Immigrant Bengalis

[Author’s Note: As of Oct 20, 2020, Coronavirus cases in the USA were as follows:

Total Cases:8.26 Million. Deaths:220K]                         

By this time all of us know what the Coronavirus is and what harm it is doing to our life; yet I thought it would be a good idea to write a few words about this virus – like how it got its name, etc. -- and a very short description about it.

Coronaviruses derive their name from the fact that under electron microscopic examination, each virion is surrounded by a “corona,” or halo. In Latin “Corona” means “Crown” and as the virus looks under the microscope like a crown, that is how it got the name “Coronavirus”.

They are both the same thing, but a virion is a virus that left the host cell and has fully matured to the ability to infect other cells. Virus is a general term for any kind of virus, but virions are like adult viruses that are the outcome of an infected cell. Virion is a more specific term, for a virus particle.

As of the time of this writing, nearly 8.26 million people have been infected and the death toll has risen to more than 220K. (The death rate is nearly 2.70% and the recovery rate is 30.00% approximately.)

China informed the WHO of UNO that Coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) had spread in Wuhan City in China. They delayed informing the WHO, intentionally or otherwise, and the delay caused a tremendous increase in the number of infected people. By the middle of March 2020, countries like Italy, USA and many others experienced a huge increase in infections leading to death. By April 12, 2020 USA had lost 20,637 lives to this Pandemic. Since China had delayed to inform the world, most nations did not have the needed time to figure out how to handle this grave situation, and that led to the early death of many elderly people. Eventually, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of USA, the Allergy and Infectious Diseases team led by Dr. Anthony Fauci found that certain clinical procedures and a few behavioral modifications could put a brake on the spread of the disease, and these effective measures were recommended to protect the citizens. Some of the steps are social distancing, using face masks, washing hands frequently, with any soap for at least 20 seconds, and drying them with clean paper towels.

We have read in history books about the plague (Black Death) that reached Europe in 1347 when 12 ships arrived from the Black Sea and docked in the Sicilian Port of Messina. This epidemic of bubonic plague wiped out about 350 to 375 million people worldwide in the 14th century. Later that plague arrived in different parts of the world and killed many more people. The most recent attack of this disease was in Surat, India in 1994. The bubonic plague that year killed many people in Gujarat. Now a new Pandemic, named the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19), has appeared in the human arena and its deadly force is felt in the entire world. Besides the loss of lives, it has had a major impact on the citizenry and the economic activity in the USA.

In the wake of this pandemic, the government officials have taken extraordinary measures to keep the country’s citizens safe and well. We, the citizens of this country, should also join in this war to stop the scourge of the Covid-19 pandemic. We should follow the instructions of the government agencies and their official leaders. As a good citizen I am personally following all the advice given by the authorities, but it is not easy.

I have been self-quarantining for approximately the last 64 days; I have had plenty of time for self-scrutiny and for pondering the critical situation we are in. It is not only me and my family; thousands of families are in the same boat and the going is getting tougher and tougher. I have some personal experience of epidemic conditions -- caused by cholera and small-pox -- from the small village where I grew up as a teen-ager, I saw how everybody was coping with the situation when two to three patients were dying every day. Soon the situation became a nightmare for the inhabitants, villagers were noticing their loved ones die from the ravages of the epidemic. Everyone was scared to death as the epidemic continued to rage for over six months. Now, during this pandemic, I am a retired mature adult and I have a family to look after. Life is more complicated than before; its needs are many but the ways to fulfill them are currently limited, and so everyone like me at this time is at a loss about what to do.

In the wake of this pandemic life has become more complex. The society is in jeopardy and lives are in danger, the government is in a dilemma about how to protect its citizens and how to stop this pandemic without destroying the economy. All of us need to be together to fight this monster and make this country safer and make life normal again.

