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Gur Panth Parkash

Gur Panth Parkash
by Rattan Singh Bhangoo
Translated by
Prof Kulwant Singh





Of Anti-human Microbial and Political Viruses and Human shIelds


P.P.S. Gill

Man and microbes are not unknown to each other. The two have co-existed as friends and foes since time immemorial. Scientists have observed that microbes are found everywhere - in soil, on plants; thriving in ponds, streams, even inhabit oceans; and in and on our bodies. (In fact, there are far more microorganisms in and on a person than there are human cells.) These are in the air, on surfaces in our homes. Some members of microbe clan can even live in boiling thermal vents, as also in ice-covered lands.

If that be so, think how coronavirus has invaded continents and countries devastating life and livelihood. It is estimated approximately 40 million humans, worldwide, have lost their lives, so far. And there are millions who have lost jobs.

The social history of viruses describes the influence of viruses and viral infections on human history. Epidemics caused by viruses began when human behaviour changed during the Neolithic period, when humans developed more densely populated agricultural communities. This allowed viruses to spread rapidly and to subsequently become endemic. Viruses of plants and livestock also increased, as humans became dependent on agriculture and farming. Remember, diseases such as potyviruses of potatoes and rinderpest of cattle had devastating consequences. In fact, communicable diseases existed during humankind’s hunter-gatherer days, but the shift to agrarian life, 12,000 years ago, created communities that made epidemics more possible. Malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, influenza, smallpox and others first appeared during this period.

Vast, valuable scientific literature, and historical accounts, tracing deadly pandemics - from the Antonioni Plague (165 AD-180 AD) to the current Covid-19 is available, across continents. We have learnt that more civilized humans became, building cities and forging trade routes to connect with other cities, and waging wars with them, the more likely pandemics became. The present day corona virus pandemic across the globe is nothing but a logical progression of the earlier process of its proliferation.

Locked up as half the world population was or is inside homes, ensconced in inconveniences, it is time to divert away from contagious ‘updates’, negative, scary news (fake news) and rumour- mongering and to retain our sanity, maintain harmonious family relations. It is time Media de-saturates corona contents, provides positive content and bids goodbye to ‘infodemic’! Thankfully, sane voices, howsoever feeble, repeatedly remind us of our resilience, as well! Mankind will have to show so again, for its own survival. Once medical science triumphs, corona curb flattens, virus is contained, may be, things will begin to look up. It is time to move from ‘what-if’ to ‘what-now’.

Covid-19 is making us feel frazzled, ever on the edge. It is sucking out our patience, perseverance and pushing us to the brink of despondency, despair. It is making us paranoid. The present disease, though, has changed everything in the world - the way we lived, worked and fought; resulted in severe setbacks -economically, socially and politically- and served a crippling blow to livelihood and lives. Well, economies, livelihoods can be taken care of, not lost human lives!

This is where present imposed precautions matter - so vital, so important and so imperative to rejuvenate rhythm of daily life, post-pandemic, when new set of challenges and problems arise.. There is hope, once the crises blow over and ‘Insaniat’ will come to the fore for the wellbeing of the entire human race and protection of Nature!  Science and technology are playing a crucial role in fighting coronavirus, and will play a more proactive role in reestablishing lives and livelihoods. Digitalization is likely to be a major player.

Prevention, it is said, is better than cure. It is prevention that is needed. Sadly, we lack the spirit, and self-discipline, to follow the repeatedly hammered guidelines – social distancing, crowding; frequently washing of hands and wearing masks. Political poll rallies and huge religious gatherings at festivals in some states further aggravated the situation.

Having said this, reverting to the relationship between man and microbes (read viruses) let me bring up another related issue: Omnipresence of political virus. So, where does and how does man and politics fit in?

History tells us, politics is the set of activities that are associated with the governance. The word, politics, comes from the same Greek word from which the title of Aristotle's book Politics ("affairs of the cities"). The book title was rendered in Early Modern English in the mid-15th century as "Polettiques"; it became "politics" in Modern English.

