Touchstones

Forget, we won’t

Forget, we won’t

Photo for representational purpose only

Ira Pande

Today, for the first time in my life, I feel I have run out of words. This last fortnight has been so full of deaths and bereavements, of news of children dying before their old parents, or of friends who one had grown up with falling to the virus, that I have lost my faith and my tongue.

I do not know what will become of us after this long nightmare is over but of this I am sure that if we survive, I will never take our happiness for granted. Nor will I ever foolishly believe that if one has been good and law-abiding, one has the right to a happy life. Over and over again, I recall that famous Buddhist parable of a mother asking the Buddha why her only child had been snatched away by death. He listened to her appeal to do something and calmly replied, ‘Get me a handful of grain from a home that has never experienced death, and I will bring your child back to life.’ This is one lesson that we can never internalise simply because death, after all, happens to other people. All of us know that we will die one day, but put off that day from our minds and everyday life. Christianity and most other faiths speak of how we can seek happiness, but it is only the Buddha and the Sufi saints who say that life is an unending saga of suffering enlivened only occasionally by joy.

Today I doubt if there is a single family that has not been touched by corona. Whether it is someone related by blood or a close friend, someone somewhere has left your life forever. Will we ever be able to celebrate Eid or Diwali or Christmas without that absence haunting us? This is why those who say public memory is short and that the people will not punish those who were caught napping when the pandemic was about to engulf us and will forgive the leaders who led us into this dark phase, are so wrong. No one will forget and if they do, then there is no hope for us as a nation. Where are the confident political leaders who said we had won the battle, defeated the virus and were on the brink of an economic miracle? Not a peep from them and their absence is now a slur on those who still persist in defending them or who resort to what-aboutery.

The pandemic has also taken the curtains off our basic selfishness and greed. Even as people die in the corridors of hospitals for want of oxygen or ventilators, there is a thriving black market being run by denizens who are supremely indifferent to human suffering. How do such people sleep at night? If only they had joined hands with those who have fought the battle even at the cost of their own lives, or of those who have quietly provided food and succour to the suffering, what may we have not done to save precious lives? I have applauded the spirit of the Sikhs before and I will say it once again, that this is the religion that has taught us to become better human beings. On behalf of all the bigots in my own religion and others, I hang my head in shame.

In the life forward, we will have to change our priorities. So healthcare and education must take precedence over defence and commerce. Our health centres, particularly in rural areas, have been hollowed out and the government hospitals (many have risen magnificently to this challenge) have been starved at the cost of private healthcare for the rich and powerful. The result of this crass commercialisation is there for all to see. Similarly, primary education has been depleted of its teachers because they have all chosen to work for private schools and teaching shops. The rampant spread of this disease and the resistance to scientific advice is a sad consequence of this error. That our leaders have actually promoted clapping and voodoo medicines over vaccination and pharmaceutically sound and proven cures is a crying shame. All these so-called sants and babas should be publicly shamed.

Finally, the utter confusion over our vaccination programme is incomprehensible when the man at the helm of the Health Ministry is the very person who spearheaded the polio drive and conquered public prejudice and problems of outreach efficiently and successfully. Has everyone lost their sense of right and wrong? Why does the government centralise what needs to be decentralised and decentralise what needs to be centralised? To my simple mind, vaccines should be procured by the Central government and then handed over to the individual states to handle at the block and taluka level. Is this so difficult to do? When the power to say yes and no resides only with one person, then that person has to take the blame for all that is going wrong today. Our international reputation is in tatters, our self-confidence is at an all-time low and our people are dying on the streets and thrown into our rivers to hide data.

Wah, India.

Top Stories

Record 84 lakh-plus people vaccinated on Day 1 of new Covid vaccine regime

Record 84 lakh-plus people vaccinated on Day 1 of new Covid vaccine regime

‘Well done India’: PM Modi hails record-breaking vaccination...

Pawar meets poll strategist Prashant Kishor, calls meeting of Opposition leaders on Tuesday

Pawar meets poll strategist Prashant Kishor, calls meeting of Opposition leaders on Tuesday

Second meeting this month amid heightened speculation about ...

LeT's Mudasir Pandit among 3 militants killed in Baramulla encounter

LeT's Mudasir Pandit among 3 militants killed in Baramulla encounter

Pandit was wanted by security forces in many cases, includin...

Centre initiates disciplinary proceedings against ex-WB Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay

Centre initiates disciplinary proceedings against ex-WB Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay

Former Chief Secretary has been warned of major penalty proc...

‘Not an outsider, I belong to a family of diehard Congress men’

‘Not an outsider, I belong to a family of diehard Congress men’

Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu on the political crisis b...

Cities

View All