Many of us migrated to this country for a better life. We struggled and worked hard for many years and finally our families became stable financially. Some of us are now retired and enjoying our retirement. The recent wobbly and unsteady stock market certainly gives us pause about the future of our nest egg. To make matters worse, the social life is almost gone: we cannot go out, we are told to maintain social distance, and we have to use face masks to protect ourselves from infection by this deadly disease. Socialization with friends and family has become an event of the past; friends cannot visit friends, family members cannot meet other family members, and grandparents are scared to have grandchildren in their homes. Our lives are practically on the edge of a cliff -- about to fall and crash any time soon.  

Millions of people are out of work. Small businesses employ about 70% of the work force. Restaurants, bars, retail stores, grocery stores, salons, barber shops and many other small service stores are closed by the order of the government. The impact of these closures can be observed in many areas, such as no haircut, no nail cutting in pedicure and manicure shops, and so on. Life is at a stalemate, so to speak.

Even after the Coronavirus is contained, the impact of this pandemic on the society will be far-reaching. At present, most of the big companies are letting their employees work from home via computers. Employees are incredibly happy right now because they can work from home and get paid. This is good news for the employers also. Everyone in the remote work force is working extremely hard from home to keep their jobs and, as a result, productivity is way up. More accurately, one employee now produces more than a time and half of their normal production. So, an employer is getting three employees’ work done by two employees. Soon the employers will figure it out and, once this pandemic is over, they will reduce their workforce accordingly. As a result, a good number of people will lose their jobs and eventually become unemployed.

One of the worst effects of this virus is that our children cannot go to school or the playground. As a result, they are not getting face-to-face instructions from their teachers in school. Since they cannot go to the playground, they cannot get any physical exercise either, which will cause obesity in some of the children. Some adults who are physically active face the same challenge. They cannot go to the gym, and for those who play tennis or golf, they cannot do those either. They are not getting their regular exercises, which may lead to diabetes, obesity, or heart related complications. Overall, the consequences may be a rise in health-related issues for all of us. It has been determined that obesity is also a grave risk factor for mortality in the Coronavirus infection.   

The other side of the coin is even worse. During the mandatory lockdown or stay-at-home order, some marital problems may arise among young married couples. Normally each married couple spends about seven hours together besides the time for sleep. The calculation goes like this: out of twenty-four hours a day, if you take out twelve hours for work-related activity including the commute time, the remaining twelve hours are for sleep and home-related activities. During a lockdown, the husband and wife have more time for interactions, for differences of opinion, for small  altercations which may turn into big spats, and small disagreements may eventually build up into a huge falling out that would eventually result in a divorce filing. Some couples in the same situation would be victims of depression and other mental problems, and these may add fuel to the fire of addiction to alcohol or drugs. Even when the Coronavirus would be contained, these social issues could burn our society little by little like a slow fire on husk.

We must not forget that after 9/11, our life could never come back to its previous stage, and it now circles around elaborate security lines for airline flights, big cultural performances, and sporting events. Such inconveniences now have become a part of our life, whether we like them or not. Similarly, someday our scientists will discover some vaccine for Covid-19, and may be they will also find out some specific drug to treat the severe symptoms of this disease; but the malady will never be eradicated from the environment. It will float around, air-borne, all year round and all over the world. Seasons will come when this virus will infect people again, but while its morbidity will remain strong, the mortality should not be as bad as it is now. It may even be a seasonal disease like the flu that strikes during certain periods of the year.

The use of drugs like Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine for prophylaxis of Covid-19 may have serious side effects for their use; symptoms of heart disease and liver disease may appear, and a section of patients who are treated with these drugs may fall victim to such conditions.

So, according to many experts, the virus may be contained but will never be eradicated completely. It is here now and, like it or not, it is going to stay forever as one of the deadliest maladies of all time. While the situation will be ameliorated someday, the devastating effect of the pandemic will be remembered for many years to come.      

Amidst this pandemic and its detrimental effects, with thousands of families suffering from its vicious attack, I have been receiving phone calls from my friends every day about people they know having been infected by this deadly disease.

