By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
A meaningful story, a WhatsApp forward: A gourmet chef once invited a dozen of his close friends to the restaurant. He had prepared a special biriyani, the secret recipe of which he claimed he had got from an old lady from his village. The aroma of this special dish spread all over the place. Everyone’s mouth started watering. Now they were all eager to taste this special biriyani. Everyone was served the dish.
Just when everyone was about to take the first bite, the chef came and said, “I have to forewarn you. There is a small stone in the biriyani. Since it was of the same size and colour of the rice, I could not pick it in time. It might come in anyone’s plate. So please be careful while eating. I do not want anyone to damage their teeth.”
The flavour of the biriyani was great and so was the taste. But now the fun of eating had gone. Everyone was forcefully swallowing one bite after another without paying any attention to the taste or the aroma. There was no talk, no gossip. All were silently eating, only concentrating on their bite.
Before the meal, there was so much talk going around but now everyone were concentrating on checking who would get the elusive stone. The last bite was over and no stone was found.
Everyone was relieved but someone noticed that no one got the stone. Then they called the chef and asked him, “You said that one of us will get a stone, but no one got it. Why?” The chef said, “I had removed all the stones but there was a chance that one or two might have been missed. So I just informed you.”
They all looked at each other as the fun of eating the great biriyani had gone. Each one was so concentrated on finding the stone, no one had noticed the delicate flavour and the superb taste of the signature biriyani.
Come to the present, due to this pandemic, our condition also has become like the ‘stone’ in the biriyani. The fun of living has vanished. Every helping hand who comes forward is looked down with suspicion — be it the milk-man, vegetable vendor, grocer or the maid. Every time a bell rings, we grab a mask before opening the door. Every time we buy grocery or vegetable, at the back of the mind, we start thinking whether any virus has also come along with it.
Inviting a guest home is now a forgotten ritual. Earlier, if one sneezed we used to say “God Bless,” now if anyone sneezes in our presence, we start thinking whether our time has come.
One of the prime reasons for this is the slew of negative news going all around. Open a newspaper, it is Corona from page one to page ten. Switch on a TV, it is depressing news of Corona 27×7. So much so, even family members discuss only Corona all the time. Switch on the wifi in the morning, Corona advices start coming in. From lime therapy, ginger therapy, etc., a sure shot cure for Corona. Literal bombardment of videos.
Because of this negativity, even the frontline workers and doctors hesitate to get vaccinated which is essential to get the herd immunity necessary in the long run to get over this pandemic.
I was talking to an Administrative Officer of a reputed Hospital and was astonished when she informed me that only 110 members of her Hospital, which has a staffing of seven hundred plus, had got themselves vaccinated!
Imagine, if this is the mindset of the frontline workers, what to expect from the general public? I have written about 300-plus articles for this newspaper but so much negative news floating around has affected my writing too. I sit in front of a computer, and my mind goes blank.
Take the example of Israel, with 81 percent of the people vaccinated they have reached the stage of herd immunity and have advised their population to avoid masks in public. Such a positive news gets tucked in some corner of a newspaper and a passing reference in the electronic media.
One look at the photographs of Ugadi festival hopping at our own Mysuru city, it seems that Corona is only a myth going around. Milling crowds not bothered about wearing any kind of mask or following social distancing norms. Suddenly when the infection count of Mysuru has shot up to four digits, everyone is worried. Are we going the Bengaluru way? Shortage of oxygen, icu beds, etc.
I go for my evening walk and see that most of the people do not wear mask, an essential item for personal safety. The District Administration proudly claims that they have collected some crores as fine money and forget about it. A hundred or two hundred rupees fine is not going to pinch anyone’s pocket and that is the reason no one really cares. The fine has to pinch and so a minimum of 500 rupees fine is essential to make a difference.
Like Singapore, the administration has to appoint 500 Marshals to go around the city and collect fines. And their salary can be paid from fines collected.
There is a small restaurant “Halli Hatti” in our colony and before the pandemic, I used to visit that restaurant once a week and enjoy a breakfast of made- to-order dosa with extra onions and chillies. With the pandemic now fully entrenched, I have not visited that restaurant for a year now. Missing these small joys of life. Miss the hot samosas and coffee of drc Cinemas too.
What an irony, if now someone tells you be positive, it is considered a curse. Of course, the only positive aspect of this pandemic is the awareness on the importance of “family.”
To conclude, as I was writing this article, I remembered this Kishore Kumar classic “Koi lauta de mere beete huye din…” [Can someone bring me back those days gone by]. Is it possible? Let us be optimistic.