(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal
Devoted to English Language and Literature)
K. V. Dominic
One of the tiniest entities, coronavirus has made history in the world; divided the world into two—Before Covid-19 (BC) and After Covid-19 (AC). As literature is study of people, their way of life, culture, tradition, nature and environment etc., the literature produced during these Covid-19 pandemic period is a new one, an emerging one which will flourish in the coming years. Coronavirus has established the vulnerable nature of human beings. Virus enters human body irrespective of gender, age, race, religion or nation. There is no discrimination to poor or rich. A billionaire or a beggar proves helpless before its attack. Lifeless virus becomes live entering into live cells and multiplies. Healthy body resists their attack while weak bodies succumb to their conquest. Though Covid-19 has tumbled the world and is devastating human lives like a tsunami, it has bestowed upon Nature a marvelous reparation and rendered to mankind some benefits and good habits. Man is doing now reparations on Nature. He has started playing concordant notes, began flowing with the eternal flow.
Keywords: Covid-19, Coronavirus, Pandemic, Lockdown, Spanish Flu, Mask, Nature
The world as such has been passing through a total revolution caused by Covid-19 since the beginning of 2020. On 30 January 2020, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19 to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and issued a set of Temporary Recommendations. As you are aware, the virus originated in Wuhan and from there spread all over the world. As on today 16th October, the confirmed cases of coronavirus in the world are over 39.3 million and number of deaths over 1.1 million. India stands second in the number of confirmed cases with 7.3 million after the US 8.2 million. The number of deaths in India is 1,12,357. Out of the 251 countries and territories recognized by the UN, 213 countries and territories are affected by this pandemic. A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveals the horrifying fact that unless a vaccine or remedy for coronavirus is invented, by February 2021 the daily Covid-19 positive cases in India will be 2.87 lakhs. By March-May 2021 the number of Covid patients in the world would be 24.9 crores and the number of deaths 18 lakhs. And India will be number one in the rate of increase followed by the USA. By February there will be 12 times more Covid patients in the world than the present, and the number of deaths will be 50% more.
Human beings are supposed to be the most intelligent and mightiest of all creations. In other words, homo sapiens is the emperor of all other beings on earth. The irony now is that such an emperor is imprisoned and swept away by the too negligible and invisible coronavirus. Man has become totally impotent before this virus.
One of the tiniest entities, coronavirus has made history in the world; divided the world into two--Before Covid-19 (BC) and After Covid-19 (AC). As AC is yet to be born we can’t predict it now if it is going to be a better world and civilization. We are destined to live with coronavirus for a few years. Mask has become a part of our body now. As literature is study of people, their way of life, culture, tradition, nature and environment etc., the literature produced during these Covid-19 pandemic period is a new one, an emerging one which will flourish in the coming years. We have come across such pandemic literature during the Plague and Spanish Flu. Among such books, Giovani Boccaccio’s The Decameron and Albert Camus’ The Plague are classics.
Balancing is the law of Nature and survival of all species is based on survival of the fittest. Homo sapience is not an exception. Nature limits human numbers through its powerful weapons--invisible, invincible deadly viruses. When we analyse the history of human race we come across several such universal pandemics. The Spanish Flu of 1918-1920 was caused by H1N1 virus. It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide. The next pandemic which gripped the world was AIDS. It started in 1981 and is still prevalent all over the world. AIDS has claimed an estimated 35 million lives since it was first identified. HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS, is supposed to be developed from a chimpanzee virus that transferred to humans in West Africa in the 1920s. The virus made its way around the world, and AIDS was a pandemic by the late 20th century. Now, about 64% of the estimated 40 million living with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa. The 2009 swine flu pandemic was caused by a new strain of H1N1 that originated in Mexico in the spring of 2009 before spreading to the rest of the world. In one year, the virus infected as many as 1.4 billion people across the globe and killed between 1,51,700 and 5,75,400 people.
