The entire world is in a turmoil. China, supposedly the origin of this deadly virus, has somewhat stabilised after struggling for over 3 months. But Italy, Spain and the mighty USA are all reeling under the tremendous impact of this outbreak. Panic has taken over much of the world, and for justifiable reasons mostly. Most countries and their people did not take this seriously at first, and many ridiculed this as a disease only for the Chinese and Asians. Now they are mostly under absolute lockdown, after suffering losses of inexplicable magnitude, both in lives and in economic wealth. Even Singapore, a country that took this seriously as early as in February, has taken severe measures of isolation and quarantine from this week.
India was expected to face serious challenges, due to its huge population and unusually high employment in the unorganised sectors. Compared to that, although the number of infected has risen sharply over the last few days, it has not reached the alarming levels as was anticipated. Not yet at least.
The country, which was torn apart by political clashes and protests along the eternal platform of Hindu-Muslim divide, till only 6 weeks back, has now moved away from this time tested storyline. Although incidents like the indefensible gathering at the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz Masjid, has made people raise the communal angle once again.
But in general, the right wing forces and the people who subscribe to their ideology, have now moved on from the Hindu-Muslim angle to a more global Anti-China narrative. But I will spare that for another day. Today, I’ll just talk about my own country India.
We are generally gifted with an enviable ability, of finding reasons to pat our own backs.
We somehow manage to find things that most others don’t see. As soon as the CoronaVirus became familiar, some of our proud flag bearers drew the linkage between viruses and consumption of meat (drawing conclusions from the alleged bats and pangolins which are often seen as the origin of the Covid-19 virus, although without enough conclusive evidence). That vegetarianism has been a part of many sects within Hinduism (and thereby India, by logical correlation), some people pointed out how most Indians were immune from such viruses from hell, because they have the purity and divinity of a vegetarian diet.
But of course, not all Hindus are vegetarians, so the narrative had to be expanded to make it more inclusive. It became focused on ‘curry’ as the inseparable part of Indian diet, and how the spicy essence of curry has always protected Indians from such disruptive viruses. It of course did not mention that 15% of the population dies from diarrhoea and dysentery, probably caused by that same spicy curry.
Then of course, if the whole world is struggling to find a vaccine or any medical cure for Covid-19 and the WHO seems to have given up on finding a cure, some Indians had to be instrumental in making the world realise that there is always a cure in india. I found in my own social media groups, people known to me and supposedly close enough, claim that Homeopathy has a definite cure to this kind of a virus. Some Govt. institutions also encouraged people to take certain homeopathic medicines to prevent, if not cure, this menacing virus.
Then there were two separate time periods, within 10 days of each other, where it was claimed that ‘Indian doctors have found a cure for the virus’ and this was even telecast on some popular television channels. I watched some of them myself, and I noticed that the doctors themselves were pretty modest, and denied the claims of them having invented any remarkably efficient drug. They had tinkered around with the dosage from existing drugs used for other viral treatments, and found something that seemed to be marginally more effective and had helped cure some patients, 7 to be exact.
Now, it needs to be mentioned here, that among all the CoronaVirus infected, mortality rate was usually assumed to be around 1-2% which means that 98-99 out of 100 infected people, are expected to recover by themselves, due to their own internal immunity, which is usually aided by other drugs including anti-virals. And all this is despite the fact, that there is no cure as such, for this specific virus.
I was very supportive of PM Modi urging the people to follow a self imposed #JanataCurfew for a day. Social distancing was the need of the hour and it made all the sense. He also asked people to clap, ring bells, blow conches and beat drums, to show solidarity with the emergency and health workers and appreciate their contribution. It was a noble idea, especially in a thankless society where frustrated relatives of dead patients are often known for beating up the doctors and nurses who were treating them. So a little empathy and acknowledgement could be useful by all means.
But then, a theory was floated, about how ringing bells etc. create a certain decibel level of noise that destroys viruses and bacteria, and how this has been the fundamental reason for these being seen in traditional temples, and how it kept the premises disease free. There is always a Vedic connection to everything!
And as expected, some people took this appreciation and solidarity a bit too seriously, and came out in huge numbers on the streets, and started banging their drums and ringing their bells, thus defeating the core and more important idea of social distancing.
The right wing brigade couldn’t keep themselves away from this euphoria. They declared that cow dung and cow urine, both excreta from the divine cow, considered ‘holy’ by most Hindus, holds the prevention and possible cure, to Covid-19. People were seen dipping in cow dung and drinking cow piss, to keep the CoronaVirus away. Some of them managed to keep the virus away, but fell sick from the urine and had to be hospitalised for treatment.
As social distancing became more and more the norm all over the world, patriotic Indians posted with pride, how the Indian tradition of greeting someone with a ’Namaste’ by pressing your hands together, was designed keeping in mind the threat of viruses and bacteria from physical contact. A clip of Prince Charles refusing to shake hands, and insisting on a namaste style greeting, got many Indians euphoric. The west had finally understood the depth of our traditional value systems! A few days later, Prince Charles, heir to the British monarchy, managed to contract the virus himself.
Now, in a few hours’ time, most Indians will do something that their Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has urged them to do. They will switch off their lights and illuminate their surroundings by lighting up candles, oil lamps, torches and even torches on their mobiles, for 9 minutes at 9 pm. The idea is to ‘defeat the darkness of despair, and light up lives with hope’. As this comes in the second week of the 3 week lockdown, it is understandable that many people are frustrated and bored from being restricted in their movements, and would take this up as a welcome change to their difficult daily routine in recent weeks.
Much as I see this as another marketing gimmick, I really have nothing against this idea. At least, it is harmless from every angle. Yes, there are concerns about power grid failure and blackouts etc. but I have seen conflicting views and I am not sure these are valid concerns.
The country has mostly seen its people limited to their own houses, and this can be a break from that boredom, which might at times lead to more desperate ideas and eventually harmful actions. So why not?
But please, don’t make it bigger than what it is, and try to avoid references of how lighting up diyas (lamps) can lead to a cosmic reshuffling and how Quantum physics states that this will help build our will power and ability to fight the virus collectively. I have been watching videos of doctors with stethoscopes hanging around their necks, giving lectures on quantum physics, and other people explaining the astronomy related effect of Mars and the number 9, in building our immunity, as the basis of this call from PM Modi. These explanations really don’t help us in anyway, and trying to manipulate science to fit our devotional narrative, makes us collectively look stupid and uneducated.
So by all means, go ahead and switch off the lights, and light up your lamps and candles. I am sure it will bring a sense of positivity to a population burdened by despair. This will not solve anything, but at least it will give you a feel good sensation, and that counts, especially under these difficult times.
But please, please, please, don’t declare it as a Vedic tradition which is based on Scientific grounds, that will eradicate the virus and reestablish the dominance of this greatest country and culture, to the rest of the world. That would sound uncannily similar in naivety as ‘Make America Great again!’