LAHORE: In this time of lockdown, the police have grown truly active. In the process, they want to bring to an end to civilization as we know it. They put up barricades which stopped the domestic help getting out at the beginning of the week. But the next, those barricades were comfortably evaded. And better-off neighbourhoods continued to function.
That made me realize the first victim of a real lockdown would be the system of domestic help, not the construction industry. And I’m sure that the PM would be under too much pressure from his wife to allow that to happen. The grant of a package to the construction industry was what its lobbyists must have been working for, not getting daily wages to continue.
I’m surprised that no one has bothered to switch off all mobile phones. We all know that the virus is transmitted over the airwaves. That’s why Imran Khan made his speech to the assembled parliamentary leaders, and then went off. Social distancing, you see. So, turning mobiles off would save lives. But I heard the Punjab CM’s kids told him that life would be unlivable without being in touch with their friends. I know that kids have a hard time surviving at home with their father also at home. So, where would they be without contact with their friends?
Another thing that has happened is that online classes have started. I wonder if this is where education is headed? More than the blessings of not taking the kid to school is the advantage of them not physically meeting their disgusting little friends. What does that mean for socialization? At this point, I don’t know.
One of the more disturbing things that are happening, and proof that an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop, is that there’s an unhealthy competition between countries It’s bad enough that everyone is taking a ghoulish interest in which country has the most deaths (currently Italy, as it has been for some time with15,362, as on Sunday evening). Particularly perturbing are the comparisons between India (3588confirmed cases, 99 deaths) and Pakistan (2899 cases, 45 deaths). Luckily, so far, no one has divided the cases or deaths according to religion.
However, though all organized prayer has been suspended in all religions, there has been an upsurge in religious explanations. Interestingly, I’ve not seen any of the fatalism that we Muslims are accused of, but a lot of people are saying that the West is being shown how powerless it is in front of the Almighty.
I’m reminded of the atheist who asked Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq to prove the existence of God. Knowing the man had gone several times on sea voyages, the Imam asked, “Have you ever been caught in a fierce storm in the middle of nowhere, your rudder gone, your sails torn away, trying desperately to keep your boat afloat?” The answer was `Yes’. Then Imam asked: “And sometimes perhaps even that leaking boat went down leaving you exhausted and helpless on the mercy of raging waves?”
The answer was again `Yes’. Then Imam asked: “Was not there, in all that black despair, a glimmer of hope in your heart that some unnamed and unknown power could still save you?” When he agreed, the Imam said, “That power is God.”
That is the power that will save us from the coronavirus. That must be what Tablighi jamaats are feeling all over the country, in mosques. The coronavirus is sweeping away people like anything. The President of Lancashire is no more. That’s the county for which both Clive Lloyd and Waseem Akram played, as did Andrew Flintoff. Anyhow, a French soccer club’s ex-President, Pape Diouf, also died.
Moving to a different sphere of activity, Japanese comedian Ken Shimura died of it too at 70. That leads us to fear that our own PM, who turns that age next year, might be at risk of being cut off in his prime, and leaving the youth no one of their age to vote for.
Not all deaths are because of the coronavirus. I went to condole with the son and grandsons of an old lady on her death. I suppose it was normal condolence, and the only attempt at social distancing was not shaking hands on departure. But we had embraced on arrival.
I’m not sure of the protocol. I mean, if you miss any condolences because of the coronavirus, do you must miss them, or do you postpone them to a better time, like someone returning from abroad? Or jail.
And a shutdown would cost us. Unfortunately, the illness is not responding to Imran’s reverse swing, speeches or his having built a cancer hospital. However, it has provided us with an opportunity to ask for money, or debt relief, or anything that we can get. Free masks? We’ve been asking the West to help pay for climate change because it’s done most of the polluting that causes that change. What’s our excuse this time? We’re poor? The West, particularly the USA and Europe, have got other problems. A lot of their citizens are no longer alive. Not to mention that this summer’s Olympics have been postponed to next summer.
A real bummer would confirmation that one of the early signs of infection is the loss of smell and taste (and yes, they go together). As if it isn’t bad enough having the coronavirus, and thus running the risk of dying, you also know your last meal will taste like wet cardboard.
Footnote to these notes: Does anyone remember the Toyota Corona? It was overtaken by the Corolla, which is still the flagbearer. But when it was discontinued back in 2001, I’m sure only some scientists had even heard of coronaviruses.