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The corona warriors

Medics collect swab samples of staff and students of Gauhati Medical College and Hospital for COVID-19 test after a PG student was tested positive for coronavirus, in Guwahati, Friday, May 8, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

To buttress the government’s efforts to keep people at home to ensure social or physical distancing, various TV channels have entered the retro-race, replaying popular serials of yore. Doordarshan is a clear winner in the race with its acclaimed armoury of all-time hits such as Ramayan, Mahabharat, Uttara Ramayan, Hanuman, Hum Log, Buniyad, Chanakya, Shaktiman, Byomkesh Bakshi and Shrimaan Shrimati.

The biggest hit is Ramayan. Its popularity can be gauged not only by its record reruns and idolisation of lead actors but also by the fact that on popular demand, the sequel Uttara Ramayan followed. Ramayana is, no doubt, about Ram and his consort, Sita. But among all its other characters, Hanuman is by far the most beloved of the people because it is easy to identify oneself with him as a staunch devotee of Ram.

In any case, Hanuman plays a pivotal role in the Ramayana. As depicted in the serial, we see him first in the role of a facilitator of a meeting between the Ram in search of Sita and a revengeful Sugriva. He assumes "higher responsibilities" only when he is reminded of his prowess by Jambvana (the bear sage). Thereafter he literally takes off, displaying intelligence and ready wit, apart from physical and supernatural abilities. His exploits, as we know them, include establishing contact with Vibhishana, meeting Sita, devastating Ashok Vatika in order to attract attention, outwitting Ravana and burning down Lanka.

One of his endearing qualities on display is being ever ready to help, even without being asked. Thus he offers to take Sita away from Lanka on his own, he fetches the vaidya (physician) Sushen for Lakshamana’s treatment; brings sanjivini booti (immortality medicine) from the Himalayas; carries Lakshamana on his shoulders to combat Meghanada, offers to take Ram, Sita and Lakshamana on his shoulders from Lanka to Ayodhya, and goes in advance to break the news of Ram’s arrival to Bharata, among others.

Thus "Hanumanism" epitomises selfless service beyond the call of duty. And that is the quality that has been displayed by the "corona warriors" in India, during the country’s battle against SARS-CoV-2. One of the appellations of Hanuman is sankata mochan (one who relieves you from trouble). That is the way most of us have appreciated all those who have come to our aid during the havoc caused by COVID-19.

First came the doctors, nurses, ward boys, pathologists, pharmacists and their ilk. As stricter norms came to be implemented, the policemen came to the fore. With the lockdown, the providers of essential supplies made their presence felt: milk, vegetables, grocery, newspaper, water, electricity, telecommunication and banking among others. To stem the exodus of migrant labour, the good Samaritans sprung up from every nook and corner and started kitchens to feed the needy.

More or less like the various stages of the journey of coronavirus, the list of corona warriors also expanded. Thus, suddenly, a large number of organisations and individuals jumped into the fray and there was a fair bit of mixing and cross-fertilization of roles. Thus the policemen started supplying rations and medicines, the postmen started delivering cash and essential commodities, railway coaches turned into isolation wards and the media started awareness campaigns and gave other assistance to the affected persons. Khadi and other textile units engaged in making and supplying of masks which subsequently spread to community clusters.

It is unfortunate, though, that guided missiles are being aimed at some of these corona warriors by some "masked", misguided and ill-informed elements of society. A few of these corona warriors have risked their lives in service of those very persons who had attacked them. Again, in some cities, the newspaper delivery warriors are not being allowed to engage in the battle.

Hanuman, when asked to bring sanjivani booti from the Himalayas, pulled out an entire mountain range in order not to miss the herb. In the same spirit, in addition to the swelling army of Hanumans, the "Hanuman approach to problem solving" has come into play. The decennial census style door-to-door survey, backed by medical check-up of suspected cases, has recently been launched in some States. To stall community transmission, community testing, rather than random sampling, has to become the order of the day. Green shoots are emerging, expecting a good harvest.

(The writer is a former Secretary-General of the Rajya Sabha)

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 2:26:14 AM |

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