Social Distancing: Did anyone say Bashir Badr

The  virus  has brought whole world to a grinding halt and made us aware how precious life is. The measures to fight the menace may  be draconian but  are   necessary  to save  us from an impending doom.  However,  as  prescribed protocol unfolds  it may not be that  tough for most of us to follow .

We are   told not  to   shake  hand  with others. With indifference  having  overtaken  our  social  behavior,  to give up the good manner of  hand shaking  is not a big deal. Bashir Badar , a noted Urdu poet said  long ago :

Koey   haath bhe  na  milayeaga

Joe   galay   miloogea  tappak  say

Yeh  nayea mizaj  kaa shaher  hai

Zara   phaslay say milaa  karoo

( Nobody would  extend his hand, no matter the warmth of your gesture:  The city   is of new temperament,  better   keep  distance)

Then we are told to impose Safe Social Distancing  (SSD )   and limit people to people contact .  SSD means to avoid moving in the social circles and places usually frequented by the  people . The bard had advised  us  well in time ;

Youenhi   besabab  naa  phera  karro

Kaiy  sham  ghar  rahaa  karro

Yeh joe   zindagee kee  kitab hai

Issay raat e din padha karoo

(  Don’t loiter aimlessl,  be home some evenings;     Read the book called life  )

We are  also  told to maintain at least one meter distance from the next person,  keep aloof  as possible  and  use sanitizer: which means that while confined to home don’t be close to  a  dear one. The advisory is primarily aimed at the old and infirm.  Luckily it won’t be  painful  for them to adhere to the advice .   Ruling  ‘Doctrine  of Nuclear Family ‘   has  forced them  to be alone, with  no  one close  to spread  or  contact  the infection .   Inscrutable are the ways nature   acts . What  then may have been a curse is a blessing  now. Aged and infirm parents often  bemoan  the absence of children ; now their absence has become a boon  as  they won’t have to exert much for the  SSD . They are saved of the  parting trauma.   SSD has lent respectability  to the   idea of nuclear family. However,  there is a lurking danger : if   observed for long    may     detonate  the  nucleolus  and explode the family  – whatever is left of it .

On a serious note,  we are caught  in   a situation where   fear of unknown has overtaken us. These measures  are bound to create anxiety which the psychiatrists  warren  may  cause  emergence  of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (  OCD ), leading to fear   that   one may have caught the infection.  So, we are told to avoid anxiety.  SSD  is a measure  bound to affect   societal order. It  shouldn’t   mean  that  nothing can happen to us.  That will  amount to the denial of life .
True, one comes alone in the world and leaves alone.  Being alone may be a fundamental quality of life: but it is a depressing one.  Homo sapiens  believe in  socializing. Therefore social exclusion has its limits. Beyond a  point there is a real danger of getting into  a  solitude – unable to live in society.  A  human being  can’t   think of  being sufficient for himself.  But it is a time of crisis. While we should leave job of cure and treatment to the medical experts  this is   time to stand together, keep an eye on the neighborhood .  With due regard to  SSD  we have not to snap the social cord. It is our duty to keep humanity intact and  take care of  one another.  Someone has aptly  put it, “ social distancing doesn’t mean distancing from  the  social responsibility .”  It would be appropriate to   listen to  President Ram Nath Kovind :

“This new virus strikes beyond manmade distinctions of religion, race and region. The world has  been busy drawing distinctions and waging wars over us – versus –them. But we suddenly realize that in the face of a grave mortal threat like present one, we have but one identity – we are all human beings .”

B  L Saraf is former Principal District and Sessions Judge

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