Now let us come to the origin of coronavirus. Coronaviruses get their name from their shape. These round viruses are surrounded by a halo of spiky proteins. That makes them look a bit like a crown or the corona of the sun. The genetic makeup of these viruses is composed of RNA. RNA is a single-stranded chemical cousin of DNA. Four major types of these viruses exist. They are known by the Greek letters alpha, beta, delta and gamma. Only the alpha and beta types are known to infect people. These viruses spread through the air. These coronaviruses cause severe infections by first latching onto proteins that sit on the outside of lung cells. Those attachments help the viruses penetrate far deeply into the airways. People are not the original source of coronavirus diseases. SARS, MERS and COVID-19 are zoonotic. That means that people originally catch the virus responsible from some animal. Bats are often thought of as the source of coronaviruses. Yet even they seldom pass the virus directly on to humans. SARS probably first jumped from bats into raccoon dogs or palm civets. Once in those animals, the virus made a leap into humans who had come into contact with the animals at markets selling live animals. The most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of all coronaviruses is estimated to have existed as recently as 8000 BCE, although some models place the common ancestor as far back as 55 million years or more, implying long term coevolution with bat and avian species. Bats and birds, as warm-blooded flying vertebrates, are an ideal natural reservoir for the coronavirus gene pool (with bats the reservoir for alphacoronaviruses and betacoronavirus–and birds the reservoir for gammacoronaviruses and deltacoronaviruses). The large number and global range of bat and avian species that host viruses has enabled extensive evolution and dissemination of coronaviruses.
Coronavirus has established the vulnerable nature of human beings. Virus enters human body irrespective of gender, age, race, religion or nation. There is no discrimination to poor or rich. A billionaire or a beggar proves helpless before its attack. Lifeless virus becomes live entering into live cells and multiplies. Healthy body resists their attack while weak bodies succumb to their conquest.
From the nature of coronavirus it is very clear that this pandemic is man- made. These viruses were there even before human beings originated. They caused no harm to their natural reservoir of bats, birds etc. Let me quote a few lines from my poem “Coronavirus—Mightiest Wizard of All Times”:
Viruses were evolved
even before you were born
Who asked you to kick
hornets’ nests in jungles?
Why did you trespass
Isn’t your greed
that opened the Pandora’s box?
Man is the only creature who is running after luxuries. All other beings hunt for and are satisfied with food required for their survival whereas man is not satisfied with just necessities but he is crazy after comforts and luxuries and he will try to get it at any cost. He is so selfish that he is not bothered or concerned about his fellow beings and least considerate to non human beings. When majority of the people in the world is not having sufficient food for their survival, the minority wastes tons of food after their use. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that as many as 25,000 people lose their lives every day as a result of hunger. That adds up to roughly 9.1 million people who die of starvation each year. (Source: https://www.creditdonkey.com/world-hunger-statistics.html) There is no need for human beings to disturb the wild and hunt the animals there. Deadly viruses which are inactive and harmless to wild animals are driven from their habitats to human bodies and they react like a sleeping lion when a stick is thrust to its mouth.
It seems that the present crisis is a necessity since man has digressed far away from Nature’s laws. Man used his scientific brain and brought the world under one home and market. His greed for wealth and luxury linked all nations together through trade and globalization. A home with little love is sure to shatter and coronavirus shattered all worldly dreams of human beings. Empires of all corporates crumbled like US twin towers. Growth of a country neglecting poor and majority can’t sustain long and Nature retorts.
Coronavirus made its best harvest in most developed nations--USA, Brazil, UK, Italy, Spain, France, China, Mexico etc. Prosperity and luxury made one undisciplined; never cared for social distancing and locked down life in houses. When governments give priority to economy and neglect lives of the citizens, coronaviruses spread like forest fire.
It is a horrific fact that world spent 1917 billion dollars in 2019 for defence which is unnecessary in the strict sense. US spent 732 billion dollars, China 261 billion, India 71 billion, Russia 65 billion, Saudi Arabia 61 billion, France 50 billion, Germany 49 billion, UK 48 billion. Coronavirus’ destructive power was known to the developed nations even at its very first outbreak in China. Had these nations started research months back and spent several billions for its antivirus, the world could now swim across this pandemic ocean.
