So, there’s an obsessive compulsion to check the news every hour (two hours at the most?). Terrifying as the news is, the need is there. Maybe partially to prepare oneself for whatever is unfolding out there and then get a fuzzy idea about what may therefore unfold in the immediate future. All quite pointless in the larger context, if you know what I mean. I mean who in their right mind would have thought that we would be dying en masse due to shortage of oxygen and associated paraphernalia? It was pretty much something we took for granted, that is if we were even aware of its existence, it being the very air we breathe. People used to say living ain’t easy. Now we say breathing isn’t. If that’s an irony for you, you have been deluding yourself. That the pandemic was over and out. We took it real easy. But that’s not the hardest part. That they fooled us into believing otherwise, is. All the wisdom we are getting now in hindsight is useless, if you think about it. Because the virus is a raging, rampaging bull now. It’s not going to say “ok, let’s rewind a bit, you do what’s proper and safe, certainly don’t let people congregate for your elections and stuff, and I will see what I can do.” Sorry, that train has moved. We are all running helter-skelter, from pillar to post, from hope to despair (and back, if lucky). If that sounds dramatic to you, you haven’t heard the least or last of it. The dramatis personae in this unfolding saga are so outlandish and emotionless, as to be almost inhuman and grotesque. Ok, did I say ‘almost’? The thing is, this real-time nightmare is far from over and their inhuman-ness and inefficiency are becoming more glaring in contrast. The grim numbers are all over the place, but reality is more grim if you do the math using ‘real’ sources and some common sense. In the world we live in, there are no exaggerations or distortions. We have lived (so far, that is)—and died a little—through what would have been exaggerations or distortions in an earlier time. Extreme fear and relentless paranoia? Check. Extreme fearlessness (what else would explain the mass dips in the Ganga)? Check. Megalomaniacs running amok? Check. Pandemic making a comeback? Check. Looting in the time of a pandemic (in the name of a pandemic)? Check. Dead bodies queued up for cremation? Check. Mass cremations? Check. Lockdown making a comeback? Check. There is much to say for where we as a people went wrong, where our political leadership went wrong – and much is being said about all of that (thankfully the attempts to suppress voices are not entirely working). If we have to take a large part of the blame for a persistent and resurgent virus getting the better of our resources, senses, sanity and so on, let’s take it. Let’s take the blame for being underprepared, for being lax, for being callous, for rushing in like fools (where angels fear to tread, as someone wise had said once upon a time), for asking for the crowds to gather at election rallies to show our pulling power, for trying to get away with the notion that religious gatherings can outshine a virus. So much for dumb, directionless and clueless resilience. Yet, we do not have the luxury of waiting until we have hindsight. Not when every minute hangs heavy for someone, somewhere. Now, right now, is the time to pool in all our resources, keeping aside all differences, pursuits of profit, political ambitions, and, yes, egos. Can all pharmaceutical companies, for example, not forego IPRs and patents for their Covid-19 vaccines? If not that, what about licensing their technology to companies which would give them the authorisation to produce another company’s patented product for emergency use? Yes, that’s happening to an extent, but clearly that’s not been enough. As for the government, can it not fast-track approvals for vaccines produced in other countries? So that shortage of vaccines is not something we have to deal with? Isn’t it supposed to be like a wartime (much as I detest the war imagery) effort? If yes, let’s make it one. For a change, the whole world has one common enemy (another abhorrent imagery, but extreme circumstances call for extreme imagery, I suppose). We have heard of vaccine inequality, vaccine grab by rich countries, and vaccine hoarding. Let’s not forget that the pandemic has to be overcome everywhere in the world for it to be well and truly over. In a global village, the repercussions of an otherwise situation will not spare anyone. We all know that. As much as we know that this, too, will pass – eventually it will, one way or the other. But it didn’t have to catch us unawares in the way it has. The chaos and the fear and the frustrations will one day be memory, but maybe we shouldn’t be in any hurry to forget the things we have learnt in the year past – no, still learning because the ordeal is far from over. Meanwhile, even as despair and hope do a surreal see-saw in our lives, we are doing what little or big we can do, whether it’s to amplify voices and calls for help, sharing resources and information, and yes, applauding those who are going beyond the call of duty and those who are filling in critical gaps by being responsive and inventive. Like in any humanitarian crisis, we are seeing ordinary human beings rising to the occasion like heroes – more like superheroes, considering how feeble the state’s role and response have been. If there’s a spot of light in this dark mayhem, it is this human spirit, and it is this spirit that we will hold on to.