At 5 pm on 22nd March 2020, when we, countrymen of India were summoned to applaud, to show solidarity to the on-ground workers fighting the ongoing pandemic at the frontline, I was one among the 1.3 billion Indians to have vociferously honored and celebrated the people who are fighting for us, for our survival against a lethal virus that has no form, no face, just a name – COVID 19 and a massive number, 53,069 that woefully today represents the people who have perished.
'We are grateful, we are indebted'
Coming on to balconies, flinging windows open to applaud workforces fighting the coronavirus is now a global phenomenon. Yes, I was a part of the salutation because to me it had made absolute sense. Whilst the numbers of coronavirus cases keep escalating, positivity is hard to come by. Any ray of sunshine is worth holding onto. As a global crisis, like never witnessed before, engulfs the world into darkness, small acts of humanity such as poignantly applauding doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers would go a long way in telling them we are grateful, we are indebted.
Sacrificing social distancing
But, despite what our PM had in his heart, his virtuous intentions, people took his request otherwise as an occasion for celebration. The protocol of "social distancing", the lone approach to prevent the virus from spreading, was greeted with utter disrespect. Masses took to the streets in large hordes to bang pots and pans, blow conch shells and spread cheer posing a serious health risk to hundreds of people. While our PM's words were crystal, "show respect from within the confines of our houses", the citizens of this country took this opportunity to rejoice, to cheer the ground workers. As an aware citizen, I am liable for the actions I perform for the safety of myself and my family. Why weren't they? Thus, I ask you, why in India does an act of harmony, a simple act of showing gratitude, all while maintaining distance, turn into an act of celebration?
Despite the ban on religious gatherings and services across the world, a few adamant individuals are still conducting mass congregations and while leaving, unknowingly carrying the coronavirus with them. The recent Tablighi Jamaat incident is testimony to the fact that owing to the misdemeanors of a few men, the lives of millions are in jeopardy. The government's motivation after all is to protect the well-being of Indians stretching from the soaring mountains of Kashmir to the roaring seas of Tamil Nadu.
The battle has only begun
On the 3rd April when PM Modi wanted to address the nation through a televised program, I was excited. With utmost interest, I wanted to hear our exemplary leader give a speech that was reformative, well-structured and addressed the challenges that we are currently facing. As a mindful citizen, I looked forward to listening to a speech that characterized the very fundamentals of a democratic country.
But, when I heard the speech, I must say, I was left slightly puzzled. PM Modi's announcement of an act, 9 minutes at 9 PM, of dispelling the gloom generated by the coronavirus, has left me bewildered. Like earlier, a few questions raced across my mind. Will this action of lighting a lamp, or a diya or flashing mobile phone torches become another jamboree? Whilst the battle has only merely begun, it is still a long way to victory! What I believe is that there are more meaningful ways to help dissipate the sadness that has consumed the world. Contributions towards the PM-CARES fund, no matter how small or large, can save hundreds of lives, build a new nation and amend lives. I love my nation, I respect the leaders who govern this nation, but what perplexes me is that how will lighting a few diyas on my doorstep or flashing a torch from the window show any solidarity, give any hope to the hundreds and thousands of poor labor forces grappling to endure without food and shelter?
The math is quite simple. Even if half of India's population that desires to take part in Sunday's act of lighting a diya, instead contribute to the PM fund, can make an enormous difference in our fight against the deadly virus. A diya may cost nothing, probably just a few rupees, but when a million people donate a million rupees towards a cause, imagine the difference it can bring about? Do I have to indicate the astounding amount we can add to the fund? Thus, instead of lighting a diya, why not contribute that amount for the larger good of mankind? The money can be utilized to speed up the manufacturing process for coronavirus test kits and ventilators, making available protective suits to nurses and caregivers, build isolation centers and medical infrastructure. Mere symbolism isn't important, what makes a difference is the actions and initiatives we as human being undertake.
Showing solidarity differently
I truly hope that this time, people will conform to the clarion call from their beloved PM and show faith in his leadership instead of flouting 'social distancing' instructions and turning an act of unanimity, an act of agreement into an act of amusement and enjoyment.
I am not writing this article to condemn or complain against the outstanding leadership of our PM Shri Narendra Modi. I am writing this article, as a human being, an Indian resident to apprise my fellow citizens to become more aware and judicious about the actions they take. This call of showing cohesion and gratitude on Sunday at 9 PM is voluntary and I leave it to you to choose prudently. The war we are combatting is not against a human being or a single nation, it is against a faceless mysterious microorganism that is on the lookout for hosts to evolve and propagate. Let's not encourage its intensification by being reckless and negligent.
Yes, I agree that during these trying times, we need to keep each other motivated and joyful. But how about on Sunday at 9 PM, we instead show solidarity to our neighbors for sticking with us through thick and thin? How about we thank them for being by our side as we fight this faceless endemic, but without hugging, without getting out on the streets, without touching each other? I cannot be thankful enough that we have thus far survived this epidemic and our families are safe. As the world confronts the COVID 19 outbreak, make it a point to reach out to those you love no matter which part of the world they are in.
Let our voices resonate, let kindness seep through our lives, but let us not burn down millions of rupees to ashes in the name of being sympathetic and caring. This is the way a nation is built; this is the way a nation defeats enemies.
[Somdutta Singh is an entrepreneur and former vice-chairperson of NASSCOM Product Council. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of International Business Times, India]