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An open letter to COVID-19

How the world would be grateful if new variants would choose their future victims more responsibly

Written by Ranjit Lal | New Delhi |
Updated: December 30, 2021 11:57:47 am
ranjit lal, covid 19The coronavirus is running through the Greek alphabet at quite a canter. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Dear COVID-19,

For the last two years, you have been ravaging the globe like some crazed “wild jungle critter” (as survival experts like to call them) hell-bent on getting us. While it’s the bounden duty of every self-respecting virus to replicate itself crazily — we humans do it, too, and have fun doing so — sadly, you’ve been doing it in a completely reprehensible way — just like your cousins, the rabies and Ebola viruses.

Like the hordes of some barbaric army, you make ill, kill and cause enormous psychological trauma and unforgivable grief to millions of people across the globe, driving them to penury and utter misery. Agreed, your cousin, the rabies virus, has a more flamboyant approach, irritating its hosts to the extent that they have to go around slavering and biting everything in sight in order to spread. You do your job with greater finesse — some fever, no smell, a cold and cough maybe, bodyache, breathlessness, multiple organ failure and, sometimes, all or none of the above. And your kill rate is superlative: you swept through Delhi like an invasion by Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun. People just had to breathe to spread you around, not bite. A single person could infect a full multiplex in a matter of hours, to say nothing of politicians hosting election rallies. And you swept through the world regardless of the country’s “status” — developed, developing/emerging, underdeveloped — giving one the impression that you are democratic, but actually because we need to travel 24x7x365.

Naturally, we rose up against you and now have an arsenal of vaccines with which to emasculate you. To counter this, every few months, you appear in a new avatar that initially at least befuddles our research scientists and sends the world into a right tizzy and the neurotic stock markets into a tailspin (sadly, some people are more bothered about this than the havoc you cause otherwise). To keep you out, we had to keep ourselves and our children locked in, with our faces duct-taped. So, now, you gunned for the easiest quarry: those intrepid frontline workers who were trying to save the stricken and those already stricken down with other ailments: this is arrant cowardice on your part; even if you say it is nature’s way. Like a soldier impersonating the enemy, you can’t be seen (in plain sight), heard, be smelt — just felt (and not always) — and then, it’s too late.

You may justify this as your wanting to be free and meet different people, not just circulate in the company of bats or pangolins in laboratories, or animal markets in totalitarian China, and so, you decided to hitch on to us (we’d like to know whether you escaped or were let loose). As bats/pangolins and you get on so well, doesn’t that kind of relationship get stifling after a while?

So, you hit us and how: Nearly every family in the world has lost a spouse, child, parent, grandparent, close relative, friend, acquaintance or colleague to the point it has become difficult to call up anyone because you don’t know whether they’re still around. Millions of honest, hardworking, decent people have been taken down far before their time and I have to say this is a gigantic blot on your copybook: your image has been irretrievably tarnished.

What’s worse, there are hordes of nasty, unpleasant, dishonest, bigoted, greedy, violent, vicious and patently evil people (and trolls) out there who you have not touched! Or to whom you may have given a flying kiss but who have recovered precisely because of their ability to throw their weight (and pots of gold) around. I’m not taking any names because the list is far too long and those left out would feel insulted and troll me about hurt sentiments. But don’t you think this would be a proper challenge for a virus like yourself? Or is there some evil deep-rooted conspiracy brewing here?

They say you’re going to be around for a while, if not permanently, changing your colours or spike proteins or whatever every now and then. Certainly, you’re running through the Greek alphabet at quite a canter. If so, most of the world would be grateful if new versions of you could at least choose their future victims with more responsibility: i.e. among the nasty, corrupt, dishonest. There is more than enough of such garbage around and they seem to be replicating themselves exponentially and certainly faster than the decent lot. Hunt and take them down. You’ll be making the world a better place. (Once they’re gone, we might even be able to tackle climate change realistically.) For a change, give yourself a real challenge — are you virus enough for it? Or will you still go spreading yourself among the innocent and hardworking and the vulnerable? Here in India, we were just about poking our heads out of our bunkers, when you reappeared as Omicron, torpedoing thousands of eagerly anticipated travel and vacation plans once again. For shame! Nature may be red in tooth and claw, but it is not vindictively and pettily malicious. Optimistic researchers (a very rare breed) are saying that Omicron is spreading itself more rapidly though not as destructively as its predecessors. Just remember one thing: one day, we’ll have your measure. Think of the ignominy you will suffer, when all we’ll say to a COVID-positive person who goes “atchoo!” in our face, is “bless you!”

Yours sincerely,

Down in Jungleland

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