Bigyani Das

Fear, God, Science and the Society

As the fear of Coronavirus spreads over the Globe, suddenly everybody comes to its realization. The understanding that there are so many unknowns and we do not know exactly what to do. World class scientists share some understanding of how to address the issue, however, they agree that they cannot say for hundred percent unless they know how this virus will show its own properties.

There were many deadly viruses that had caused havoc in the globe. In older days smallpox, cholera, tuberculosis etc. had caused so much fear among the Indian population that people believed in the cause that Goddess was angry with the community and hence expressing Her rage with the disease. People did all types of puja, rituals, resin treatment etc. to please the Goddess and cure the disease.

As humans evolved, understanding of those diseases became clear. Drugs were discovered and people were treated. The attention shifted from religion to science and people understood the process of the viral infection, effectiveness of immunization and simple cleanliness, electrolytes and different drugs to treat such problems.

After the Corona virus outbreak, when I was thinking of those things, I understood something. When unknowns stay as unknowns, we focus on religion, pray to our Gods and Goddesses and believe in their mercy and miracles. When unknowns are known and understood, that becomes science and rather than surrendering to God for the answer we believe in science to provide us protection.

For the months of February and March, the corona virus has affected every part of our life. I get up in the morning listening about coronavirus and then go to sleep watching news about coronavirus. I drive and listen National Public Radio (NPR) which discusses about coronavirus updates, its effects on economy, how Dow Jones is falling, stock market crashing and so on. At work I get guidance letters about travel, about cancellation of various meetings, about sanitation and hand washing and about 3-ft social separation.

Fear, God, Science and the Society

The news of corona virus came to my attention in January. Our president announced strict guidelines in allowing people from China to USA and like others, I thought that it would not affect us so much. We installed the deities Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra during the weekend of January 31-February 2nd, we celebrated Saraswati Puja on February 1st, we had our bhajan program on February 15th, we celebrated a friend’s 25th wedding anniversary on February 29th.

The news about corona virus affecting communities in USA came to our attention in mid-February. The deaths in the nursing home in Seattle also came to our attention. They were in western parts of USA and even though we were sad, we were still feeling protected. We were still not that scared and were going with our everyday work and activities.

The news of the first case of corona virus in Maryland came on February 28. That was travel related and even though we paid attention to the news, however, considering it may not be high risk continued in our daily lives. The numbers started changing day by day. We also learned about corona virus in neighboring Virginia state as well as Washington DC.

Slowly everybody felt scared. On March 8th, we had our Holi procession in the new Jagannath temple facility. Our main Holi celebration with cultural program in bigger scale was planned to take place at Hindu Temple on March 14. The scare of corona virus started increasing. Maryland governor announced school closings. In New York, the number of corona virus infected people rose. I have two daughters in New York city and that scared me. Soon I learnt that they also have two weeks off from going to their work.

I suggested my daughters to come home then. One of daughters said, “I should not. I have traveled in the bus to take a fried to Indian clothing store for buying bridal cloths. If I could have caught corona virus, I should only know in 14 days. And if I mix with everybody, then it will affect everybody.”

My nephew had a new-born baby, a son this week. We were planning to go to see the new baby. We also thought the same way. We might have come in close contact with somebody having corona virus. We would know that in 14 days. Is it safe to go and see the baby?

We had no other way but to cancel our upcoming Holi ceremony on March 14th. Our performers, participants and organizers all were scared and emphasized in social distancing as much as possible. All the plans for the upcoming weekend are completely changed. My dance school also sent message that it is cancelling all the classes for two weeks.

Fear, God, Science and the Society

Now I am praying Lord Jagannath to wipe corona away from the Earth. I am praying that the virus should go away as soon as possible. At the same time, I believe that the scientists and researchers would soon come up with the vaccine for the corona virus and soon this will pass. I am praying for their brain and minds to be super active and come up with the solution as fast as possible. The scare is creating so much stress in life that is unimaginable. Hand washing is fine, however, the guidance of not touching face, nose or eyes without washing the hand becomes very difficult task.

Every moment in our life we come very near of many other individuals. In grocery store, department store, gas station, at work, in meetings, events, the temples and so on. For the last 4 weeks we were practicing songs together to present at Holi celebration. Now everything changed.

The outside looks so lovable with March magic, warm temperature, budding cherry trees, and attractive sunny landscape. Nobody could even believe that such fear of corona virus is spreading in this beautiful environment. However, that is happening and that is the truth.

“What should I do?” – I was thinking. If it would have been normal March 14th weekend without any incidence of coronavirus in Maryland or DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia together is called DMV area), I would have spent the Saturday morning going for my dance lessons and then preparing for the Holi event and being involved in the event until 10 PM. On Sunday, I would have taught in the Odia school in the morning, gone to practice dance steps with my friend Navneet in the afternoon or might have visited the new Jagannath temple.

Or we might have driven to Syracuse to see our newly born grandson. With the social separation in effect, all those things must be avoided. I would just put my attention to writing. I will write an Odia story to submit to an online Odia magazine and I would also plot a story for the OSA 2020 souvenir.

I sign off with all my prayers for the elimination of coronavirus and return to our normal life.

(Dr. Das lives in Dayton, Maryland, US)

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