UNITED: Only if people of all communities, religions, castes and economic status fight together they can overcome the pandemic. Coronavirus is above caste, creed or religion as dramatized by both Prince Charles and the royal family of Saudi Arabia being infected
By Rajan Narayan
Expressions like social distance implies that the big and rich are superior. Lockdown means protecting people from the virus. Not punishing them. The campaign against COVID-19 will not succeed till you can unite the people to fight the virus voluntarily!
THE primary problem with the government’s attempts at creating awareness over COVID-19 to contain its spread is the language used. Language very often ends up as a means of misleading people. Particularly if English phrases like social distance and lockdowns are used to communicate with an illiterate or semi-literate population, at least as far as English is concern. Instead of comforting the victims many of the expressions end up frightening them.
The most feared word in the campaign to create awareness against COVID-19 is “lockdown.” I do not know why this English word is used and if there is no vernacular substitute for it. Some Hindi genius will probably make it “band rakho.” Lockdown is not meant to make kaidi (prisoners) of those who might develop coronavirus infection. When the expression lockdown is used the real meaning is to keep out the virus from infecting the family which has taken precautions of staying at home or their house. The way the word lockdown is abused gives the impression that the entire population of India has committed a big crime and needs to be kept under arrest. Under lockdown every one of our homes whether it’s a jhopadpati (hut) or a bangala becomes a prison.
When you add even more fearful expressions like red spots and operation shield to the already frightening lockdown, it makes people panic. In an area which is declared red zone, the entire building or an area is sealed. To give you an example, what the Goa government might do is declare the whole of the La Campla Colony or Dempobhat where I am staying as a red spot, in addition to being lockdown. Which means that all the roads and lanes leading to my home will be completely sealed. Unlike in the case of the planned lockdown where one member of the family is permitted to go out to buy essentials for a couple or hours, if it’s a hotspot you cannot come out of the house at all. Whatever you need will be delivered to you by police or homeguards. I think the prisoners in Colvale prison who play host to murders will have more freedom than if you are in a red spot.
WHAT the government does not appreciate is that in Indian conditions with so much poverty it is not possible to impose a lockdown or have a red spot. In places like Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia, 10 t 20 people live in a small hut or slum tenement. There are small sheds which serves as both factories and living places. Recently, they found 11 people out of a family of 18 staying in a small chawl infected with coronavirus. There is no place even to move your hands or maintain the distance of a finger perhaps, leave alone a full meter. It is not been explained why you need to maintain the distance of one meter.
In fact it may not be necessary to maintain a social distance of one meter between your girlfriend and you. This is because coronavirus spreads not just from direct contact between human and human but also through touching things which may have the virus on them. The suspect may have sneezed and a few droplets landed on your mobile. When you pick up your mobile which may still have some droplets of an infected person, you may be infected too.
At home for instance if you have a visitor who may be an asymptomatic person for coronavirus, who touches the handle of your door and other items in the home…you may get infected when you use the same handle or items. Which is why the advice is the moment you go home you should wash your hands so that any viral material you may have picked up from not only infected people or surfaces may wash away. Like the virus you picked up when you used the computer used earlier by your colleague who may be infected.
THE worst insult in the language used with regard to coronavirus is the nonsense about maintaining social distances. We know that Narendra Modi does not know any English. He will be shocked if he comes to know that the top leaders of the world want to maintain social distance from him. Because social distance means not physical distance but distance in status. It means that while you are a maharani, your friend may be the kachrawali. The use of the expression social distance has caused embarrassment and created lower and upper class emotions and feelings. As the example of Prince Charles and Boris Johnson, the crown prince of UK and the prime minister of UK, both tested positive. This shows that coronavirus does not care whether you are a prince or a pauper. It does not care whether you belong to upper class or lower class, whether you are rich or poor or whoever you are.
Our attempt in the campaign against COVID-19 should be to give comfort to people. As Narendra Modi speaking in Hindi made it so clear. We need both life and livelihood. In our obsession with saving lives we are forgetting the need to preserve livelihood. If you have a lockdown you may be able to preserve life but certainly not livelihood. Over 80% of the people who live in this country are migrants earning daily wages on labour or unskilled work.
During the lockdown all factories have been closed and there is no income for those who live by earning daily wages. So, “jaan hai” but “jeene ke liye paise nahi hai.” Which is why migrants in all our big cities and metros are anxious to return home to their villages and small towns. Ghar wapasi means that unlike in Mumbai or Goa when they are in their own homes their family and relatives in the village will not let them starve. “Toh jaan hogi aur jeevan bhi hoga”.
Coronavirus is not a monster. It is not our enemy. The tragedy is that we are not treating people who get infected and who spread infection as criminals. Don’t lockdown the victims. Lock out the virus. Don’t talk of upper class and lower class. Talk of why you have to wash hands frequently. It makes no difference if you wear a mask or not. When you sneeze or spit you are not going to do it in the face of you friend, the droplets may fall anywhere including the table you are sitting on. The mask only makes you look like the bandage. Make the coronavirus wear the mask, not you.
And make sure you donate you blood for blood plasma therapy. Blood plasma is made of blood but does not take away either the red or white cells. And since your blood regenerates in 24 hours you can donate blood plasmas as many times as you want. You will be saving a life if you donate blood plasma. Let us change the language that we use, Modi should think and talk. In Hindi in which he is brilliant, instead of English in which is sounds like an idiot sometimes!