what will we see on the other side of this

ujjwal kanishka utkarsh

4/30/20207 min read

what will we see on the other side of this...



I have now attempted to write about this more than 2-3 times. But what can be said about corona that hasn't already be said? The horror of it? The madness of it? The way the state has handled it? The way the right almost across the world have been able to take advantage of it? The way we had this opportunity to re look at the whole system and re imagine it, and instead as a society as a whole we have just somehow managed to justify this profit driven attitude ahead?

The multitude of levels we have failed ourselves is quite something. And in this individualised setup that has been created and we so pride ourselves, we fail to see beyond our own plights even now. Now that the virus has exploded in India, people here are in shock, and it's an emotion that is far away from the apathy shown by the state and in the larger narrative, where it was apparently Shiva whose lineage was protecting us all.

It is amazing how we value human lives. It only gets triggered when it is someone we know. In abstraction, it just remains an idea. Somehow in these times of the virus, we talk about how it afflicts the rich and the poor, but fail to talk about who comes out on the other side and in what condition. Someone once told me that being poorer in a rich country, is better than being rich in a poor country. If we can't see that now, I don't think we ever will. We are just blind. The rich, are so blinded in their convenience, and their luxury, that they can't really see how this kind of a social situation is killing themselves.

When the second wave was hitting India, and the other countries started announcing border restrictions, the first action of the uber rich was to get the fuck out. There were apparently around 10 private jets, some probably privately owned, some leased from the middle east, that landed in UK before the 4 AM flight ban that was instituted. It is everyone for themselves. And when it is that, you want to be in a state where the facilities are better. Where the provisions are universal, and even there you will demand for an eXclusive premiere facility of course. How can we in our blindness not see that if this place here, this situation here was more just, then it will be better for all of us. And then you won't have to protect yourself from the other.

It is always this other who is a problem. Be it the muslims who were the super spreader, against the holy dippers, who are purifying the world with the virus. Be it the poor. Be it the class that serves you. They should be sanitised, they should be kept at bay. The upper middle class Indians, love to talk about how the country has progressed, prospered. Mind it, I say upper middle class, because the middle class doesn't really exist. For whom is this progress, and prosperity? The other day on a news channel was an appeal for a vaccine for a child who suffers from a genetic disorder. The whole treatment is supposed to cost around 16 crore rupees (around 1.8 million euros). And the channel in all it's open hearted charity is asking for charity from everyone. Of course this is an English news channel. How can we in our blindness not see that a health system which is so profit oriented will inevitably lead to situations like this. Is it really so difficult to see through the facade of all of this. Instead of the blind short sighted privatization of everything (health education), is it really so difficult to see that this whole situation could probably have been better.

In celebrating the rich, in idolising the ambanis, in trying to be the adanis, in awe of the tatas, the ruias, the jindals, lost in this creation of the myth of 'the indian dream', can we all really not see that it's just better to have a stronger national system? Ambanis made a hospital. How many state run hospitals could have been run with the cost of that one hospital. How many tons of oxygen cylinders be bought at the cost of the opening ceremony of that hospital. Mind it, the opening ceremony had who's who of bollywood, and of course Modi flying in specifically for that. How much more could have been done had Ambanis at least paid the real cost of the land, on which they made a hospital which only the uber rich can access.

The irony of the situation is that now the celebration is of the philanthropy of Serum Institute of India's Poonawala. How graciously he reduced the price of the vaccine for the state government by 25 % to 300 rs. The same person who said that even at 200 rs, they were making profits, but NOT super profits. And they would of course want to make super profits. But he is our hero, our saviour in these times. He is the one who tweets the federal government policies before even the state governments know it. No there is no corruption in this efficient hard working government. How blind are we, when we do not see what we don't want to see (a digression to Rafale, Adanis, Ambanis being refrained). And the aforementioned English News channel host is criticizing the state governments for wanting to make the vaccines free for people. Of course it is with the political agenda, of course it is a populist measure, but shouldn't people of India the ones who have to make a choice on what to spend the money on, still get vaccines? Of course this host who only talks to the upper middle class again, says that when the state makes vaccines free, we are the ones who will pay through our taxes. But how blind are we to not see that if the society en large is vaccinated, we are all better for it?

