That day I sneezed all through the classes. In the evening, Mom gave me a decoction of basil leaves, ginger, black pepper, cumin and carom seeds. I was hale and hearty the very next morning.
The bell rang. It was English next. Geeta Miss announced that Anup, my best friend and fellow bencher, will be on leave for 15 days. He was down with chicken pox. I missed him.
Having failed to accept his absence after three days, I went up to Radha Miss, the science teacher.
“What is chicken pox? Why does it take 15 days to recover?”
The usual questions a third grader could ask.
“It’s an infectious disease caused by a virus. Herpes zoster virus. Symptoms include a mild fever and a rash of itchy inflamed pimples which turn to blisters and then loose scabs.“, she said justifying her designation as a primary school science teacher.
Virus or viral to us born in the 70s, 80s or 90s was this. A fever that takes about 3-4 days to recover or at the most the chicken pox that lasted two weeks.
We didn’t have any 100% attendance awards those days. Thanks to the unadulterated (read detergent-less) milk, organically produced (read endosulfan-less) vegetables and the not-so-(lead)ing Maggi noodles (once in two weeks perk for being disciplined and obedient).
Platelets was a term in the blood report that only doctors understood. Common man hardly had to go for the pricky tests. Of course, we did have the vaccinations. I remember the cholera epidemic. Mom and two other aunts from our neighbourhood and seven of us travelled together in an auto to Laxmi Nagar for getting vaccinated. One hell of a ride that was. Bums of various colors, sizes and shapes bulging from all possible corners of the auto. The pain of the prick was gone because of the cattle-class ride.
Viral infections and viruses have outgrown those old days. Just like human beings who advanced technologically.
A computer virus that rarely attacked our home PC advanced into internet viruses and SMS viruses. Of course, they had to compete with the dengue, chickengunya, herpangina and what not.
With the advancements the meanings changed too. Viral stopped being used for a virus attack. Instead it became a viral video, a viral post, a viral picture. Salman laughed. Aishwarya cried. Jackie’s daughter went topless. Women slapped a Baba on live TV. Indrani’s sister became her daughter overnight.
One look at the self-claimed number one newspaper or the most-reliable (read unreliable) source of information, the social media, and you witness nothing but ‘viral’ news.
Give me a break!
This is what a virus is. This that we have instilled in our children. The virus of insensitivity.
We are no more worried for anyone. We are no more kind to anyone. We are no more empathetic towards anyone. We are not compassionate for anyone. All we do is live a superficial life. Take selfies. Post updates. Share viral videos through Whatsapp, Facebook or Twitter.
A girl sitting on the road’s edge was barely dressed. She was either poor or was kidnapped and forced into begging. We stop by. Take out a ten-rupee note (mostly replaced later with a one-rupee coin). Click a pic. Post it on every possible corner of the internet. This is no exaggeration. I witnessed this personally. They were young. But old enough to know how the girl might have felt. The said girl, barely 8-9 years old was shrugging herself behind a torn polythene cover. What disturbed me was the fact that there were girls in the group who were equally insensitive.
Where are we heading? What are we teaching our young generation? Why are we letting the virus of insensitivity scavenge their hearts?
We will be left as nothing but a mass of selfishness, shrewdness and narrow-mindedness. Alone. That is where we are heading.
The number of television sets, err…LCDs or LEDs are increasing. There are more smartphones than the number of people residing in a house. Discussions between family members sitting in the same room is now happening on Whatsapp group chats. Tiffins aren’t shared anymore. Hand-sanitizers are. Dinner is not had together. We have apps that encourage you to ‘Go Solo’.
I had been scolded publicly once for leaving a table where others were still eating. I was nine. I didn’t understand what the reason behind it was. Now I do. More than insulting the food, it was for walking out of a full house.
Some moral lessons we were taught through words, stories, actions, anecdotes or episodes. I believe they were necessary in shaping our lives.
As parents, we need to take control of this epidemic situation. We must vaccinate our children against this virus of insensitivity. It is spreading like wild fire. But we can use our house-hold environment to help our children be sensitive towards another’s pain and suffering.
This photograph I clicked around 11 at night on Saturday when most people had retired for the day or were comfortably seated in their living rooms. These bare-footed children were struggling to carry that carton full of rags. Their earnings for the day. I clicked it and showed it to the girls and got varied reactions.
Change begins at home.