Poor people are easy preys of all pandemics. Half of the world population—more than three billion people live in poverty. Industrial, agricultural labourers, fishermen, poor farmers, traders, taxi drivers etc. are the worst affected by the Covid-19 lockdown. Incomeless they live at governments’ mercy. Millions of migrant labourers reside idle in government camps. Their burning minds are with their families thousands of kilometers away struggling for survival and fighting against many diseases. Lives of millions in slums are most pathetic. With no income they plead for governments’ help. Living in single room huts using dirty common toilets, not sufficient water for cleanliness, social distancing is impossible for them and coronavirus has its easiest job. Millions of diasporas work all over the world. Many have lost their lives due to coronavirus. Not even shown to the dearest ones they are buried in alien lands. Majority have lost their jobs. They all want to come back to their native lands. Lockdown has cancelled their flights. Losing their jobs their future is now bleak.
Coronavirus has created thousand of martyrs. Doctors, nurses, health workers sacrificed their lives for their people and nations. Many have died due to the lack of personal protective equipments. Risking their own lives and families depending on them they worked and died for millions of their fellowmen. Services rendered by police, security forces and fire force is equally laudable and dangerous. Scorching sunlight, heavy rain, lightening, thunder, wind, snowfall, never dissuade them from their selfless, humane duty.
This pandemic has injected fear and doubt in the minds of the people. Since any one can be a bearer without showing any symptom, people are afraid to mingle with others. WHO has affirmed that coronavirus is airborne as well. Before talking to any one—a friend or a stranger, one is alarmed and doubtful if he or she is a bearer of the virus. The only solution seems to be either remain in one’s house or take maximum precaution when going out.
Though Covid-19 has tumbled the world and is devastating human lives like a tsunami, it has bestowed upon Nature a marvelous reparation and rendered to mankind some benefits and good habits. Man is doing now reparations on Nature. He has started playing concordant notes, began flowing with the eternal flow. The lockdown all over the world has purified the air man has defiled and water he has polluted. Let me quote again a few lines from my poem on coronavirus:
Man, look at Nature around you
How happy are animals now!
How merry are birds!
How gleeful are fishes!
How gaily dance plants and trees!
You wake up by chirps and tweets
of variety of birds in morning
Flies and flowers
greet you with smiles
rights of all animals
Animals now travel
anywhere they like
Roads and streets
you made through their habitats
they use for rest and
playgrounds of cubs and calves
Lockdown has reduced considerably deadly air pollutants in cities. New Delhi, the most polluted capital city recorded 60% fall of PM2.5. Reduction of Seoul is 54% and that of Wuhan 44%. The reduction in other major cities is Los Angeles 31%, Sao Paulo 32%, Mumbai 34%, New York 29%, Paris 20-30%, Madrid 11% and London 9%. Stars are visible in the cities’ skies to ease uneasy minds for quiet slumber. Since noise has come down considerably thousands of birds have come back to balm the aching human minds with spectacular views and melodious music.
Coronavirus could easily do an inconceivable miracle which sages tried and failed from ages to ages. Churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, gurdwaras and all such worshipping places were closed. Preachers, priests, shamans, godmen have sought shelter in their locked houses. Those who looted wealth of the masses are never to be seen offering their hands when millions drown in the ocean of coronavirus. Coronavirus has opened blinded laity’s minds. Worshippers now understand God lives in their houses and hearts. They now know well hollowness of rituals. God can never be pleased by rituals. Instead He demands love and compassion. Be compassionate to all humans, non humans, Nature and universe. Coronavirus has proved deficiencies of religions. Religions fail to cure physical ailments. Medicines, treatments, dieting, cleanliness and exercise keep one healthy and save from illness. Irrational priests propagate pandemic as God’s wrath but the reality is that it is the aftermath of man’s ill-treatment of environment.
