‘You and your conspiracy theories,’ I chided gently, knowing well how anxious he already was. A doctor himself, he had lost both parents to the virus in the last few weeks. And his wife had now tested positive. My cousin needed to rant, so I let him.
‘You have no idea what the neighbours are up to,’ he said. ‘They have publicly announced on their national news, they are now the world leaders of Space Technology and Biological Warfare. Did you not see those disgusting images posted by the Chinese Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission?’
‘Yes, I have,’ I muttered, changing the subject to something more palatable.
Those images, continued to do the rounds on social media. Originally posted by an employee of the above mentioned CCPLAC, it had two pictures adjacent to each other. The first was a space rocket taking off, and the second, a raging cremation pyre. The caption read, ‘How we light a fire in China, and how they light a fire in India.’
The thinking world had exploded in fury, the thinking press had demanded an apology. The post was subsequently taken down, but no apology has been made to date.
I use the words ‘thinking press’ with much deliberation. What we see on the news here in the UK, are shamefully sensational images and video repeats from irresponsible media giants.
A surprisingly large majority of the educated public in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Nepal (with the highest per capita positive cases today) believe this to be the truth. There are reports of findings of Chinese sleeper cells scattered across the sub-continent, poised to spread mass infection just before the elections. They ask if it was a coincidence that the numbers began to spike just as the election rallies began?
Who can deny that the people of India are equally to blame? With their exuberant and excessive partying, lobbying, and worshipping, en-masse, after politicians declared, rather prematurely, that the beast had been slain?
However, that does not condone the world media’s morbid obsession with images of open cremations and lofty declaration of a collapsed system. Were similar images being shown of mass burials in the US when the numbers had peaked there last year? Were fingers pointed in blame and accusation at Italy and Brazil when they were struggling?
A little compassion would go a long way to the help boost the morale of the million strong band of volunteers. How can a system collapse when not a single doctor has quit his post? Or a nurse fled from hers? Every hospital in the country continues to stand, albeit shakily, and fight as hard as they can.
For this is a war!
The young, the able, the internet savvy, the rich, the poor, everyone is doing something, anything they can to help. Well organised and networked groups have sprung up overnight as a go-to guide for hospitals with beds, oxygen, or medicine. These groups, mostly comprising very young people, have a three-tier manpower system. Those working the computers (or phones), updating information by the second, those out on their cars, bikes or even on foot who source the supplies relentlessly, and the third group who make themselves available to the greater public with their information dissemination.
Would it not be nice, if the Delhi BBC correspondent, stopped one of these kids on the streets, or in the hospitals and interviewed them? And relayed to the world that most people were good. There was hope for the future if these young ones were to inherit this earth.
The reason I choose not to engage with my cousin or other friends (sometimes, even my husband) on the neighbourly love from China, is, I believe this is not the time to point fingers.
At the media, irresponsible or not, politicians, corrupt or not, or even the public, answerable or not. The worst has happened, it is what it is. Let us all band together and fix this wretchedness, there will be an infinity for post-mortems, and systems will be put in place,
Was it not the same here in the UK last year, when the braying and hysterical media blamed the government for everything? We came out of that through sacrifice, discipline, and the positivity of collective clapping. India and her little brothers and sisters will as well.
Here are some statistics to enable you to properly grasp the size of the operation necessary in India. (Please bear in mind that these are valid figures at the time of writing this article, early May 2021).
The collective population of the US, Russia, Germany, Turkey, UK, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Romania, Netherlands, Greece, Belgium, Czech Republic, Portugal, Sweden, Hungary, Switzerland, Bulgaria, and Denmark is 1053 million. Add to that the population of the smaller countries in Europe, plus Brazil and Argentina, and you add up to 1369.5 million.
Thus, we arrive at the population of India, estimated between 1360 to 1380 million.
India has vaccinated 160 million people till date. That is half the population of USA and two and a half times that of the UK. And still, that remains only 13% of the people.
Another fact which has been left ignored is that 66 million doses of the vaccine were sent from India to other countries, of which, 11 million doses were in the form of free aid to the less privileged nations. Whilst it is easy to criticise, let us appreciate the monstrous scale of the operation and the supply chain. And the tremendous resilience of the nation to even think at this scale.
People continue to pour in.
Two years ago, the world news was headlined by the Rohingya Muslims fleeing from Burma (or Myanmar). Where do you think they ended up? Bangladesh could not accommodate them, so they are all in Indian West Bengal, creeping in through porous borders, being housed and fed by the government. Cynics might say the Chief Minister added numbers to her vote bank.
But they live to tell the tale. The tale which the world media chose not to tell.
Talking about porous borders… the government here has laid down strict rules for returning residents. When I returned to the UK from India last month, I self-quarantined at home, diligently for 10 days. Going without milk for the last two days. Folk advised me to leave my phone at home and nip out to shops. I did not.
My husband will return soon, hopefully, but because India is now in the red zone, he will need to quarantine at a Heathrow hotel for 10 days at his own cost (1750£). The advice we have received from well-meaning British friends will make you smile. They say he should travel to Sri Lanka or the Maldives, or even Istanbul. Stay there very cheaply for ten days, and then return home to the UK to avoid institutional quarantine. Apparently, this is what is happening under the noses of the authorities who make the rules.
And that, my friends, is how borders get porous!
Anjana Sen spent her childhood years, all over India, and later travelled the world before ‘settling’ in Scotland (Glasgow) in 2000. She has been writing in earnest over the last three years. She is a member of the Scottish Association of Writers, and also the Secretary for Eastwood Writers.