This time will be remembered-10
By SUNITA VIJAY
The bell rang. The RO-care professional was at the gate. These days entry into my home by any outsider, is wholly prohibited. A lock hangs there, presenting a brusque welcome to aspiring entrants. His was a routine visit to change the filters of our RO machine. During my short interaction, this man touched his mask several times, toyed with his handkerchief to wipe sweat, used his mobile, attended to every itch that arose in his hair, face and elsewhere – all with his contaminated hands. He himself may not have been aware of just how many places his hands have been to throughout the day. I was hesitant to take him in. He insisted, pointing toward his preventive tools: mask and gloves – those omnipotent and omnipresent arsenal thought to almost magically ‘cure’ COVID. No! I screamed from within. I asked him to share the procedure to replace the cartridges and bid him goodbye from the gate itself.
Some ignorant selves are convinced that masks and gloves have an inbuilt mechanism to kill all germs, acting as a fool-proof protective shield against spreading and contracting pathogens. Ironical that in IT times when we’re all loaded with countless apps, are active on various social media platforms (even the illiterates one), when stacks of information are exchanged each day on how to protect ourselves from this pandemic – we hardly practice anything. Either this falls on deaf ears, or we are too lazy to imbibe, or maybe we’ve caressed a ‘devil-may-care’ attitude!
My parents are not allowing any domestic help into their house. When their maid called my mom to resume work, my mother politely indicated that her ‘paid holiday’ would continue for a couple of months more. The maid confidently averred, ‘You are old. Let me come and help you. I am concerned. The other household where I work, checks me with an instrument and it diagnoses whether I have this ‘bimaari’ or not. I cook, wash and clean. They have no issues at all.’ She was referring to the thermal-sensor thermometer. She’s uneducated, but atleast the house members where she works are not. Isn’t it their duty to make her aware rather than being selfish to get the work done at such a high risk (to everyone) when she uses pooled auto to come to work. It is so disheartening!
These incidents disappoint me thoroughly. I am not saying that I alone am ‘clean’ while all others aren’t. What surprises me is the idiocy factor discounting the severity of the problem. During this time, we need impactful ads and short films on national TV as guidance to point our follies during daily routine. It seems there lies a huge gap in understanding the contagious temperament of this virus.
As I write, India has 1,74,355 COVID cases. We’re now the ninth-worst hit country. A little research tells me that we’re ranked first in road-accident deaths in the world (1.5 lakh deaths in 2018). We have alarming records in snake-bite deaths as well, a neglected problem causing 46,000 deaths annually, reported mainly due to treatment by quacks. Not only this, WHO constantly worries about deaths from a preventable disease like rabies in India (around 18,000-20,000 annual rabies cases contributing about 36% of the world’s deaths from the disease). Yet, how many of us are even slightly hesitant before touching stray animals that can carry rabies (even asymptomatically) or are aware of the repercussions? Even pet dogs are allowed to roam freely on streets, mingle with strays, return home and then be cosy with house members. The deaths due to cardio-vascular diseases remain on top surpassing cancer deaths in India. In India, 10 million people had TB in 2018, 1.5m die annually. No wonder that in comparison, COVID seems to be a weak tea, a threat of lesser proportions for us brave Indians. However, being optimistic can’t mean behaving unguardedly or over-confidently.
The fear hovers even more, as the lockdown is relaxed. Offices, salons, shops are open; maids given entry into homes, maintenance staff is active, courier services, taxis and flights resumed; the exposure is more now. Let the fittest survive and the weak let to die: is this the silent policy we are following or are we looking for herd immunity? ‘Business-as-usual’ seems to have resumed, but can we afford to be this myopic? How this virus will manifest in India we are yet to see but the predictions by experts anticipate a huge surge till September. We are terribly vulnerable right now. Anything coming to our homes as grocery items, courier packets, bills, fruits/vegetables needs to be handled with utmost care.
We need to formulate innovative methods, develop new systems, at home and at work, to fight this virus. We must also spread awareness especially among those not realising the profundity of the situation. If we enlighten one person, we save a family, a community, our nation and indirectly place less burden on the crumbling and hard-pressed health authorities. It’s better to seek shelter under an umbrella while it rains; drenching ourselves mustn’t be the formula.
Protect yourself, protect the country. Don’t let the virus find you. Prevention is so much better than healing because it saves the labour of being sick. Einstein had said, “Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them”.