India, I cry for thee. Like thousands and thousands of families who have lost someone due to Covid 19 and tens of millions of Indians and Indian diaspora worldwide collectively grieving the loss of lives. My eyes are wet, fingers numb, and the soul empty.
I feel worthless of my existence that I cannot do anything at this time but get further shell shocked every awoken hour of the day looking at some new picture of endless pyres being lit, relatives crying and pleading to everyone to get one cylinder of oxygen to save their dying family member, or of families being forced to abandon their most loved ones precisely at the time when they were needed most.
I wake up in the night with cold sweat and stare endlessly outside at the darkness hoping that my hollow, piercing eyes could strike a hole in this darkness and show the light at the end, somewhere, somehow which could lighten up the dark lives of my countrymen whose lives are uprooted by this calamity.
I get up and turn red in rage and fury as I know fully well like most Indians that this time this calamity was literally man made. A pit fire turned into uncontrolled wild fire raging across the nation by the worst Pied Piper of death of this century- Narendra Modi and his blind devotees.
No. Breathe. I will breathe. I will not die and not let fellow humans die. I will also not let this conversation die or turn negative.
I can write thousands of words and sentences detailing the criminal acts of Indian central and state governments, of powerful religious and corporate leaders and of scrupulous elements scavenging the dead and the distressed. Yet that does not help but only pushes lower the depth of grief. Every hour, every living day, there are hundreds of social media messages and What’s-app threads detailing the calamity and the callousness of the powers that be and of their dictatorial, fascist ways to control the narrative by using draconian state laws including NSA to instill further fear in the minds of hapless citizens.
Yet that will not help. Not today as now is when we need to act, not despair. What is important is that we realize that we are on our own and that Indians living in India and their grieving relatives living abroad need to act now to guide their fellow countrymen and find a way out of this calamity. The government has catapulted and lost all direction and no superheroes and Avatars will emerge from anywhere. We will have to dig deep and make heroes out of each other to fight this raging inferno.
While there are major actions possible for the future, here is what we can act on immediately to save ourselves and our grieving fellow citizens-
- Start believing in MODERN SCIENCE and nothing else- Please ignore all the jokers and merchants of religions talking about alternative medicines and practices, of mantras, hymns, prayers and cow-dungs. Of Indians having Vedic energy and extra strength which will shoo this virus away. Of hot Indian weather which will kill the virus. Follow modern science and AT LEAST for the NEXT FEW WEEKS, make it your ONLY RELIGION. Wear masks AND protective eye gear, practice social distancing even if you have to go working, wash your hands and face regularly and stay home, as much as you can. There are epidemiologists and scientists working worldwide who have found these measures as your biggest weapon to safeguard yourself and your family. No bullshit served by your local neighborhood What’s-app cow guru will deliver. Only science can take you to the other side.
- Respect the over stretched DOCTORS, NURSES and medical staff who are now our only hope. I know that you may feel difficult considering that a lot of hospitals in India are private and may be using this as an opportunity to make money too. Yet for the larger part, the humanity is good and as can be seen, the medical fraternity has been the real hero in this crisis and need our total support and belief.
- Get VACCINATED- As soon as possible. This is the ONLY AMRIT or magic lotion that will save you. Nothing else. Please do not believe your favourite uncle, auntie, preacher who feels that you are now not at risk since you have already had Covid. Or that you have now developed herd immunity since unlike government figures, close to fifty percent of the Indian population and definitely urban population is already infected. This is a rapidly mutating virus and you are not safe till you are fully vaccinated. So rush. Find the nearest vaccination clinic, stand in line with safe social distance, but get the first available dose of vaccine.
- Hold and do NOT rush for your second shot of vaccine in India- Yes, we fully well know that you are not fully protected till at least fifteen days after you have got the second shot of vaccine. So yes, you must get the second shot in time. But wait. You know fully well that vaccines are LIMITED in India and that you must allow as many people as possible to get their first shot of vaccine. Even if you are not fully safe. At least you are allowing more people to be safe and be able to have a shot at life. Science tells us that we are safer after getting the first shot AND most importantly run the risk of a milder disease even if we get Covid 19 and not a life threatening alternative for the unvaccinated. In Canada and many privileged countries of the world, they have spaced out the two doses to up to sixteen weeks to enable most of their residents to get the first shot first. So please live and let live.
- Stop HOARDING. Yes I know that some of you are rich and privileged and can get the scarce Remdesivir or the in-demand oxygen cylinder and keep it under your control for emergency. But please, if you follow precautions you can still avoid that situation but the person who is dying THIS very hour cannot. Please do not hoard and if can get one, please share it with the needy. Immediately. Let me tell you that whatever religion that you believe in, this one act of kindness will at least safeguard you for your after life or the day of judgement as this could the kindest gift that you ever could have given.
