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India’s Covid Advantage

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We, the Citizens

By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

Covid is here to stay. This bio-chemical mule cannot breed by itself. It has to take over its host’s system to make more Covid-19s. It does this very fast and causes all sorts of complications in its host’s body. The human body has its own defensive system against such attacks but, very often, this system has to be alerted that an attack is happening. Vaccinations do this. But the effect of jabs may not last long, in which case the shot has to be repeated over and over and over again.

If, however, the body has built up a natural defence, immunity to this virus, it could be passed down through the generations. This is done by another wonderful system in the body: its genes.

Genes are tiny biological programmes held in every cell of the human body. These genes decide everything about the human body: the colour of its eyes and hair, its height, even its sex. Half the genes come from the mother and the other half from the father. Very strangely, however, though we need only 1230 genes to lay down the specifications of a complete human body, we have about 19,000 genes!

So, why were those 17,770 genes produced? Are they advance plans for future alternations and additions to the human body? Kept in reserve for possible needs! It’s like saying that land-based aircraft should also carry floats for a possible water landing in addition to skis just in case it has to make a snow landing! But then, when you consider that humans are the only creatures who have conquered every environment on earth, it begs the question: How have we done this?

Have we spread across the globe by changing our bodies, at every new generation, to adapt to the life-threatening conditions of new environments? Sherpas of the High Himalayas can now breathe, and live in the oxygen-depleted air of their challenging mountain terrain. Japanese coastal communities, who consume a large amount of seaweed in their diet, have developed a tolerance for a high-salt intake. Australian Aboriginal people, who regularly go on extended walkabouts in their Outback wilderness, take furnace-hot days and freezing nights in their stride. Have their bodies activated some of the 17,770 reserve genes to enhance their survival prospects?

Is this also why humans seem to be programmed to ‘look for ‘exotic’ mates? Is it a genetic drive to strengthen the bloodline? The most inbred people are the Sentinelese of the Andaman Islands. They have been separated from other humans for so long that contact with another human who has a common cold might exterminate them.

Till the Guptas introduced endogamy, that is marriage only within one’s community, exogamy was widely practiced. The vast majority of racial groups who entered our land through our Himalayan passes were males only. Women and children were considered to be too frail to make the arduous trek, Then, when these male pioneers settled in India, they married local women. Their children, naturally, learnt to speak their mother’s tongue before moving on to their father’s language as they grew older. This bilingualism enriched both languages and kept them alive, while the original paternal tongue was restricted to scholars and pedants for their own mysterious purposes!

These opposing forces (endogamy which promoted the freezing of the Father’s speech as a revered and almost divine tongue, and exogamy which encouraged the expression of ideas in the Mother’s speech as she spoke to servants, tradesmen and her children) evolved into the common tongue of the people of her area.

The old proverb says that, in India, both the language and the water change every few kilometres. This diversity is our greatest strength. Every language brings its own perception of reality. In the traditional small families of Western societies, a cousin is a cousin is a cousin. In the close-knit extended families of the East, cousins have specific titles to specify their relationships.

Covid has shown us that all Indians are one people. We ask our netas to solve our common problems; don’t try to divert our attention with your self-enriching and diversionary projects. We have had enough of bluster and bluffing!

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)