President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his inaugural address in 1933, said the only thing to fear was fear itself. The coronavirus has health, economic, social, administrative, etc. aspects.
There is also the fear aspect. That is not confined to the present only. Fear is very much in the minds of people, including doctors, fear of the pandemic making a re-appearance after six months or more. Neither World War 1 or World War II had the reach, the coronavirus has.
These wars deadly and horrific did not involve South America and large parts of Africa. The coronavirus respects no national boundaries is invisible and so unbearable so far. No fear is worse than the fear of the unknown, the fear of nature’s forces which man can neither channel nor comprehend.
Overnight it has become intensified and magnified. It is filling our minds with primordial apprehensions. Humankind is groping in the dark in fear. Parents fear for their children, immigrants for the livelihood, the fear of galloping unemployment is all too visible in America, Europe, and other parts of the globe.
Where a man can find no answer, he will find fear. I am 91 years of age, so I do not fear. But I do for my wife, my son, my grandsons and my friends. Will fear be the new normal. Has a new age being born.
Has medicine failed? The newspapers devote most of their pages to the damage the coronavirus is inflicting on men, women, and children. TV is a mixed blessing. It informs, it also produces fear in our minds. What will tomorrow bring? More fear or hope.
Hope for whom? To those who are living in a controlled panic. Don’t panic is the mantra of the medicos. But doctors and nurses are dying of the virus. Is hope the hope. Does any of us have an answer? The lockdown will end after eight days. Gone will be social distancing.
How will educational institutions accommodate students when each has to sit six feet from the other. Where will space come for those in the same class? The same applies to travel. The air industry the world over has gone bust. If it revives, then will passengers sit six feet apart. Take liquor shops.
We saw the bedlam in Delhi the other day. When these booze shops re-open, no one will follow the six feet rule. Hence, we are living in a coronavirus pressure cooker. Damned if you uncover it, damned if you don’t. What about political public meetings.
I have no answer, except posing questions. Like everyone else I eagerly and impatiently await the invention of the magic vaccine, which will be available by early next year. One hundred laboratories are working night and day to produce one.
I am not a religious person, but I do believe in Auto de fe: Belief in fate. Neither pessimism nor optimism is the need of the hour. Both are matters of temperament. Satish Gujral’s death last month did not attract the notice it should have.
I knew him for almost forty-five years. He was among the great painters of the 20th century. He was also a gifted architect. The Belgian Embassy in Chankyapuri is his creation. He was stone deaf for the better part of his life. Then a miraculous operation restored his hearing.
He was great fun to be with. The art world has lost a genius. His wife Kiran is a most remarkable lady. I never met Irfan Khan or Rishi Kapoor. The latter’s father I met several times.
He was not only a superb actor, but he was also an artist, creative, original, who stirred both heart and mind. Irfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor were both beloved of cinema audiences. If I remember correctly I saw him in Slumdog Millionaire.
He stole the shows. To my regret, I did not see any of Rishi Kapoor’s films. Both he and Irfan were men of courage and died like heroes. In the 1960s Dev Anand produced and acted in Prem Pujari. I was then working in the Indira Gandhi office.
Dev Anand came to see me. I had met him earlier in New York. He said he wanted the P.M to see the film. I took him to P.M. She said to Dev, “Let Natwar see it first”. I did. She did not..
K NATWAR SINGH
The author is Former Minister of External Affairs of India