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Corona demands something more!


June 2, 2020

Corona, or you may call it Covid-19 is a tirade against the dogmas. Science was vigorously telling for last two decades that the virus has to prevail. But according to one of my schoolteacher’s poetry, ‘khugran-e-teergi ko hae museebat roshni’ so we always shirked the ways science was compelling us to think, behave and act. It poses a serious threat to at least three dogmas — logic is what I know or as such told to know, “nothing will happen” syndrome and with age we definitely grow.

My boy, Sheriff, once my assistant in Sierra Leone and a typical West African soul, even having seen the tragedies inflicted by Ebola, was still adamant to remain attached with ‘their bush’ somewhere in the tropical. Being its proud member, he was hysterical while mentioning bush of his secret society.

He used to quote me often the example of another Sheriff that when Ebola took his wife, his only child — a two and half year boy — was also infected and was running behind his father in search of mother’s care and warmth, but the father was running ahead of his son to save his own life. The poor child died a few hours later and the father survived though, yet they never saw an iota of smile on other Sheriff’s beaming face. But Sheriff was Sheriff! He used to halt the jeep with creaky breaks and used to jump out to get bush meat for his dinner’s soup. Wasn’t Ebola, like Covid-19, mutated from animals and classified as a zoonotic?

My hinterland populace, whom we are promising education for self-discerning since times immemorial, still believes in threads (dhagay) and breads (langar), salt and malt (danay), phoonks and spoons, stones and strictures, trees and breeze, shapes and non-shapes, signs and shrines and what not? Say the knowledge economies or the rambling economies, which are far away from the contours of Joseph Stieglitz’s learning society, behave the same way.

All of them are striving in their own ways to the Covid-19. They are testing for virus which is wreaking havoc on everyone’s national composure and aplomb. Pre-disposed have been exposed and disposed. We the same!

Even if they believe that if they have to fight Covid-19, they have to follow the science only; washing hands with soap and running water for twenty seconds, observing newly-defined charter of social distancing, maintaining physical distance irrespective of relationships, following the etiquettes of coughing, sneezing and meetings and not shaking hands, but to pat the chest to equally say ‘hi’ and ‘bye’; are they ready to practice ‘the science’.

Like democracy, you are a democrat at heart, home and country, or you’re not, and acknowledging science is also an intrinsic temperament.

There is nothing similar to semi-science, half-science or my-science. Either it is ‘a science’ or ‘no science’. So it was convenient to start the journey; after the great Taftan experiment, they thought ‘I have no signs’, ‘huh corona!’, ‘I’m asymptomatic so I can roam around’, ‘How can I leave my family behind as if there is no risk to elderly?’, ‘corona ki aisi ki taisi’ ‘I can hoodwink the airport staff’ and ‘wekhi jaiygi’ etc. Lo and behold, a Contact 31 and commonly known as super-spreader infected much of nation in South Korea. This story is just anecdotal. All the ‘matter of belief’ places were jettisoned by the R and contributed into virus sprawl with an astronomical surge.

But we were content that much of our burden is being taken by these dogmas. So focus only on those who matter, who speak, or could speak. Apply the deduction; so to say world’s best foreign hospitals for less than 2% super rich, top-notch private hospitals for 5% upper class, best public sector hospitals for babu class and 7% middle class, remaining 13% primary and secondary health facilities and rest of the them are ‘khuda kay asray per’.

It is not one of us, it’s all of us. But the evolving dilemma of Covid-19 has warned that till the time I’m there, no mosque, no church, no temple and no tomb can arrest me, but the science.

I am curious to know to who these will look for socio-economic-political and medical treatment. Even bigger conundrum will be emanating lurking questions in hibernated as well as average minds which they look for if a shrine doesn’t heal? They may not find the logic behind such inscrutable workmanships of these pandemics, but they will definitely question the efficacy of their gods?

Next 80 years of this century, Covid-19 pandemic is going to rule. Technology through its disruptive techniques, researchers with loads of mathematical pandemic modeling, noble prize stuff literature on corona apathies and societal aberrations (to be recorded through novels, poetry, prose, history and fiction) with market best selling recognition will be there.

But I think technology, research or the literature can wait because someone has to sleep with the Covid-19 to invent his or her respective masterpieces but my belief can’t. If my god didn’t work, I have to quickly find one - the mightier one.

I have already started browsing. Let’s find together. But there is a question, are you ready to give the shocked ones a story? They have become hollow overnight. They are struggling with their belief systems. Staunch the rigid, greater the intensity of rude awakening.

This is the time. Cling them to science and mathematics! Explain them the only panacea is logic. All religions speak of logic. Let’s find the missing link in them with the help of science.

If there was no balance why it was said, ‘Surely the worst of beasts in God’s sight are those that are deaf and dumb and do not reason (8:22). They say test, test and test. Let them, we shall too, in due course. But I would say educate, educate and educate. Covid-19 is momentous and impetuosity is endemic. Soon the virus’s wait will end, but with a corollary yield towards the discovery of medicine and vaccine but educating the masses, with a purpose of introducing mutation of normalcy and sensibility, it may take even longer — just a few more generations. You think we will find a solution this way.

Big No! But we would be better able to cope the future coronas better and to understand the logic behind such topsy-turvies. Still the divine reserves the right of selected dissemination of knowledge.

Let’s attempt a model; technology in the hands of children of intractable terrains of Taftan and give them courage to, at least, humbly question the tunneled wisdom, tell the kids of nearby villages of Deosai plains that virus knows no religion, educate the budding students of primary school in Chak 36 Gaaf-Bay in Punjab to practice personal hygiene as part of their ‘cleanliness is half of the faith’ teachings, and let the young footballers of Lyari Slums in Karachi know how efficiently they can hone their skills by mathematically simulating how to guard the goalpost against the thumping penalty kick by Lionel Messi.

However, corona lessons are not only for children. Data shows that most vulnerable group is above 50 both in terms of super-spreaders as well as super-catchers. How to handle this most unruly population who has to attend funerals, frequent worship places and refute the humble supplications of their younger ones to remain inside.

This is partly because corona is a rare phenomenon and we never practiced stay-home thing. Interestingly our elders are as mobile as the people in 20-50 years bracket but corona demands more responsibility from everyone; especially the elderly ones.

You know it or not the other Sheriff’s phenomenon has started even in most traditionalist cultures like ours because after all it’s a survival war. Onus of protection is on everyone. (The writer is special secretary, primary and secondary healthcare, Punjab. [email protected])