Learning, Unlearning and Relearning

Image Source: AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia

Coronavirus has put us all into catastrophic and heart-rending conditions. People are dying gasping for breath. But we saw a blatant unpreparedness of the Government and appalling insensitivity of the ruling benches that seem to direct all energies into winning elections forgetting the sufferings and deaths of the people. If this attitude to win elections and even to build a new parliament house was put at the service of struggling people, it appears that things would have been different. Unfortunately, not just our Government, we as people also have failed each other. The pain and tragedy of the other seem to have become the opportunity of the other. People beginning from the cars and rickshaw drivers, oxygen and drug suppliers seem to be using the tragedy of the other as raw material to accumulate wealth. Both the Government and we as people have failed each other. The lethal virus has exposed our immoral and corrupt instincts. It has deconstructed our pompous claim of being Vishwaguru of the world. The world is watching and we seem to portray an ugly picture.

This does not mean that there are no covid-heroes amidst us. Our doctors and other healthcare workers have all given their all in this war on coronavirus. Several among them have put their life on the line and many of them have made the supreme sacrifice. Our media which otherwise plays to the gallery has exhibited compassion to the sufferings of our people. Little stories of the little people have found their space in their prime time shows. Some of our religious leaders have also risen to the occasion and have put their might on the side of the people in our great fight against the lethal virus. But all in all, our Government seems to have cut a monstrous picture. Already ‘resign Modi cries’ are trending on social Media. Social media is brimming with people who have expressed their disgust and anger saying ‘ abki baar antim sanskar.’ Arundati Roy has shot an open letter asking the P M to stage a dignified exit. The general silence of the Modi Sarkar and battles for oxygen reaching the portals of the high courts (that have championed the cause of the people), make us feel that we are facing a great collapse of everything Indian in a post-independent India.

Our crematoriums and burial grounds will remain as ‘tombstones’ reminding us of our doom for a long time. The trauma of loss of our loved ones and the manner in which this tragic loss occurred has traumatized families as well as health care workers. One daughter expressing her tremendous grief over the death of her mother said it succinctly when she said, ‘meri maa tadpa tadpa ke mar gayi’. There is gloom and doom everywhere. It will take a long time to put back the pieces of life shattered and scattered by the lethal virus. While there are unstoppable tears and cries all over the place that need our compassion and care, we cannot forget the lessons that this obnoxious virus has taught us. There are lessons for everyone. Maybe while each of us is challenged to understand and learn these lessons, it is time to let the virus become a locus to think of our life as a vibrant life oriented society again. Even as we are challenged to reach out to our ailing brethren, we have the challenge to take a hard look at some of the harsh realities and draw our lessons.

The virus has been a great equalizer. There is a lesson to us all in this fact. Elections after elections were fought and will be fought on polarizing issues. The Hindu/ Muslim, the Mandir/Masjid politics seem to have reached a point of fatigue and exhaustion. We can clearly see this in the way the West Bengal elections played out in the middle of the second wave. The virus that does not favour anyone on the basis of religion or ideology exposes the pragmatic divisive politics of those who use Lord Ram for notes and votes. Sickness and death has united us all. It is for us to learn this lesson of unity in diversity. A weak opposition is not good for us. A weak opposition cannot influence that Government that strays away. This is exactly what happened. The Government that was intoxicated by the ambition of winning elections lost it all. It failed in its duty for the people and failed to win too. The weak opposition stood helplessly in mute silence. The singularisation of our country under one homogeneous ideology is as destructive as this virus. Some among us are still refusing to learn this lesson of solidarity, unity and harmony. The virus is loud and clear. Divisive politics is self-destructive. As we pick up the pieces of our life and are reaching out in compassion, we are truly living the true spirit of our civilization. We cannot allow this spirit to be killed by the virus of hate and division.

Along with the above political and social lessons, we have an economic lesson. The trickle down economic model has failed us. Our Government follows this model tooth and nail. But the virus has shown that we lack medical infrastructure and other facilities to fight this pandemic. It manifests us that the economics of strengthening only the strong and thinking that the rest of us will benefit from the crumbs that are falling from their table has failed us miserably. The privatization of our national resources like the airports, the national carrier -Air India, the Indian Railways, etc., that are modelled on the trickle down economics are also set to fail India. This is why we have to pay attention to the economic lessons in the virus. What we perhaps need is a bottom up economics that broadens up. This new model has to be embraced to lead India to develop in an integral way. The colonial top down approach has failed us on several fronts. It is an undemocratic economic model. It can only build economic as well as social inequality. But the question is: will the Government that is habituated to become a broker of its cronies follow the new bottom up model? Things look really bleak. But without this bottom up approach that broadens upwards, our Jan dan will only remain in the hands of few and inequality will continue to afflict us. Hence, it is important to learn from this global pandemic and work to build a prosperous, healthy, happy, peaceful and harmonious society for all Indians. To achieve these objectives we have to learn to learn, unlearn and relearn from the calamities that strike us down.

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GREETINGS

Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao