B L Saraf
Countries across the world are fighting the novel corona virus as people in large numbers are falling prey to it. With the number of affected cases on the rise across Continents, we are in a situation not experienced in the recent past. The mortality rate may not be high, as yet, to cause an alarm : medical experts in the country , nonetheless, tell us that as the virus spreads rapidly and widely the chances of mortality rate going up the graph are real, given the volume and density of India’s population .
India, as indeed the whole world, has realized the gravity of the situation. PM Narendra Modi is trying hard to make countrymen aware of the catastrophe, waiting to happen if we don’t follow the protocol devised to prevent it. GOI under the able leadership of the PM has initiated measures to arrest the spread of the virus and combat the menace. While asking people to impose self restrictions in the movement, Modi has done well to assure the nation that there is no need to panic .
The virus affects us all. It has brought whole world to a grinding halt, and made us aware how precarious and precious life is. The measures to fight the menace may be draconian but are extremely necessary to save us from impending doom . However, as prescribed protocol unfolds it may not be that tough for most of us to follow .
First, we are advised to avoid shaking hands with others. With indifference having overtaken all the spheres of social behavior, to give up the’ good manner’ of hand shaking is not a big deal. Bashir Badar, a noted Urdu poet put it succinctly long ago:
Koey haath bhe na milayeaga
Joe galay miloogea tappak say
Yeh nayea mizaj kaa shaher hai
Zara phaslay say milaa karoo
(Nobody would extend his hand, no matter the warmth of your gesture: The city is of new temperament, better to keep distance).
Then we are told to impose Safe Social Distancing (SSD) and limit people to people contact. SSD means to avoid moving in the social circles and places usually frequented by the people. The bard had advised us well in time ;
Youenhi besabab naa phera karro
Kaiy sham ghar rahaa karro
Yeh joe zindagee kee kitab hai
Issay raat e din padha karoo
(Don’t loiter aimlessly, be home some evenings; And read the book called life)
Note: My acknowledgments / apologies to the poet for transgression made or error committed, if any .
It wouldn’t stop there ; we are then told to maintain at least one meter distance from the next person : keep aloof as possible and use sanitizer : which means that while confined to home don’t be close to a near and dear one.The advisory is primarily aimed at the old and infirm. Luckily it won’t be painful for them to adhere to the advice . The prevailing ‘Doctrine of Nuclear Family ‘ has forced them to be alone, with no near and dear one close to spread or contact the infection. Inscrutable are the ways the nature acts. What at a particular time may have been a curse turns a blessing , later. Aged and infirm parents often bemoan the absence of children; now their absence has become a boon , in as much as they won’t have to exert much for the SSD. They are saved of the parting trauma. ‘Nuclear Family ‘ being a rule of the day, the SSD will lend credibility to the concept. However, there is a lurking danger : ‘keep a distance rule’ if observed for long may one day detonate the nucleus and explode the family – if we can call it so.
On a serious note: we are caught in a situation where the fear of unknown has overtaken us . That along with these measures is bound to create anxiety which, the psychiatrists warn, may cause emergence of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) , leading to fear that one may have caught the infection. So, we are told to avoid anxiety also. SSD is a measure bound to affect societal order. It ought not to be stretched to give an impression that nothing can happen us. That will amount to the denial of life.
True, one comes alone in the world and leaves alone. Being alone may be a fundamental quality of life : but it is a depressing one . Homo sapiens believe in socializing. Therefore social exclusion has its limits . Beyond a point there is a real danger of getting into a solitude – unable to live in society. A human being can’t think of being sufficient for himself. But it is a time of crisis. While we should leave job of cure and treatment to the medical experts this is really a time to stand together, keep an eye on the neighborhood. With due regard to SSD we have not to snap the social cord. It is our duty to keep humanity intact and take care of one another. Someone has very aptly put it, “social distancing doesn’t mean distancing from the social responsibility. “It would be appropriate to listen to our President Ram Nath Kovind: In his column published in a national daily he writes.
“This new virus strikes beyond manmade distinctions of religion, race and region. The world has been busy drawing distinctions and waging wars over us – versus -them. But we suddenly realize that in the face of a grave mortal threat like present one, we have but one identity – we are all human beings.”
It has taken a tiny virus to show how vulnerable we the human beings are . It is now for us to reemphasize the truth : our lives are intertwined – whether we live in Asia or Africa under any religious denomination.
(The author is former Principal
District and Sessions Judge)
B L Saraf