I don’t need any introduction. I know you are completely dilapidated and shattered because of my diversified forms and mutant character. At least for many generations you won’t forget me. I am no more some guest from afar but have become an inalienable part of your families as well as your society. I am the talk of the town for the last one-and-a-half year now. I have engulfed the whole globe. But let me tell you, I didn’t differentiate between haves and have-nots. You dealt with me by social distancing but for me all were alike. I entered your celebrations and mournings alike. I encroached into every mind and body, whether you had scientific temperament or not, religious bent of mind or otherwise. Despite the technological know-how that you accumulated over centuries, you couldn’t resist my arrival and rapid expansion. How could you? You were so busy in your worldly affairs.
Don’t get confused about me. I am not a super creature or any wise being – Homo sapiens – like you. I am merely a minute creature neither dead nor alive. Let me be very clear: I didn’t appear arbitrarily or out of the blue. I came with a purpose: to expose the fragility and vulnerability of your species in particular.
I am merely a warning. You might have witnessed my predecessors in different forms like AIDS, Ebola and Swine flu, which arrived via monkeys, bats and pigs. They all came to warn you, so that you can better understand the purpose of your life and live amicably and peacefully with your fellow beings and other species. But you took those warnings for granted and went on defiling and destroying this beautiful planet – the only place in the entire solar system where life can dwell. When all the earlier viruses failed to bring you back on the right path, I had to come myself into your busy world. None would have even thought of my arrival. Doesn’t matter how bad a name you give me, I was bestowed with the crowning title of ‘Corona’.
After residing within you, I have witnessed first-hand the plethora of your miseries, your frustrations, depression, the dead bodies of your loved ones. I swear that I don’t enjoy your losses at all. You might be thinking that I don’t want to go. No, you are entirely wrong if you think so. I do want to go out of your lives. In fact, I decided a few months back to disappear all of a sudden but every time I want to go, I remember that you left no stone unturned in destabilising the sustenance and normal balance of living things, along with despoiling the earth’s beauty and grandeur, throttling the lives of other species. So, I decide to stay.
Meanwhile, I taught you physical distancing, social distancing, sanitisation, hand wash, etc, the basics of hygiene. Not only this, despite your deep territorialisation, boundaries and frontiers, I deepened the process of globalisation by making countries interdependent for vaccines. Am I so dangerous and lethal that even vaccines fail to show full efficacy and some have even lost their lives after getting inoculated? Have I made you ponder that life is but a hustling of probabilities? Did I make you ponder over your limitations?
Leave it. Let’s look at my positive side also. I proved the categorical imperative of Immanuel Kant’s idea of human dignity. I made whole countries shed their ego and raised entire mankind on a high pedestal. Wasn’t I a blessing in disguise? I gave a chance to nature to cleanse itself. Mankind could see endangered dolphins, snow leopards, stags and elephants in human habitations. I caused arms-importing countries to start thinking of spending their money on health care instead.
I didn’t make any discrimination among you, but I did see your darker side. I saw thousands of dead bodies flowing in the river called mother Ganga. They couldn’t get a dignified cremation because people tried to save themselves from social stigma and ostracism and threw their loved ones to rivers. I didn’t discriminate; I attacked celebrities and underdogs in the same way. Economists say I deepened inequalities. I made the poor poorer and the rich richer. But there can be a trickledown effect, can’t it? No doubt I exposed your healthcare system. I saw people ready to put everything at stake for an oxygen cylinder, which they still couldn’t get.
Homo sapiens, you may forget everything and move on. After all, you are now 2 lakh years old on earth. Let me remind you about your achievements and milestones during this tenure. Planet earth came into existence some 4.6 billion years ago and you appeared on it some 200,000 years ago in the age of Holocene. When you were only a few in number, your movements were limited and needs only few. Every other organism including you was bestowed with everything for survival and sustenance in the lap of mother earth. Do you know what happened when your greed increased beyond your need? You started to grab other’s share of resources and space, which instigated you to encroach into the domains not meant for you. We are reminding you of your course since the Industrial Revolution of 1759. Did you look back since then even for a moment?
Didn’t you cut down innumerable trees and destroyed countless forests? Did you ever think of the increasing carbon dioxide in the air and reduction of oxygen in your atmosphere? Aren’t you suffering now because you achieved milestones of progress at the cost of decline of other species? Did you ever think of sustainable development? Instead, you kept the word ‘sustainability’ limited to talks in conferences and seminars and kept on denying the reality. Did you ever ponder on your being and think of how will your coming generations as well as millions of other species who coexist with you survive when you were busy exploiting everything?
Apart from your carelessness towards the natural environment, did you not also forget your neighbours and relatives who felt uncomfortable with your moral, ethical and aesthetic degradation? Once you opted to flow with the flow of modernisation, did you ever ask or care about your own cultural traditions? Didn’t the noble institutions of family, marriage, kinship and religion lose their meaning and value once you bathed in the stream of nudity, vulgarity and delinquency? Aren’t you now delighted with illegitimate sex and pornography? Haven’t you become addicted to drugs and cybercrimes? Switch on your smartphone and Google about the place you live in. Who has been responsible for these places to turn into breeding grounds of crimes and addictions? Who has invented here the notion of “time means money and money is god”? Isn’t it you who favours individualism and pushes traits like cooperation and concepts like community to a dead end?
What about your technological achievements? Wasn’t it because of them that you provoked two world wars? Did you forget those dreadful moments of August 1945 when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were almost wiped away from the earth? Did you ever stop thereafter? Aren’t your own people suffering because of poverty, hunger, malnourishment, unemployment, and your conflicting interests that you deliberately don’t want to resolve? Did you ever check and control the menace of corruption in your offices? Haven’t you become champions of nepotism and red-tapism?
Aren’t you responsible for uncountable suicides of toiling farmers, women, and unemployed youth? Have you ever thought about industrial or commercial disasters? Didn’t humanity pay a huge price for your blunders in Chernobyl, Fukushima, Minamata and Bhopal? Haven’t you rendered thousands of species of rhinoceros, macaws, frogs, dolphins, ibex, pigeons, deer, tiger, turtles, sparrows and uncountable floral species extinct? Aren’t you still on your mission of making every other species endangered except your own?
If all this is getting too much, relax and take a long breath. But let us not hesitate in calling a spade a spade. Let me declare in categorical terms that it is because of your self-centered nature and callous approach towards other’s existence that not only your own species but also other creatures are facing immense suffering. You have left no stone unturned in transforming mother earth into a wasteland. Every other species must be thinking of you as a burden on the earth.
But if you are responsible for producing all this mess, why don’t you clean it up? Why don’t you think of other’s lives and sustenance before making any scientific, technological, socio-economic or military endeavours for your betterment? Do you think or even feel that none other than you wants to live in a better and stress-free environment? If this isn’t the case, why are you still unwilling to stop? Are you waiting for any messiah to hold your hand and guide you to the right path? How long will it take for you to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong?
I will be taking your leave now, but I still want to keep you busy in fearing a third wave – although you had ample time to prepare for the second wave as well. No one knows with certainty when I will be knocking on your doors again. I love to play games with you. At times I am symptomatic and at times I am asymptomatic. Thanks to you for giving me the name ‘Corona’. Some suspect me to be a biological weapon, but none have yet managed to trace my origin. Ifyou don’t want to see me again, ponder over the ‘live and let live’ principle. Use natural resources judiciously and think of the welfare of every creature.
Dr Rafi Ramzan Dar teaches Geography at GDC Kulgam. Muzafar Ahmad Khanday is a research scholar at SKIMS, Srinagar.