Dr Shivaji Dube
Chief Administrative Officer
Zynova-Shalby Hospitals, Mumbai

Going back to square one?

Embrace the New normal!…. Reinvent the basics!…. Face the inevitable!…. Find new methods to survive!…. Dooms day is here!. COVID-19 is the talk of the town, probably it has become more famous than any other celebrity in history. What exactly is happening here? What are they trying to convey? Are we really going back in time or should we prepare for the brand-new world around us? Unfortunately, this time we are not in the driver’s seat.

We have been forced to board a flight with limited fuel, novice pilots in cockpit, one out of two engines has given up midway, onboard radar has malfunctioned, and the flight is destined to crash land as no airstrip is visible due to bad weather conditions. Brace yourself for impact!!! The funniest part is few passengers on this flight are delusional and believe that they can literally fly in case something goes wrong, and few of them are already trying to jump out of the emergency doors.

Change is inevitable
Please sink in, we are not going back to normal! At least not in near future, till we have found either a potent vaccine or a definitive cure for this virus. There is a strong case that it may not happen any time sooner, and we may have to learn to live with it. The point here is, are we ready to do that? Even further, is it in us as a society or as an individual to really put up that mighty fight against this virus? ’Cause here we are not fighting with this virus, but we need to fight with ourselves rather our behaviors, our desires, and our needs, which are our routines for centuries. It demands a complete shift in our mindset on personal, social, cultural, and institutional level.

However, with 30 percent illiteracy, and almost equal percentage living under poverty level and where one out of every six urbans are residing in slums, it seems a formidable task.

To err is human
This virus is unforgiving. There is no second chance here! One trivial mistake and you become a potential prey. What makes it very difficult to control is, we humans by nature are foolishly optimistic and are slave to our own habits. What in this world could give few amongst us, such a confidence to say, it cannot happen to me! I feel, we are being ignorant and amazingly reckless at the same time.

Bending or breaking the rules has fashionably become a sign of heroism in our society. Few do it for sheer pleasure and show off. Surprisingly, these people have got a fan following as well. It is unfortunate though, that virus is not discriminatory. Cast, creed, status, position, religion, or money has no immunity toward it; everyone is equally vulnerable. Kind of level playing, is not it?

Are you in the game?
It pains to see, when the whole world is grappled by fear and uncertainty, few among us are busy taking advantage of the situation.

We, especially in India, are in abundance of such vulture entrepreneurs. They cause more damage than the disease itself could have. Almost everyone started selling masks, PPEs, infrared thermometers in no time and that too at whopping margins of up to 1000 percent. Anyone and everyone who could take advantage of this pandemic started minting on it from small grocery vendors, retailers, hawkers to large healthcare institutions and manufacturers and suppliers. No one seemed to be playing a fair game. Till the time these middlemen are part of our fragile and corrupt system, we are fated to suffer.

Unfortunately, no one else but we ourselves are responsible for being in such a situation. We only have fortified this system of corruption, exploitation, deceit, and opportunism in our society over decades.

Paradigm shift
Why achieving sustainable and disaster-proof development has always been a distant dream? Why with every calamity like heavy rains, cold waves, tsunami, droughts, pandemics, etc., our disaster management system falls like a house of cards? Why must we destroy the environment every time to gain monitory benefits?

Can not there be coexistence? Its high time we understand that if we do not change our orthodox modus operandi for development, we are destined to be doomed. We must stop destroying nature and adopt to environment-friendly and sustainable methods of development. What we need is collective introspection on community, education, society, businesses as well as policy-making level.

It is quite evident that frequency of pandemic-worthy diseases has significantly increased in recent past; we might have been able to contain those due to advances in medicine but the fact remains that nature is trying hard to shift the equilibrium back, and we may not be able to resist that for long. Making peace with nature is the only way forward!

Another systemic failure?
We are fortunate for being better off till now as compared to most of the developed world in terms of total fatalities caused by COVID-19! Probably the higher percentage of young population or inherent immunity due to regular exposure to flu-like viruses could be the reason behind us faring better in statistics.

The only effective strategy the government had implemented till date is announcing lockdown in the early phase. Even that, I am sure, did not come out of meticulous planning but owing to shear fear that things will go out of control, considering the dilapidated healthcare infrastructure of our country.

The government has full confidence on its callous machinery and corrupt officials that it will fail miserably at the need of the hour. Being in healthcare provides us an opportunity to observe it closely; we can see how it has failed on every stage even after giving a head start of a complete lockdown.

Further proven by how badly policymakers have handled the movement of migrants out of metros, even after knowing that 58 percent of Indian workforce comes from the unorganized sector and 70 percent of them are residing in large metros and cities.

It takes human to comfort
Suddenly, we see that every individual around the world has become philosophical, trying to connect all popular anecdotes written till date with the current situation. Believers on other side have added another weapon in their arsenal. Now they got another tool to prove the presence of inconceivable power out there and how human beings are helpless against its might.

This pandemic has further intensified the intervention of AI and machine learning in human lives. Probably, virtual reality may go to an extent where humans will be able to limit their physical interactions to almost none. This pandemic has already instilled enough fear and suspicion about everyone around.

Technology will further facilitate the process of distancing humans physically as well as emotionally. I admit that existence or being alive scores much higher over emotions, but the absence of emotions like comfort, care, togetherness, happiness, etc., will make life painfully meaningless in the long run. It is better to perish merrily with people around who care than to survive miserably alone. Ultimately, it takes human to comfort.

Greater good
Equilibrium is a must. Balance is the key. The only approach, which can save us or probably give us a chance to exist and prosper in long run, is implementing greater-good concept. During the entire history of human existence, we have tried hard to shift this balance from nature to humans.

Disturbing the equilibrium of nature has become our habit. We became so fond of doing it that we created a society, religion, casts, cultures, etc., to tilt this balance toward a chosen few. We also brought in a tool called currency to further deepen the divide between the poor and the rich. We tried to set things in order, but we failed to realize that nature is not designed to following orders; it is ever evolving and never settles. We must stop resisting and make peace with it. That is the only way forward. 

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