Perhaps I am a specimen of geriatrics everywhere.
I had considered myself to be a sprightly 76-year old, healthy for a man of that age, taking good care of my wife, who needed care, moving about the house doing all sorts of odd jobs, and moving about the locality as I pleased, driving, walking, shopping, socializing. In my movements I felt as free as a bird, or as carefree as carefree can be. Going wherever I wanted, taking whichever road, lane or by-lane that I chose. No one to stop me or question me. Life indeed was pleasant, bright and beautiful.
But now, after just four odd weeks of lock-in domestication on account of the lockdown caused by the global contagion Covid-19, I feel exhausted, tired, drained. In other words feeling the blues the geriatric way.
Not that I am moody or sad or irritable. Far from it. I still take care of my wife, do all the odd jobs around, and help my daughter and son in cooking and cleaning. Occupied almost the whole of the day , leaving adequate time for intermittent showers and rest during this unbearably hot and humid season that adds to the overall unpleasantness.
Do I see any light at the end of the tunnel? The lockdown in Kerala is already on the way to gradual relaxation and may ultimately be lifted wholly in the near, or at least in the near distant, future. But that does not mean going back to the old ways that I have been accustomed to during the seven and a half decades of my life. That lifestyle, I think, is a thing of the past, gone forever. The way of life hereafter has necessarily to be different, drastically, if one is to stay safe, indeed to stay alive.
That is why I feel that I don’t very much see any streak of light at the end of MY tunnel. For an old man like me life can never be the same again. The younger generation may hopefully experience life as it used to be in the pre-lockdown days once the contagion is contained the world over. Since that prospect may not come soon, all I can hope for in the remaining days of my life is to live cautiously, somewhat precariously, curtailing my freedom to a great extent and dovetailing my activities to suit the safety parameters that are likely to be in force for quite some time to come.
Not that I am afraid of death or want somehow to delay it beyond its normally due date. I just do not want to be a cause of infection of other people, both in the family and outside.
Like most people I too never anticipated such an overwhelming catastrophe to befall humanity at large with such speed and such deadly consequences. When we first heard of it, it was sort of a distant drum, a muffled sound, menacing though it was, from a faraway land. We never thought it would reach us so soon to cause us disquiet and turn our world upside down.
It is just a little over hundred days only since it all started but the global dance of death of this contagion has only just begun. No one knows how long it will continue, how it will end, how many will fall victims and how many will survive. Not even God, who, incidentally, is nowhere to be seen in these difficult times.
I think the forced domestication of the present, a great way to stay alive, should be utilized by all to contemplate on our ways of life, or wayward ways of life, of the past to ensure that many of its components are willingly given up when we fashion a new lifestyle for our post-Covid future.
For one thing, even if full normalcy is restored, I will be wary of going into a crowd where I cannot be certain if the person who comes close to me, who accosts me or shake hands with me is a dormant carrier of the deadly virus. Every innocent smile may be misconstrued as cynical or sardonic. And every handshake considered a precursor to everlasting damnation.
I will be wary also of visiting my relatives or friends or neighbors hereafter as almost all of them have some international connection. Their sons or daughters are invariably in some foreign land, the Gulf, the US, the UK, the rest of Europe, Australia, …… the list goes on. If they come on a visit won’t they be bringing home to their families some element of risk? A risk passed on especially to aged people like me who have been designated by governments everywhere as ‘highly vulnerable?’
So, prudent it will be for me to avoid house visits, visits to hotels, to opulent wedding halls and their crowded dining areas, to cultural functions, even to the library, just to avoid, as far as possible, the hidden danger of contamination. Or to the temple where devotees in their fervor are sure to trample upon the government’s social distancing norms by jostling and pushing their way to come in a direct line of sight of their favorite deity.
So after all is said and done, it is better to stay home and be safe. Stir out only if it is absolutely essential. Not that one has to remain like a recluse. Live life jovially and contentedly within the four walls of Home, Sweet Home. Read, write, watch TV, speak to friends on the mobile, sing, if no one is around, and pray if you want.
But I find a problem with the last mentioned. Pray to whom? The Covid-19 outbreak has demonstrated the world over that our Gods have failed. Not one God of one religion. But all the Gods projected by all religions of the world. Places of worship around the world, big, medium, small, mini and miniscule all remained closed to their faithful all these weeks. If Covid-19 has a devastating impact on humanity, its collateral damage is all the more catastrophic to Divinity in general.
Now for over a month people have kept away from places of worship. This aloofness, forced though it is, should have convinced the devotees on the absurdity of many of their actions in the past in the name of religion and beliefs. Take for instance the fierce, all out fight launched by some people to prevent a section of women devotees to visit Sabarimala temple. Or the internecine war fought by rival sections of Christian laity and clergy over the possession of some churches in central Kerala. Now those churches and the temple remained out of bounds for all sections, irrespective of gender or denomination. Were the fights worthwhile?
More than Gods, I think, people need to have faith in the doctors, nurses and other care givers, the government, and the scientists the world over who are trying hard to find a cure for the rapidly spreading contagion.
It seems the last sentence in Richard Dawkins’ book Outgrowing God is worth quoting here: ‘I think we should take our courage in both hands, grow up and give up on all Gods.’