Sunday, June 13, 2021

Battling the Rodent Menace


These are bizarre times. Headlines heavily laden with alarm inform us that India is battling a record Covid surge that makes 2020 look like a dream year. Hospitals are running out of beds, oxygen, and anti – viral drugs like Remdesivir while the infection and death toll is steadily mounting. There are urgent calls for increased vaccine rollouts even as concerns are raised regarding the risk of blood – clots from the AstraZeneca jab (Covishield in India). The situation is dire, but you wouldn’t believe it judging by the widespread participation in innumerable political rallies and religious gatherings held across the length and breadth of the country. Hundreds of thousands congregated on the banks of the Ganga in Haridwar to celebrate the Kumbh Mela while large crowds religiously attended super spreader election rallies held in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and West Bengal, blithely ignoring safety norms. And that is not all.

Most people who were haphazard about using masks and practicing social distancing to start with, seem to have given up completely and go about their business, determined to ignore the menace that is this pandemic. Celebs vacation in Maldives and Goa, ‘inspiring’ their followers to live it up instead of cowering at home, terrified of an allegedly killer virus that has stubbornly and inconveniently refused to disappear in a puff of smoke.

Those godawful pics of naked sadhus and devotees cavorting in the river, the crowds thronging election campaigns and similar displays of folks flagrantly flouting health protocols evincing a blatant disregard for the greater good makes one wonder about India and Indians. Over the past few years, we have taken to bragging about the glories of our culture, heritage and civilization conveniently choosing to ignore the harsh reality. Which is that as a nation and people, we more closely resemble the armies of rats converging en masse on towering garbage dumps given to public defecation, a tendency to mindlessly procreate, a propensity for spreading disease and causing endless pandemonium with reckless disregard for rules. It is a crying shame and a scathing indictment of us, as supremely unworthy citizens.

Perhaps, now that we have taken a good look at ourselves and vomited copiously, we can work towards being a better version of ourselves. Education is key and it is worrying that educational institutions have been shut for over a year now. With digital access lacking for students in impoverished households, most risk being left behind even as the rest of India plods on with callous indifference. And it is not only the young who need educating. We need to give serious thought about ensuring that adults can aspire to become political leaders, parents, devotees and sexually active individuals only after completing requisite courses to minimize their innate capacity for screwing up.

 This column was originally published in The New Indian Express.

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