- Stop Stigmatizing people who have Covid-19. Unfortunately in India we are all suffering in this in some way or the other. Stigma would not help in curbing the disease and what the sufferers need now is your HELP, your empathy and your act of kindness. Even a small act like sourcing grocery and medicines and keeping it outside their door. Remember no relatives can come running from distant and far and if unfortunately your turn comes, it will only be your neighbours who can come forward for your immediate help.
- Ask for HELP. Do not fear government pressures or diktats. It is a time for revolt and speaking out as it is your life and that of your near and dear ones at stake. If you need help, oxygen, medicine, ask for it through all ways- phone calls, social media, family and professional channels, NGOs, foreign agencies. Anyone who can help. Please remember that you cannot bring a dead to life and hence it is no time to fear if the government asks you to stay quiet. Speak and stay alive.
- Gift, give away, donate- If you have any money available that you can spare, now is the time to share it. See the people who are dying and this is NOT the time to plan for donkey’s years ahead but for using all the money that you can spare to help your countrymen. Donate medicines, oxygen, hospital stays, food, groceries, even transportation costs and God forbid, cremation and burial expenses. That gold will be worthless sitting at home if you have to spend the rest of your living years living in fear inside the four walls of your room. Gift it away and maybe you would have contributed to create a world which is worth living again for millions. Also please share information of channels which are able to provide ground help on social media so that many more can contribute. Especially the Indian diaspora living outside who are numb but desperate to find any genuine channels for help to the needy.
- Isolate quarantine and stay away if you have got infected or have come into contact with anyone who is infected or even have an iota of doubt of infection. Please remember that not only will your act enable greater protection for you but will also break the chain of infection and protect even hundreds of people from further infection. Remember the current rate of re-infection in India is more than ten which means that one person is infecting ten more and that means that within days and weeks, one person can end up infecting hundreds if not thousands.
- Stay away from NEGATIVITY- These are dark times and with a continuous flow of negative and depressing news, this is easier said than done. It is a good time to know the true worth of your political and religious leaders but not the time to create chaos. Do not forget how the nation was brought to such crossroads and how people were left to die and those complaining were labelled crybabies. However there will be time to seek retribution and we will act then. For now let us find ways to keep ourselves energized, positive and helpful to others. Develop new hobbies at home. Watch television, read books, keep your phone down or close your laptop and connect with your spouse, child or parent living with you. Or on video phone and gossip with them endlessly. Eat good food and for once, forget your domestic help and learn to cook yourself. Remember lesser mortals like us living in countries like Canada, USA, need to prepare food on our own, wash utensils on our own, clean floors on our own and wash clothes on our own. Learn a new life and maybe it may turn out to be an exciting one.
- Last but not the least, prepare for future and also for the idea that this pandemic may stretch for a longer duration or may become an endemic which will repeat season after season. The world has changed and our lives have changed permanently. For better or worse. If you continue to wait for the past or in a matter of days, return to same life as you tried to return to before the start of this deadly second or third phase because your favourite politician or religious leader told you, then this could repeat. And repeat again and again. Please remember that we are all NOT safe from this pandemic till EVERYONE is safe and at current rate of vaccination, the entire world may not get vaccinated till 2024 end. Even India would be lucky to be fully vaccinated by 2022 end. So please prepare for the long haul and think how you need to reinvent yourself and start working on the same right away. A lot of jobs and careers would also change, relationships would change and while you may love to go back to your old comfort zone, that should only be left as a past memory. Prepare yourself for a new, changed world which thrives on zoom, digitization and biological protection.
Now let us talk future.
As I learnt in my earlier life running various companies, as a leader you need to fight daily fire and urgencies while never forgetting that you set aside time in the day for what is important- a vision for the future that will guide you ahead and create progress and bring prosperity.
We need to think similarly for a world beyond Covid-19 and while the above were fire-fighting proposals to take care of the current situation, in a series of upcoming articles, I would discuss on how to work and prepare for a changed world in terms of social and cultural norms, economic and industrial development to enable parity and develop a new political landscape where leaders do not guide us to doom or abandon us right when we needed them most.
For now, let us today resolve to give ourselves, our neighbors, our community and fellow citizens a chance to live and fight this calamity. Irrespective of caste, class, religion, creed or color! Please remember the blood that flows in our veins is same and tomorrow the plasma of the person whose origins you detested all your life may come to save you.
For once, let us forget our differences, ignore people who differentiate us and build a bridge that safely delivers India to the other side. Amen!
Posted in Times of India on 1st May 2021. Link below-