Farheena Muzaffar & Samreena Yaqoob
Unbeknownst to all, a virus has grown so big that the entire globe is in its grasp. It was in December 2019 when Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist working in Wuhan, raised alarm about a cluster of SARS-like pneumonia cases. However, no one paid heed to him and Li himself died of the disease on February 7.
Now the disease has been described as a pandemic and it has claimed two lives, so far, in Srinagar. Soon after the news of the disease having arrived in Kashmir spread, there were two reactions. The first was to frantically stock all essential supplies (including face masks and sanitisers) even if that meant hoarding unnecessarily. The second reaction was to start making fun of the epidemic. People shared on social media funny videos, memes, and jokes. It seemed that for some people corona was nothing but a means of entertainment. To use humour to lighten a situation is different from mocking it. The pressing priority is to behave as responsible citizens. There is no doubt that in situations like these, melancholy and panic may overwhelm us, and that it is important to keep our spirits high and have an optimistic approach, but not at the cost of sounding puerile and frivolous.
In addition to this, a chunk of population is involved in spinning hoax narratives or false news. It creates frenzy and fright among the masses. As rightly assessed by Joseph Goebbels, “The bigger the lie, the more people believe it”. There is no doubt that we enjoy freedom of expression, particularly on social media, but the freedom comes with a responsibility. It was bizarre that people shared an anonymous photo in the name of a COVID-19 patient from Kashmir. No person who has some ethics and integrity would ever publicise someone’s identity without her/ his consent. We all talk about our rights but what about our duties?
Another irresponsible behaviour is seen among the educated illiterate. When any calamity breaks, it is suggested that the educated are better able to comprehend the seriousness of the situation, but to our dismay we have witnessed the contrary. Students, instead of being cooperative, are complaining about coming under scrutiny. They have fled and evaded medical screening on false pretexts. They are putting not only their own lives in danger but of their parents and loved ones as well. This is the time to help the government, not defy it. Those who have returned to Kashmir from other parts of India should report to the authorities and go through medical tests. The virus won’t last forever and so won’t these curbs.
The need of the hour is to adopt preventive measures as per the issued guidelines. While it is important to have faith in the Almighty, it is imperative to remember the adage, ‘Trust in Allah but tie your camel’. Taking such a serious situation as an opportunity for gatherings and festivities is condemnable. It is obligatory to stay in solitude and confined to home. This is not only our social responsibility but also a moral one, as anything which can harm humanity is a crime in the court of the Almighty.
As the healthcare in Kashmir lags far behind than most countries, it is wise to take good care of ourselves or it may lead to an explosion in the mortality rate. To go into quarantine is not a choice, it is our duty. Better to be safe than sorry. We must try nip the evil in the bud. As rightly said by a doctor, “This virus has a very big ego: he will not come to your house unless you go out and invite him.”
Now the question arises, how to stay at home and kill the time? We in Kashmir best know the answer, as we have developed various coping mechanisms for surviving lockdowns. We can put our energies into something productive, constructive, and creative. We can learn a new language, a new skill, spend quality time with our family (while maintaining a safe distance), avail benefit of the online MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) videos, learn about new things, read books that have been lying idle on the bookshelf, and what not.
This time can also prove to be an opportunity for soul cleansing, self introspection, and self realization. We can dedicate some time to reading scriptures, meditating, and contemplating.
This article cannot be concluded without expressing our heartfelt gratitude to our real heroes in white coats who are working fearlessly, tirelessly, and selflessly. May their efforts, dedication and untiring determination not go unrewarded.