Like viruses, politics is also viral - globally - and is venomous, vindictive, divisive and destructive. If coronavirus has proved to be nature’s efficient killer, so has political virus, in its many manifestations, may it be in a democratic, autocratic or theocratic state. It acted as a trigger for the two world wars, many ongoing battles and terrorist-strikes, across continents; between countries! Virus or germ warfare is deadlier than weapons of mass destruction man has stockpiled. Today, an invisible enemy is on the rampage. It has struck with vengeance. Creeping alongside is political virus. There is also an equal need to fight the deadlier political virus. After temporary ‘lockdown’, it has now been ‘unlocked’ even as coronavirus persists with vengeance. It would, therefore, be appropriate to say that both, the killer virus and the political virus, endanger man and society, across borders and boundaries.

Remember, what Plato said: One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. And, Joseph de Maistre said: Every nation has the government it deserves. So do we? Opinions may vary, jury is still out.

The fact is the eight letter word ‘p.o.l.i.t.i.c.s’ has been interpreted and analyzed in so many different ways by so many different people (read rulers) that it has acquired numerous  kaleidoscopic patterns, myriad shades and meanings, across continents; and centuries. Every ruler has his/her own definition and plays politics. Same way, microbes and viruses behave. In both categories of viruses, some are identifiable and tackled, many more remain hidden. Much has been done to contain the two types of viruses, with conflicting success rates; more needs to be done.

It is time to brace up and fight coronavirus, give politics a break; and put brakes on political virus. Let go of fear and panic; stonewall avalanche of viral information spewed by print, electronic and social Media in the name of providing ‘updates’. An overdose of corona information onslaught is making us believe and worry about the end of the world, a quintessentially human trait!

However, in these trying times, there has been no dearth of good Samaritans who rose to the occasion to help the needy as a humanitarian gesture. Individuals and institutions, Non-government organizations and volunteers, women self-help groups, across communities, religions, faiths, caste, regions and language did not sit back and sulk. Like an army of angels, these humans and organizations helped provide food, shelter, medical aid (vaccination, oxygen cylinders etc.) to the needy, across countries and communities, when the governments dithered and delayed.

In these endevours and hour of awakening, the role of the Sikhs must be appreciated and acknowledged. A simple search of the internet reveals how globally the Sikhs had reached out and helped the vulnerable with everything they required in these unprecedented crises. Space constraint does not permit to acknowledge all Sikh individuals, institutions and organizations, socio-religious bodies for their help and sustained efforts to ease the pain, suffering  and unspeakable discomfort of the humanity without prejudice and preference, discrimination and cherry picking.

However, just by way of illustration, some examples will suffice:

   -   Harteerath Singh, who lives in the Gurgaon, had contracted coronavirus twice. In both instances, he took some time to recover, only to return and lead his non-profit organization -The Hemkunt Foundation - set up by his father in 2010's work on the ground. This NGO was catapulted into the limelight after it provided thousands of oxygen cylinders (free of cost) to covid-19 patients, who were facing breathing problems.

   -   Or think of the UK-based international non-profit Khalsa Aid and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) that too carried out on-the-ground relief work to bridge gaps in medical supplies. There is one common thread that ties these organizations - their faith.

       [It will not be out of context to say here that all these three NGOs base their work on the tenets of Sikhism, the faith of a religious minority in India that was erroneously labeled "anti-national" and "secessionist" earlier this year during massive farmer protests against the government’s controversial agricultural reforms in the country.]Thus political virus did not spare even this noble cause.

   -   The Golden Temple in Amritsar also decided to fund the entire cost of the ventilators and PPE kits in Punjab.

   -   The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee pitched in and offered to provide ‘serais’ or inns for lodging family members of the patients. Since it does not have a dearth of money due to donations, it is known as the “mini Parliament on Sikh religious affairs”. It opened its hospitals to Covid-19 patients.

   -   Members of the 'Sikh Verband Deutschland' [also known as German Sikh Association] prepared vegetarian Indian meals for homeless people in the location of an Indian food delivery service, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease in Cologne, Germany

   -   In a Gurdwara in Queens village, 30 cooks had made and served more than 145,000 free meals in just 10 weeks, The New York Times had reported. They offered food to New York City hospital workers, people in poverty and anyone else in search of a hot meal.

