THE WASTE LAND

THE WASTE LAND

The world is already living up to the name of TS Eliot’s iconic poem written way back in 1922, one would think after the Spanish flu had ravaged many parts of the world. Let me share 2 lines with you:

  • April is the cruelest month, breeding

And

  • I will show you fear in a handful of dust

For me the pandemic really began in full force in April. Until then we believed that the Corona virus was a temporary inconvenience. Today, the world around us lacks the vitality it needs to survive and is beset with an abundance of fear. I resent people coming close to me, even those near and dear to me, whom I haven’t seen for weeks or months. I am sure others resent it if I come to close to them.

Today is the 19th of August in the year 2020, an era by which we should have, by rights, mastered disease, war, the plague and any other devastating force. But here we are, at the mercy of this unseen enemy. The most frightening part of it is that there is no end in sight.

Today, I decided to visit the local mall, a rather nice place which used to have vibrant traffic, great eateries, a cineplex and a children’s playground. The sight of this mall brought to my mind a vision of a scary book of a post-apocalyptic world, ‘Oryx and Crake’ and its sequel, ‘The Year of the Flood’. If this pandemic continues much longer, this mall could well resemble the abandoned shopping mall in Oryx and Crake.

I just heard that 5 million Indians lost their jobs in July alone. I am not sure what percentage of the workforce this is, but it cannot be small. How many lost their jobs in the world in July alone, I wonder? Fifty million maybe? Any guesses? What that does to purchasing power I cannot even imagine.

Actually, I can imagine. I do not recall a time when I spent so little money on living as I do now. This must be the case with millions of others in this country and countless numbers across the world. So, this is now a domino effect? Gym Instructors, teachers in villages, parking attendants, flower sellers, restaurant workers, hotel staff, how many people will never make it back? How many businesses already lie in ruins and how many more will go this way?

A handful are celebrating stock markets across the world going up. Okay does that put a meal on the table of any of the 5 million who lost their jobs in India in July? I sit in the comfort of my air-conditioned family room, sipping a lemonade and munching snacks at 7 in the evening giving a brief thought to those who do not have a roof over their heads, or a meal to live on. Yes, tomorrow, for the likes of me, it will be business as usual. I will wake up, get ready and eat a skimpy breakfast, not because I cannot afford a big one, but because I have put on a couple of kilos of weight. Then I check my calendar for Zoom calls and my ‘to-do’ list and lose interest in the people I just mentioned above.

Today I feel shame and chagrin. Tomorrow I will have other ‘worries’ but luckily for me, none of them will be about where my next meal will come from or how I pay the school fees for my children, or the electricity bill. I will lose all my chagrin and shame shortly when I put on Netflix and look for the latest release. The 5 million unfortunates will be gone from my mind within a few minutes.

Now, do I feel shame? Should I feel shame? I do not know. All I know is that if this continues, the world I live in and the world the unfortunates live in will become seamless to each other. And then where is my safety, security, freedom from disease, and the perpetuity of my ‘haves’ lifestyle.

Maybe there is an answer out there to this. I am sorry, I just do not see it. I keep hearing the words, “when things get back to normal”. What would normal be? Traveling where I wish to, without a mask, without quarantine, without the fear at every step of the way? Tell me, when do you see this happening? I watched a son’s wedding on Zoom and heard about the birth of a grandchild who I am not sure if and when I will see. When will I go on my next cruise? Remove the word ‘When’, and that is a more relevant question.

Oh, by the way, I am in that vulnerable class. The elderly, who are bound to get sick and die if they do not stay indoors.

Que sera, sera.