Somehow this ingrained notion of the individual right, and might, is so ingrained, that you would rather take a chance on the fact that you will be able to protect yourself, than work towards living in a more healthier, more just society. A social situation where you do not have to make a choice. What is amazing to me is how we are still not seeing this. I have had to face a lot of critique and debate about this in the social circles that my privileged position helps me occupy. This i feel is the folly of this situation. Even now, even in this crisis, even when we are seeing things really crash down, we are unable to see, to imagine a world order which could be different. We cry about the deaths of our own. But we are unable to connect to the pain of the death of others. The corona deaths are just horrific. But so is a person who died in the riots in Delhi, or in Ahmedabad, or in Bombay, or in Amritsar. These are the places where in the past 4 decades in India, there were major riots, against the minorities. The last two against muslims being co-ordinated by the ruling party's commanders (and then there are the countless other atrocities that happen on a daily basis). And somehow the hindu majority population now claims it's victimhood. Somehow the hindus are under attack here.

And with this comes the silencing of the voice of critique. In Uttar Pradesh, NSA (National Securities Act) has been invoked for people asking for oxygen for their relatives on Twitter. People have been asked to maintain discipline and watch the tone of their voice. The aforementioned English news channel apparently does a sting operation on people in Delhi who are black marketing oxygen cylinder. Where as the celebratory news is that in Srinagar an organisation is hoarding up oxygen cylinders. A muslim business owner who is coordinating their city's oxygen response is being celebrated. He started using his own monies to get oxygen in and slowly the city apparently handed in the whole organisation of the oxygen cylinders to him. Of course, he is different than the muslims who were attending the tablighi jamaal. Would the hindu mobs coming back from the char dhaam yatra in the neXt riot care about that?

Of course, Indian understanding of diversity and inclusion is that the muslims celebrate holi and diwali with the hindus, in the spirit of one India. That the dalits be celebrated for the work they do, because it is god's work. What will the majoritarian in power hindu castes would do for the inclusion? Claim victimhood, because somehow muslims and dalits are taking what is rightfully theirs. Claim victimhood when the muslims and dalits and other minorities are being killed by them. It's an attack on their sentiments, on their way of life.

We do not have to go that far of an 'other' to see how this works. This last year we have seen the sights of the migrant labourers being given almost no notice of an imminent lockdown. Of all the house helps being viewed suspiciously. Again ppl in my circles were so condescending about all these ppl on the street who don't wear a mask, who go around in groups. Who don't care or understand.

This wave has been different. This wave has hit this class too, and now you can hear them cry fowl. This wave has hit the young too. Now the apathy of condition in hospitals is being talked about. And that too has become a thing about state govt vs central govt. The narrative seems to be the key. Thousands are dying. It is quite an overwhelming situation of distraught. Death of one person affects so many. Of course it also depends on how 'valuable your life is'. In villages in UP and bihar, where people pass away with TB still, death is more of an everyday reality. It is like how it is so horrible when europeans die, but not so much when Indians do. Had the virus been contained in europe early enough, I really wonder what the perspective of the whole world would have been. It is like how when 3000 USAnians die is far more important than the million Afghanis. What about the refugee crisis in Europe, and the Trump policy on mexicans migrating to the US. Interestingly, the upper middle class Indians, might empathise or relate or connect with this emotion, but would largely be blind to the 30,000 odd rohingyas who were seeking refuge in India who were kicked out. Or the thousands who have been disenfranchsed due to NRC/Citizenship registry in Assam. What about the people who killed themselves due to that?

Death has become more of a reality in the larger Indian psyche with corona. We are hearing of people no more all around us. The numbers that are being shown, seems quite comparably smaller to that. Now a days my friends, people around me, overwhelmed with all of this, are unable to fucntion much. Especially for those who can work from home is there but it's difficult to concentrate and so on. My only thing is that let's just sail past through this, let's see each other on the other side of this. That is important. We need to take care. This too shall pass, at least for some of us.

My fear is what will we see on the other side of this. We are blinded by so much.