Lockdown has brought happiness and peace in houses. Children get love and care of father and mother. Husbands shower love on their wives. Wives care needs of their husbands. Old parents get proper attention and love. Pets and domestic animals are happier than before. There is no threat of thieves since police patrol everywhere. Governments function well day and night. Beggars and homeless are sheltered in camps. Patients are treated well in hospitals. Man has become humane and compassionate. Stray dogs, animals and birds are loved and fed.
Coronavirus is a blessing in disguise. Except of those millions inflicted majority became hale and healthy. Please note that out of the 7.8 billion people in the world only 39.3 million are affected by coronavirus. The lockdown has checked the flow of unhealthy artificial food. Scarcity of income changed people’s eating habit. People turned to simple diet of grains, vegetables and fruits that protected body from attack of diseases. The use of fish and meat has come down considerably. Five Star hospitals are being closed. Operation theatres are seldom used. Pharmaceutical corporates which killed millions of people through medicines of high side effects are sinking in the ocean of loss. Medical labs are frequented less.
Coronavirus could control well people’s attitudes of extravaganza. It made them rational and frugal. Marriage ceremonies and feasts for hundreds and thousands are limited now to a few dozens. Burials and all other ceremonies are conducted with handful of attendants. Since churches, mosques and temples are closed millions are saved of festival and ritual expenses.
Coronavirus has cautioned people the necessity of self reliance. Globalization created nations dependent of each other. Since the economic principle evolved for selfish financial gains it lost its soul of humaneness. Majority of nations suffered while a few mighty like US gained. And these wealthy developed nations are the worst preys of coronavirus! The pandemic warns all societies to be self sufficient and independent. From smallest unit of homes to villages, cities, districts, States, nations, self reliance is required. World economy is bound to sink to the bottom. Unless a society finds solutions to its necessities and demands it will suffer, starve and perish.
Coronavirus has made revolution in all spheres of life. Academic bodies have started online classes, video conferences, webinars, online exams and interviews. It should be noted that online and virtual classes can never be a substitute for students learning in schools and colleges directly from their teachers with their classmates around them. Absence of social life will create psychological problems for the young minds.
Mask has become part of our apparel. It has saved a lot of time and money spent for beautifying face. People are freed from the use of cosmetic powder, lipstick, bleaching, dyeing, and such unnecessary chemical applications. Since civil law forbids people from spitting, roads are clean and rid of infectious germs. Long queues at counters and shops are swept away by virtual queues. Competitions of sports and games are done in closed stadiums with virtual spectators and applause. People enjoy them free of cost at their houses.
Let me wind up my paper reinstating that the mighty coronavirus has made a history on earth. History of human race is divided into two--Before Covid-19 (BC) and after Covid-19 (AC). Unlike the present AD/BC or CE/BCE, this BC/AC is universal and phenomenal. A new world is going to be born. A new civilization and way of life is coming up. Is it a change for a better world or worse? Time will prove within a few years.
Courtesy: This paper was presented at Madurai Kamaraj University in the webinar.
About the Author:
Dr K. V. Dominic, born on 13th February 1956 at Kalady, Kerala, India, is an English poet, critic, short story writer and editor. He is a Retired Associate Professor of the PG & Research Department of English, Newman College, Thodupuzha, Kerala, India-685585. He has authored/edited 40 books including two short story collections and eleven books of poems—six in English and one each translation in French, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and Gujarati. There are five critical books on his poetry. He is the Secretary of Guild of Indian English Writers, Editors and Critics (GIEWEC) and Editor of two international refereed biannual journals--Writers Editors Critics (WEC) and International Journal on Multicultural Literature (IJML). He can be contacted at email@example.com His postal address is: Dr. K. V. Dominic, Kannappilly House, Thodupuzha East P.O., Kerala – 685585, Phone: 9947949159. Website: www.profkvdominic.com.