About seven or eight persons whom I know very closely have been infected with Covid-19. Some of them are my friends. One of these friends is Amal Das. He is in his late forties with good health. He is an athlete who loves to walk and run; in fact, he typically runs 5 miles every day. When I heard a healthy person like him has been infected by Coronavirus, I was very worried for him but could not do anything. As I could not go to the hospital to visit him, I felt very helpless and started to pray to God for his recovery. Two or three weeks later, I received a phone call from Amal, and I was relieved and very happy to hear his voice. He described the pain and agony of the suffering which he had gone through and said, “I would not wish my worst enemy to go through this pain and suffering”. Then he sent me a one-minute video clip in which he was trying to breathe while doing a breathing exercise. He mentioned that the nurse made the recording for him. When my wife and I watched the video, we realized the degree of suffering these patients go through. It was a big learning experience for us about the severity of this malady. We were relieved that Amal had recovered fully and started his normal life again. Also, the mother-in-law of one of my friends became sick with the Coronavirus and did not survive. She was 79 years old.   

 I received a very scary telephone call from one of my good friends in India, who said that his son, a thirty-seven-year-old brilliant scholar, was sick with Covid-19. This young man had stood first in the Math Olympiad of India and had come to Houston University to study for his master’s and Ph.D. Since his father and I were good friends, he had come to New York and stayed with us for a few days before joining his university.  After that he visited us a few more times during his stay in USA. Following his graduation, he went back to India and joined a multinational company in a very high position. Even after moving to India, he used to call us two or three times a year and always said “Uncle, I talk about you and Auntie to my dad and mom all the time. Whenever I visited you, you made my stay very comfortable and always treated me as if I were your own child. I shall never forget your love and affection. Please remember to spend a few days with me and my wife in our home. Please reserve a few days for us in your travel plan.” So, when we heard the news, we were very sad and called his parents regularly. In the meantime, we were praying daily for his recovery. Finally, the good news came that he had fully recovered from Covid-19 and resumed his normal activity. We breathed a sigh of relief and thanked God for his recovery.

It is very distressing for any human being to go through this horrible period, and we must find some way to cope with the struggle for survival in this era of the Covid-19 pandemic. Personally, I believe that this is the time for all of us to summon help from our inner self. We should never lose our inner strength; we must rely on our spiritual fortitude and submit ourselves to the Almighty for succor. In the past, whenever there was any problem in my life, I always sought answers from the holy book, The Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, where Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna how to cope with any difficult situation in life, including war with close relatives. The Shrimad Bhagavad Gita enlightens everyone on how to cope with the predicaments and vicissitudes of life. Using the conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, it highlights and showcases positive coping mechanisms and dispels negative ones.

The United Nations (UN) recognizes 195 sovereign countries, 193 of which are members of the United Nations, and two - the Holy See and the State of Palestine - are simply observer states. Of all these countries the root cause of the pandemic points to China. It is the responsibility of all these countries in the UN to find out if China has a rogue administration that is responsible for the deliberate spread of this disease. If it is, the United Nation should punish that country for such a heinous act against humanity.

We should prepare ourselves to acknowledge that the post Covid-19 life may not be the same as the pre Covid-19 life. We have to understand that Covid-19 will leave a deep scar in all of us. Changes may take place in behavior and society, and we should accept such changes gracefully.

Finally, it is very necessary that all of us start praying according to our faith and start to believe that this wild Coronavirus pandemic will be tamed and eradicated with the combined help of faith, coping skills and knowledge of medical science. Night is always followed by the light of day. We must hope and pray that we are nearing the end of this nightmare. Despite our fear of the Coronavirus, humanity will prevail in the end, and we will conquer this deadly pandemic. Finally, we will restore our lives to a new normalcy which will be enjoyed by every citizen of our country.   

Note: 1. By the time it is published the number of deaths, infections, etc. will change and rise                                                          

           2. Used references from different sources of information


(Posted December 1, 2020)

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Hope Against Living In Fear

Dilip Chakrabarti