Fear of Death, Death of Fear

The last few days have been a witness as to how we spiraled down into the apocalypse of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just when we seemed to have terminated the spread of the virus, thereby bringing the pandemic to an effective halt, there was a resurgence in the strength and virulence of the corona virus. Every time we had wanted to get the latest updates on the pandemic, the TV screen peddled blood-curdling images of disease, death and despair. Be it the instances of people frantically searching for doctors, or images of people gasping for medical oxygen, or the long queue at the crematoriums, we refused to identify our nation with this pandemonium of despondence, where the tirade of death continues unabated. The usual precautions were reinstated, medical resources were mobilized with unparalleled vigour and the government of different states opted for partial or total lockdowns.Naturally, as was the case with the previous national lockdown in which stringent conditions were pressed to control the mobility of the people, there is a perceived threat of escalating mental anxiety owing to the large numbers of people succumbing to the deadly virus. We all know that life is ephemeral where the todays should be cherished and the tomorrows should be met with courage. Nonetheless, there are still indicators that many people will go through depreciating mental health. One of the primary reasons is the rhetoric and graphic nature of death that is being streamed throughout the day. There are predicaments on several levels: on the one level, there are people who still flout curfew rules to highlight their machismo, stressing their fearlessness in the face of death, no matter how ignorant they sound, while on the other hand, the increasing helplessness that affronts us in the form of ill and ailing friends and families and our incapacities to help them in their times of difficulty. Moreover, the near-complete absence of physical social interactions augments mental anxieties and the subsequent helplessness, not to mention the perpetual precariousness of contracting the virus.In the words of T. S. Eliot, “These fragments I have shored against my ruins”, refer to the possibilities of salvation despite a failed redemption. In other words, we may have not been able to control the fatality of the pandemic, but we should not surrender just yet. If the pandemic has revealed the susceptibility of health infrastructure to collapse in face of absolute pressure, it has also divulged the strength of community participation. We might be restricted in our homes, but we can still assist the frontline covid warriors. Firstly, we need to expunge the ignorance that still persists about the spread of the virus, making the people aware of its severities. Flouting of rules should be met with punitive measures, but must not exceed the approved limits. The poor people should be helped with necessary means as they might not have the resources for proper well-being when the country is passing through an economic recession. We can compile and share databases of medical resources, especially when black-marketing of resources has been rampant. This would ensure timely help and will save many lives. We are all occupied in our works, but we must come forward for voluntary services at the local and micro levels, ensuring proper standards of safety. Involvement at the local level will ensure a bolstered sense of the community and will slowly tilt the tide in our favour. Today we face the improbabilities of death, tomorrow we will guarantee the probabilities of life. In the face of unsurmountable odds, we are all afraid of losing our near and dear ones, but our positive actions will expunge this death wave that is rampaging through our country now. Through the words of William Blake, “To see a World in a Grain of Sand/ And a Heaven in a wild Flower/ Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/ And Eternity in an hour”, I wish to convey that it is not a long duration that ensures a good life but a life of positive actions. Most importantly, many people have fallen victim to this deadly virus, and many more will lose their life before the pandemic subsides, but we must promise ourselves to not let these people be a footnote in the vast history of civilization; instead, our actions should memorialize their lives and sacrifices. 

Prof. Indranil Banerjee
Techno India University,WB

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