   -   The members of Sikh Aid Charitable Trust in Bhubaneswar are students and businessmen, all in the age group of 25 to 35 years. The volunteers stayed in a temporary place to protect their families from getting infections. They provided oxygen cylinders, pulse Oximeters, masks and other medical assistance to Covid-19 patients and frontline workers who need it, free of cost.

   -   The Khalsa Help International volunteers, across the globe, have been working tirelessly behind the scenes coordinating shipments of medical supplies. The donations it received helped towards frontline response to the pandemic. Its CEO Ravi Singh says: Together - we can protect more people from the worst effects of this outbreak and get medical supplies urgently to where they need to be. It has received a generous six-figure donation from J.K. Rowling’s Volant Charitable Trust for its Medical Covid-19 Relief Appeal for oxygen concentrators, as well as emergency medical equipment, in India.

One is amazed at the wide sweep of the Sikh Diaspora and the Sikhs within India who worked day and night without fearing for their own safety throwing open their Gurdwaras and offering langar or setting up langar camps wherever needed; and allowing patients access to their hospitals and inns for requisite medical help, equipment and mandatory quarantine. Besides timely aid and help, the Sikhs also propagated the requisite guidelines to inform and educate people what to do, and, more importantly, what not to do to contain the spread of the corona virus. The echo of the Sikhs’ contribution during the pandemic, across the globe and within India, and the stories of their valour - as saviors -still reverberate.

The operative spirit of the Sikh community has always been driven by Guru Nanak's three main pillars of teaching - Naam Japo (pray to God), Kirat Karo (labour to earn) and Vand Chhako (share 10 per cent of one's earning) as sewa (service).

Thus, it is high time the world moved on to find solutions, work in lock-step to contain coronavirus and help fellow humans. Scientific coordination, to a large extent, is visible among individuals and institutions, across the globe; political symphony is woefully either invisible or absent.

Is there a forlorn hope that, at some stage, political parties and leaders would at least work in symphony in the larger public interest and good, rather than remaining cocooned in their respective political silos and sticking to their idiosyncrasies, all for electoral benefits alone? This is unlikely. Political virus is as obdurate, obstinate, unpredictable and untrustworthy, as are the microbes and viruses.

Mankind does not want either of these two viruses: One devours humans, the other corrodes people’s lives, impedes, gags freedom of expression and free speech; there is constant threat of being dubbed ‘anti-national’, ‘Pakistani’ with the fear of being slapped with ‘sedition’ law. Intellectuals and intelligentsia stand muted and defeated; some exceptions survive. Political virus slyly creates an atmosphere of uncertainty, tension and fear of the unknown.

Given some respite, post-corona, world is dealing with another problem – psychological or mental health; depression. With work places and educational institutions shut, an army of white/blue collar workers and students, now captive at home or in shelter-homes, would need to rehabilitate and reconstruct their lives, would require counselling. Even violence and surcharged community environment is not ruled out. Resetting work places and rescheduling postponed examinations, restoring work culture, ethics and admissions, reframing job profiles; reworking academic sessions and most importantly, reconstructing public health and medical facilities, etc will require thought, planning and patience. Also, finance. We are already tackling these issues.

Microbiologist Dr. Jonathan Eisen lists six goods things microbes do to us: Microbes play defense, boost the immune system, protect us from auto-immune diseases, keep us slim, detoxify and may even fight off stress, and keep babies healthy. Same way, unsound, skewed political thinking and competitive politicking can do much harm than good to humankind.  Good-intentioned policies to rejuvenate political-economy and people-centric policies with opposition on board, good politics can change and improve human interdependence, as also international diplomatic relations

God is ‘renovating’ the world He has created and man has mercilessly plundered! Let us pray, irrespective of political cultures and regimes, across continents, humane spirit shall continue to prevail; Nature is nurtured, preserved; science, technology is used to forge better interpersonal, intercontinental relations - if human civilization is to be saved for its own sake; and survival.




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