WE, the citizens of India, were reassured when we heard Narendra Modi talking about the coronavirus and what he wanted us to do to combat its ravages. Here, indeed, was a leader for the occasion, a communicator ‘par excellence’.
The coronavirus is an unknown quantity! It had not been encountered before anywhere in the world, and certainly not in India. It originated at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, in China, as we are told. It spread in geometric proportions and forced the Chinese government to create ghost towns. The disease spreads through droplets ejected by humans when they cough or sneeze and if, by chance, one touches even the surfaces where the droplets have rested, and the hands that unintentionally touch those surfaces go unintentionally to your mouth, nose or eyes, then you will be the next victim!
The coronavirus is like terrorism in one sense — no one knows who the next victim is going to be! And that is why it has generated much fear and despair. Since the virus did not confine itself to one geography and soon spread via the modern air traveller to the US, Europe and the rest of the world, including India, unfortunate mortals living in the afflicted countries needed a leader like Narendra Modi to goad us to stay away from argumentations and follow what the leader tells us to do.
We refuse to follow Modiji when he wants us to meekly accept the CAA in its present form, the NPR and the NRC. His oratory will fail him at such times of discrimination. But in the time of the corona, we welcome his leadership and thank “whatever gods there be” for his fighting spirit.
Since March 22, even earlier actually, my wife and I have accepted voluntary quarantine in the confines of our own home. We have given paid leave to our domestic help, who commutes from his ‘chummery’ by train and adjusted our daily chores to suit. Since at our age we dare not sally forth to purchase necessities, we have asked our ‘chauffeur’ to report in the mornings to help us feed ourselves. Life has turned topsy-turvy!
If all the measures taken in China, South Korea, Japan, the US (in particular), Italy, Spain and other European countries have not stopped the virus from spreading in their own countries and abroad, the utter helplessness of Man, as Modiji pointed out, has been proved. Is it nature taking revenge for all the harm that Man has done to the environment over the centuries? We really do not know, but what we do know is that we have been proved utterly helpless in the time of the corona. Our helplessness stares us in the face and mocks the ‘sapiens’ in us!
Man has stepped on the surface of the moon and sent unmanned spacecrafts to Mars, but is not able to fight this virus! On the other hand, Man has been forced to bow before this unknown entity and to retreat to hidden corners to avoid its sting!
Even in the time of war, we have not experienced a situation where all human activities are stopped. William Harrison Ainsworth, the author, wrote about the Great Plague in London in his book Old St. Pauls. The French philosopher Albert Camus also wrote about the plague in Algeria. Worse than what these writers described is happening today.
Modiji has asked us to stay put at home, patiently, for three weeks. We must all listen and comply. I would not be surprised if our patience is further tested and the date advanced. The US, the most powerful country on earth, is experiencing the truth of the virus only now after precautions were put in place. My own rough calculations culled from TV commentators' dire warnings indicate June-end/July as the time of relief.
And what about the economic and social costs that every afflicted country has to bear inevitably? The present indications are that economic activity may have to restart from low if not near-bottom levels when normalcy is restored. Germany and Japan overcame obstacles to recovery and shone after their defeat in World War II. Even the victorious Allies had to work hard to readjust to peacetime industries. We, too, will overcome!
Modiji came to power in 2014 on a promise of development. He veered out in 2019 to his party's majoritarian agenda. When the corona is behind us, it will be wise of him to use his leadership and communication skills to lead us to work hard for “Sabka Vikas”, a concept to which he has paid only lip service till now.
In the time of the corona, every Indian, be he or she a Hindu or a Muslim or Christian or Sikh, was equally targeted by the virus. No one was exempted on grounds of religious belief, or caste or economic status. Their response to Modiji’s directives was similar. Modiji should take note of this and take us all along. His leadership in the time of the corona has been tested and applauded. He can capitalise on the virus to sow unity in the country on the platform of a universal humanity that needs to be protected from some future viruses which can decimate each and every one of us, whether Hindu or Muslim.
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