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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 23, New Delhi, May 22, 2021

The Covid-19 Pandemic: Bringing the Best and the Worst in Humans | Vikash Sharma

Saturday 22 May 2021

by Vikash Sharma*

When we look at the pandemic hit world, we tend to feel that life has come to a standstill and we have been caught in the vicious cycle of pain, loss and unprecedented suffering. Amid the tragic and devastating situation that we find ourselves amid, we often find ourselves losing faith in the possibility of a better time, of a peaceful virus-free tomorrow as countless stories of pain and suffering hardly leave us with any hope.

The pandemic stricken world where everyday we encounter stories of death and mourning, loss and suffering, human agony and helplessness has made it very difficult for the heart to relate with any kind of celebration, festivity or personal jubilation, how can one be happy when the rest of the world is undergoing so much suffering and pain? It wouldn’t be wrong to say that as we encounter the news of the death of loved ones, friends and relatives and lakhs of fellow country people amid a crumbling healthcare system, oxygen crisis and lack of medical access, as we are bombarded with the mind boggling images of dead bodies of COVID-19 patients floating in the waters of Ganga, mourning relatives outside overburdened crematoriums and grave-yards- we cannot for a moment forget the gravity of the loss that the country is facing today. How then can one celebrate, be at peace or distance oneself from the agonies that define a pandemic ridden world?

Sometimes, out of the sheer inability to change things for the better or to be of any help to the wounded world that we find ourselves in, we tend to feel as if we are destined to only be mute, helpless spectators of such a deadly crisis and stare at a future where hopelessness, death and suffering claim many more lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left its impact on all people, almost erasing the boundaries of caste, class and religion but apart from impacting people across social and economic categories, the virus has deepened the virus of violence, exploitation, marginalisation and brutality inside human beings. The second kind of virus has ensured that people who are higher up in the ladder cheat, exploit, marginalise and discriminate against people who are on the receiving end.

Perhaps this becomes more evident if we look at how the virus of communal hatred was used to defame a religious minority during the early phase of the pandemic, how black-marketing of critical medicines, vaccines and oxygen cylinders has claimed the lives of many needy patients who couldn’t afford to buy them at exorbitant prices, how countless patients have died waiting for medical attention outside health facilities.
The absurdity of the situation is also highlighted by the fact that the Delhi Police recently went ahead and arrested several people who were putting up posters against the government’s lack of accountability and the vaccine shortage that it is presently succumbing before.

The broken healthcare system, an exhausted medical supply chain with visible shortage of vital drugs, vaccination and equipment accompanied with a shortage of functional staff, lack of state accountability, widening death statistics, helpless citizens all remind us of the gravity of the crisis that the pandemic has introduced before us.

Amid these, usual festivities and celebrations don’t seem to carry the same charm and glory that they carried earlier, it feels impossible to enjoy a festival when your countrymen are suffering, loved ones are dying and friends are suffering. This year the festivities of Eid and Parshuram Jayanti fell on the same date, while my timely secular friends sent messages wishing ‘Eid Mubarak’, those on the other end of the spectrum left no chance to assert that more than anything the day marked the birth of Parshuram, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. WhatsApp groups almost saw the two parties contending to raise the flag of one festivity over another almost in an attempt to overshadow and outdo the other.

While Eid and Parshuram Jayanti kept battling for the first position, the irony of the entire story is that no sensitive, sensible human being would have the heart to celebrate amid so much pain and suffering. It is sad to see that even when the deadly coronavirus has impacted Hindus and Muslims, rich and poor, upper and lower castes in the same way, we still don’t get over our discriminatory, communal and provocative tendencies. Thanks to the virus or even these apparently innocent conversations take bitter communal turns!

In these dark times, any positive news comes like a ray of sunshine and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that ordinary people have shown extraordinary possibilities, given the test of character and shown humanity in these difficult times. From Muslim people coming forward to cremate the body of a deceased Hindu Covid19 patient when no other person from his community would even touch the body, to civil society bodies collaborating to arrange oxygen cylinders for the needy at low costs, gurudwaras helping to make oxygen langars, to people doing their bit by providing free food and medical aid to the suffering poor to doctors and nurses doing tireless work to heal the patients amid the chaos.

While the crisis has shown the worst among people, it has also highlighted the deepest of possibilities in them and shown that there are people who elevate their consciousness beyond manmade differences and reach out to those in need with their heart and soul, if this is not hope, what else is?

* (Author: Vikash Sharma is Founding Editor of The New Leam)

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