“This too we shall overcome…”
(The portion in quotation marks is from an article I have read but don’t remember the source…but it struck a cord and hence it is reproduced here)
The Covid-19 pandemic seems like an endless nightmare, from which we will never wake up. But here are some thoughts, telling us of how mankind has overcome even worse natural and manmade disasters:
“Imagine you were born in 1900. On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years. On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%; the World GDP drops 27%. That runs till you are 33. When you turn 39, World War II starts. Between your 39th and 45th birthdays, 75 million people perish in the war.”
During the same time span, the great plague and cholera epidemics and the Bengal famine kill over 10 million people in India. On your 47th birthday, one of the bloodiest partitions of a country takes place on the Indian subcontinent, with one of the greatest migrations of a people in history. Millions are displaced and millions perish.
“Smallpox was epidemic until you were in your 40s and it killed 300 million people during your lifetime. At 50 the Korean War starts. 5 million perish. From your birth, until you are 55 you dealt with the fear of Polio epidemics each summer. You experience friends and family contracting polio and being paralyzed and/or die. At 55 the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years. 4 million people perish in that conflict.
During Cold War, you lived each day with the fear of nuclear annihilation. On your 62nd birthday, you have the Cuban Missile Crisis. Life on the planet, as we know it, almost ended and was narrowly averted. When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends; but other wars and epidemics in the Middle-East and Africa, punctuate your remaining birthdays with millions of casualties.”
We are told to think of everyone born on the planet in 1900. If they endured all that and survived through everything; we can too. Well, it is not as easy as that. We are looking at these past sufferings in retrospect; whereas we are right in the middle of our present sufferings. Our whole nation has experienced a trauma; not only from the threat of an imminent horrible death from Covid-19, but also from the anguish of the sufferings of an impoverished migrant population walking hundreds of miles home across the sun-baked fields of India.
We too have strode the blistering miles with them and wept with them as their hungry children cried themselves to sleep in open fields at night. And our hearts have bled along with their feet as they trudged day after weary day; their eyes on the distant horizon, desperate to reach the love and succour of home—willing it to happen soon. The injustice of their plight haunts us and many of us in our own small ways have also tried to help them; but our whole nation needs to reach out to them and make reparations.
There is a very sharp edge to our collective suffering. Historians tell us to keep things in perspective; but it is hard. But we will still have to strive to do so. We have to tell ourselves that our grandparents got through all this, and we shall too. Human resilience, persistence and ingenuity will make sure that we do. In the meanwhile we must all hang on to the hope of a brighter tomorrow. Surely it will dawn one day.