By Raffique Shah
November 08, 2021
Last Friday, I think it was, I was multi-tasking, as tech-savvy people would say—I was listening to the midday news on a radio frequency, reading an interesting online report on the global economy, and watching the muted television set where a T20 match was underway—when I shook my head vigorously to see if my instant-recall brain cells were still serving me better than Google, and they were. The news presenter did say that 14 persons had died from Covid-related issues, presumably during the previous 24 hours.
I immediately became very alert, and went into the introspection mode: how could I treat such a grave development, the resurgence of Covid-19 with startling ferocity, so casually? I have stayed very informed on matters relating to the pandemic ever since it first captured global attention in March 2020, ensuring that I knew all there was to know. Who in our time can ever forget the images of entire populations in Europe locked down in their homes, hundreds of corpses loaded in body-bags, people dying on the streets, in their homes, hospitals and medical personnel in the most developed countries in the world being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of deaths we’d seen. Most governments were numbed by the crises the pandemic triggered, from powerful economies grinding to a halt, schools, shops, pharmacies, transport of every kind—motor vehicles, ships, aircraft stopped doing what they usually did. We were watching, with shock and awe, the days the Earth stood still.
Now, one year and several months ahead, global economic engines had restarted operations, several vaccines had entered the equation in a manner that favoured developed countries in a most shameful manner, and when Third World countries like ours begged, pleaded to get some of the life-saving medication, we found that the same people who were bashing the government here for its inept handling of procuring vaccines were now refusing to be vaccinated, their inexplicable stance leaving countries like ours still very exposed to the killer-virus and new, deadlier strains.
In other words, we had come a full, retrograde circle, so much so that I have grown inured to death that seems to encircle me, such that fourteen people dying in one day from Covid-related conditions escape my attention. I, too, have been numbed by numbers. Last week, for example, when my brain-computer failed to register the gravity of the pandemic that still stalks us, I received word of the passing of an old friend in New York where he had settled, and later, news that a veteran journalist/columnist I had known for many years, also gave up the ghost.
In normal times, there would have been warnings of these men’s condition, their battle with whatever was threatening to take them beyond the mortal boundary. Today, with multiple daily deaths from co-morbidities casting long shadows that blend our images with the backgrounds, rendering the dead and living as the same.
So here I am, I, who learnt to value human life as sacrosanct, to have compassion for fellow human beings that is etched in my DNA much the way love is, to live the way Che Guevara exhorted us to: above all, always be able to feel deeply the injustices meted out to people anywhere in the world…
To fall anywhere short of these lofty ideals is to virtually surrender my soul to the bad and the ugly. I hear stories of recklessness permeating all strata of this society, exposing in particular, the aged and the infirm. I am told that those who can afford it and even some who can’t, are travelling to party and have a good time, in the process exposing themselves to the deadlier strains of the virus. They return home and boast of their exploits and calmly pass on the deadly strains to the hapless, the vulnerable. People die. They don’t care. I am convinced that they don’t give a damn about even their families with whom they live.
I hear stories too, of many in the business sector who engage in wide-scale extortion, unconscionably hiking the prices of essential goods, thereby putting them beyond the reach of ordinary people. No hint of remorse.
And of course, there are those who, for no reason that is rational, refuse to be vaccinated hence ignoring the appeals of the medical fraternity, community and other leaders who are virtually begging them to establish firmly this wall of defense against the virus. They are insensitive to the hurt they inflict on others in their quests to appear defiant. When children start dying—and this will happen—and their parents, indeed the society as a whole rise against the devious idiots who are playing smart with foolishness and they feel the wrath of a people wronged, maybe then they will take notice.
Too late, too late shall be the cry.