THE YEAR WE LEARNT DANCING — part 2/2

V — Search for meaning

Politicians and Business leaders offer wild comparisons to WWII, but the argument lacks depth. While the war rhetoric helped to convey urgency, seriousness, and a sense of solidarity, it also raised anxiety, irrational behavior (remember stockpiling toilet rolls), and bigotry.

VI The New Normal

While day-to-day life seems to be on a ‘pause’, with nothing going on, some subterranean changes are speeding up below the surface. Not just in technology, these transformations cut across the role of religion in public life, forms of future education, the shape of print media… and so on.

VII — Hits and Misses

The world didn’t stop with Covid — In June, the USA burst into flames with the BLM movement, after George Floyd Killing. A film star committed suicide in India, launching a thousand conspiracy theories. In July, China stepped into Indian Territory, creating border tensions.

  • After the infamous “Thali Bajao, Diya Jalao” CTA, and sudden lockdown at four hours’ notice, the country witnessed the plight of poor immigrant laborers walk inter-state to their homes. Three BJP ruled states scrapped dozens of labor welfare laws, hoping companies leaving China will line up for investments; alas, nothing of that sort happened.
  • While the Supreme Leader-led from the front, his cabinet sang paeans of his wisdom on social media. Minister of Info posted his picture watching reruns of Ramayana; Minister of Health, who until 14th March insisted Covid is a media creation, got busy giving interviews about the need for social distancing; We even saw a noisy party spokesperson prepping handmade face masks.
  • Government and its sponsored media reviled endlessly Jamaat Tablighi religious congregation, for being wilful super-spreaders, following the Churchillian wisdom–‘Never let a good crisis go waste.’ The Courts later exonerated them of any such wrongdoing. In parallel, the CM of the most populous state held Ayodhya congregation of thousands, with little reason or remorse.
  • The clueless FM took 5 consecutive days to read out fiscal and monetary aid measures, which later turned out to be mere lipstick on the pig. Last heard, multiple states were pleading for what was due to them, under a tax-sharing mechanism.
  • Pushed to the corner, states opened up Liquor shops first — since the rest of the demand had flat-lined from forced lockdowns.
  • By July the search for vaccination was at warp speed worldwide, with many companies in China and the West as front runners. Not to be outplayed ICMR (the apex GOI body for Medical Sciences) instructed on 7th July, to all trial sites of Covaxin (the Indigenous vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech) that they should complete all clinical trials by August 15th! The vaccine had not even entered phase II testing then, yet the exigencies of a sound bite from the Red Fort pulpit overrode the public health concerns. Once called out, ICMR promptly went into damage control and spin.
  • Again in July, Dr. Fauci announced some positive results from lab tests of Remdesivir, an antiviral medication from Gilead Sciences. Never to be outdone, Dr. RamdevSir (RDS) in India launched a guaranteed Covid cure — Coronil! RDS is a maverick yoga teacher who sits at the top of the multibillion-dollar empire of Patanjali. The company operates in the amorphous space of alternative medicine that appeals to a vast Hindu segment, for reasons beyond medical proof. His past claims include cures for homosexuality and medication to conceive a male child. Coronil’s national launch and blatant messaging got called out — investigations revealed limited testing on mildly symptomatic patients, and use of allopathic medicines. RDS and the ruling party have a symbiotic relationship of the spiritual kind, so nothing came of it. In March 2021, the ‘medicine’ is re-launched, and this time the honorable Health Minister shared the dais with RDS to lend credibility!

VIII — We learn to dance

Now we are 12 months into it. Official statistics for the affected cases are 128 million, and 2.8 million deaths, as I write (March 2021). Multiple vaccines have arrived and mass inoculations are ramping up. Europe and India are going through the second wave, but unlike the last year, the responses are more nuanced and calibrated. People have witnessed the virus at close quarters, and they are willing to take on the fight.

  • Mixed Economic Activity–stock markets are in a ‘monkey on Red Bull’ mode whilst the world struggles with the debris of last year’s destruction, where large swathes of the population living on the margin have been pushed below the poverty line. UAE population has shrunk by 9–10%, as people lost jobs and returned to their home country. Most developed world is expecting a ‘V’ shaped recovery and unemployment numbers are shrinking.
  • Vaccine Diplomacy–Now that the vaccine has arrived, the debate has shifted to fair distribution between the haves and have-nots. And then there are anti-Vaxxers, who do not want to get the jab!
  • Techcelertion — Grandmothers are using online shopping/Digital payments/Mobile banking with a flourish.
  • Less Footloose World — surely more travel than 2020, but lower overall. More domestic staycation. Shorter cross-border travels because of ever-changing quarantine protocols.
  • De-globalization trends continue, and China is staring at the USA as an equal.
  • Biden has started course correction with WHO membership and commitment to Paris Accord. We also expect sanity in the US Immigration Policies and National Mask Mandate, a relief from the Wild West days of Trump. Perhaps the post-Covid world will rearrange in a better way.

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Ajay Goel

Ajay Goel

This is a place where I post essays and random musings.