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