Even before the Covid-19 pandemic brought in the application and use of the terms "social distancing", "isolation", and "quarantine", a more intangible form of social distancing was widespread across India. The practice of untouchability that was brought in thousands of years ago, which brought in the theory of purity and pollution, the Covid-19 pandemic reflects on the same, except that now it is applicable to all regardless of caste and class. Once those who talked about this segregation and discrimination as wrong and awful are the ones who actually breed this behaviour. Below is an example to explain this from one of my own personal experiences.

Recently around four months ago, I lost my father due to the novel corona virus. Losing a loved one is the most difficult thing to deal with, it is like having the floor snatched from under you, having your windows broken and the roof above the head stolen. However loosing someone due to the pandemic is something more extreme, it makes you witness human nature at its worst which is permanently scarring. The damage one goes through losing a family member is already difficult, whilst the pandemic burdening the family with more difficulties. I still remember how we had cried for help to the neighbour beside us, and hearing the refusal instantly, or the nurses who had barred us from providing medicines to my dad and the hospital that had already removed my dad from the ventilator before our consent. Not only witnessing such harsh things, the calls from the society making us aware as to not bring dad's body at our residence, to get isolated immediately so as to not contaminate the building and spreading false information were as terrifying as it could be. Just like the untouchables were shunned and discriminated against, same behaviour was expressed by our so called society who was supposed to be standing with us in difficult times. Is this the kind of society we live in where the bereaved family is not even shown a speck of compassion but rather put in allegations? It became even more a dreaded time when our near and dear ones couldn't come and visit us, when our domestic helpers weren't allowed to come, when we just received condolences over texts and no individual by our side. It has been 4 four months, and no amount of time seems to be healing, but we have people in our society who till date have been asking us questions on "were we able to cremate dad?" and questions like "you don't seem to be grieving enough". It is to this extent that instead of the condolences the calls were made only to get exact details of what were the Covid procedures and how in a Covid case we were able to do all the rituals. Kindness in this case doesn’t even exist. 

Is this where we are heading towards as a society? Where collective solidarity and cooperation are needed to overcome such traumatic situations, our society is becoming more intolerant, spreading hate, isolating individuals and spreading fake news. While individuals should have been sharing sympathy, communicating support, and should be speaking of how vulnerable families facing loss become, we promote isolation, breeding stigma, fear and hate. We hear about people dying every day, it is only when we lose one of our own, when we are thrown to the other side of the table. Nothing is guaranteed. Today I face it, someday someone else might. No one is immune to loss and grief. We all are in the same journey awaiting the inevitable. Just like our behaviour once towards the untouchables, we now receive the same behaviour in return. It is just like the circle of life, what the society has sowed is now reaping it. While till date we stigmatize untouchability, forbidding them from sitting at our tables, sharing glasses, or even shaking hands, Covid has brought in such a situation where even the untouchables will not wish to come near or touch the bodies and graves of the covid positive individuals. In this case where Covid is concerned there is good reason for this but when it comes to SCs and STs, maids, drivers and other lower class groups, We as a society need to understand that Covid is a war with rules, strategies, disease and not caste. While earlier on the basis of caste people were segregated into pure and immure, Covid is a disease which no individual is immune to, it affects an individual despite of caste, class, religion, and nationality. Hoping that this virus will discipline mankind, and with all the experiences we start thinking like human beings and take a stand for humans irrespective of them being positive or negative, their religion, caste, and colour. I hope after this pandemic we become more thoughtful than judgemental.


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