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One of the most important lessons of history is that crises were destructive for societies, but also triggered responses that made them stronger, more orderly and disciplined. Hopefully, something like that is happening in India in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Already, the nation has witnessed the best and the worst in us. Doctors and other medical staff have heroically battled the crisis even to the point of losing their lives. There have been very few incidents of any one of them deserting the field of battle. But, there have also been numerous cases of profiteering and criminal negligence by hospital managements – the latest being the case of alleged deliberate cutting off of patients’ oxygen as an experiment to determine which were in serious condition.

As in war, the pandemic has spared no one – rich, poor, powerful or professorial. Each section of society has thrown up its heroes and villains. It is necessary under the circumstances for the right lessons to be learned. The factors that weakened the response need to be identified, as well those that got us through. This should bring about a change in attitude and lead to a greater appreciation of the real heroes. The occasions are rare when the true nature of people is exposed and best practices learned. Society must build upon it so that future development proceeds according to the right priorities.

It has also been a test of leadership. Many narratives are being sought to be built in retrospective manner, but people should not forget their own experiences – who inspired most confidence and who was just politicking. People must also question their lifestyles; whether these were in accordance with the reality they were exposed to during the pandemic. Loved ones were lost to an undiscriminating foe; there was no element of justice in the selection. Some were vulnerable due to ‘comorbidities’, but others were not. Children have lost their parents; their entire world has been turned upside down. Many of those who lost their livelihoods committed suicide, even along with their families. These are the scars that the nation will bear as a reminder of what happened. If there is the so-called “survivors’ guilt”, it should be transcended through deliberate action. We should become better versions of ourselves so that similar challenges in the future can be overcome through the very values exhibited by the heroes in the present one. That would truly be the best tribute to the ones that have been lost.