then if things turn communal it helps all political parties. One party gets advantage from one group, the other from the other group. So Corona may not have much of political leverage, the communal consequences of Corona definitely possess immense significance. The only antidote possible so far to stop the scourge of Corona, social distancing, is further aggravating the sense of alienation among the Muslims and a sense of irritable aloofness is creeping among them. And if it flares up, who will lose the most? These will be the innocent Hindus in Muslim majority areas and innocent Muslims in Hindu majority areas. The real rascals on both sides hardly pay any price.
On a positive note, in Bhagalpur Bihar, three poor sisters, almost dying of hunger, call the PMO. The rasping sands of Corona have eaten away the famed Indian administrative apathy. Within half hour of their call, they are the much relieved recipients of big packets of food and even new clothes. All the wings of administration are actually functioning the way they should normally. They are in fact justifying their salaries—many of them—for the first time in their careers. As they say, even misfortune comes with positives.
PM Modi is an expert in the art of rallying people behind him for a cause. He has requested people to switch off electric lights between 9 to 9:09 PM on April 5 and light lamps and candles as a Prakash Parva to create a feeling of unity among the countrymen to wage a battle against Corona and be ready to make some individual sacrifices. Quite surprisingly, people really listen to the PM and follow also as he patronly tells them. Lighting the lamp is OK, but you cannot expect the tempo to stay within the somber boundaries of the symbolism of a humble lamp to fight the darkness. People have to have their cannons also to ward off the evil, and remind the unpolluted skies that see we are down but not out. Be ready for our banging exhaust fumes when we come out again. So the leftover firecrackers from Diwali light up the sky and boom-boom go the blast, letting off huge plumes of smoke and airy vibrations shaking the steady wick of oil lamps. Here they won’t listen to even the honorable PM. His political opponents, though, have to condemn the move at all costs, even if it sounds without any rhyme or reason. Muslims again will see it as a majoritarian Hindu way of fighting. The PM has to engineer some Muslim ways of fight also, so that they don’t feel as alienated as they do now.
The celebrities are under the risk of getting redundant under the lockdown stage. On the lesser exciting stage of life, all and sundry, from the strongest to the poorest, appear more or less the same. So the outgoing free-birds are doing their level best to stay in the minds and hearts of their fans from their drawing rooms by sending videos. Vicky Kaushal is seen cleaning his fan. I hope his image doesn’t get cleaned from the hearts of his fans. Or to make it more positive, let his fans start cleaning the dirt of insensitivity and ignorance from their minds and hearts.
As one gets into the corner, move onto the back foot, you get few extra hard punches, if destiny has decided to light a few more stars twinkling across your nervous system. So the poor elders, those very same reprimanding and shrieking bullies, have been made to do shit-ups and sulk like little errant idiots by the mother of all, the grand mama, Mother Nature. Now children, with their innocent selves, are closer and dearer to the grand mama. So now children have also run into the grown-up whiplashing fray. My nephew Nevaan, 20 days short of his fourth birthday, is using the fear psychosis prevalent around to get his parents scared and get away with his treat, the same and very same cartoon channel.
They are in the balcony, trying to put some online-dispatched homework into his little brain. He finds them not so confident in their bullying these days. Caged parrots as they are! He has parroted the common symptoms that are being narrated all around the globe. He can feel that these intimidating elders are much scared of something that they say gives fever and cold. So here goes the little manipulator, using his resources expertly in the changed circumstances: ‘Mummy I think I have fever, feeling cold, and my nose is running!’ he drops the bomb. ‘Let’s not stay in the balcony. Come inside, I feel sleepy, not well. Switch on the TV. May be I won’t feel the fever then!’ Little does he realize, he has been jumping like the naughtiest ape-kid in African jungles till the very moment when the study session started! Oofs, poor elders cornered like never before.
With most of former apes not jumping on the stage of life, the earth appears to be resting after ages. Seismologists have confirmed that earth’s crust is vibrating far less than earlier. It has gone almost into sleep. In the absence of our drama, everything seems to have gone into rejuvenation. Let’s make such civilizational pause mandatory over the globe after regular intervals to allow Mother Nature heal and save it from a burnout.
Are the weapons of destruction and nuclear stockpiles helpful now? The US has shortage of medical equipment and medicines. The boundaries and differentials of international politics have melted and all we see is a group of scared Homo-sapiens, suffering in the very same way and seeking the very same solution. Shouldn’t we realize and remember this even after the worst is over? In the moments of pause, we can calculate the costs of our virtual animosities and insecurities, our limitless defense expenditures, our stockpiling of weapons which turn obsolete and redundant in the face of any danger that challenges us as a common humanity. These murderous weapons are relevant only in cases where only a portion of humanity is engaged in confrontation on the basis of differentials contrived by our mind, which creates hypothetical values to satisfy our individual and group ego.
There being no solution for the common challenge so far, the medics are giving hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug in treating Corona patients. The US President has requested PM Modi, his dear friend, for urgent supplies of this drug. Unfortunately, things are tragically falling apart in the US. Now, PM Modi, afraid of things going out of control in his own house, has said ‘no’ to the request. I think as of now just apprehending that this stock may be needed in future in India is quite unwarranted. It is simply abiding by the age old rules, strictly created by the boundaries and walls of one-upmanship. As of now, there is one sufferer: humans across the globe. Let’s pause the national differentials for the time being and use our resources collectively! A patient, wherever he/she may be in need the medicine now, should be given priority as a citizen of earth, an earthling, the basic identity all of us share on this little planet. We need not stockpile medicines for future patients, while many die presently without them. Those who are dying in any country have a first right to the medicine irrespective of political and boundary divisions. This is the time for sowing the seeds of a collective spirit, a global community. Let’s make it a better world!