THE LOCK DOWN DIARIES (XIII): WHAT INDIA NEEDS IS NERD IMMUNITY

Well informed that we have all become , thanks to the lock down, most of us are by now aware of the concept of herd immunity. But I may as well explain for those simple minded twits who acquire all their information from Republic TV and the rantings of Rahul Shivshankar on Times Now. It is a variation of herd instinct which drives a horde of a like minded species to do something stupid. Like lemmings jumping off a cliff and committing suicide by the thousands, or Indian voters doing the same in 2014 and yet again in 2019. Those who survive such cataclysmic events acquire herd immunity and do not fall prey to them again. Or at least that is what the epidemiologists, particularly in India, are hoping with the big C since nothing else is working- not the lockdown or police dandas or Man ki Baat. That is also what the Congress is hoping for, but that is a story for another day.

We shall ultimately acquire herd immunity against the virus and so that is not my concern. What I worry about is this: when shall we acquire NERD immunity, a permanent protection from the nerd mentality and statements which are gradually taking over this country like some locust swarm and blanketing us with regurgitated crap? Of late our exposure to this kind of nerdity ( a word I claim as copyright as it reflects sanctimonious fatuity and dissembling on a large scale) has reached dangerous levels. Even the courts appear to have fallen victim to it.

It takes a special kind of genius to see the horses bolting, to do nothing about it, and then lock the stable after all the horses are a distant memory. And yet that is precisely what our apex court did: it rejected three early and desperate petitions to do something about the migrants trudging back to their villages, but then decided two months later to exorcise the niggling doubts in its collective conscience by ordering the government to provide transport for them. The only problem was that by then ( according to the govt’s own admission) 67 lakhs of them had already been sent back by trains. A few more undocumented millions had reached their homes on their own, and a few hundreds had perished unsung on the way. This was certainly not an intervention which adds to the court’s diminishing glory.

Consider next the nerdity of our Railways. It “lost” about 70 Shramic Special trains, i.e. trains which wandered hundreds of kilometers off course and landed up in stations they were not supposed to, a mystery not unlike MH 370 , except that they were ultimately found. The Railway Minister explained that these trains were diverted on alternative routes since the direct lines were over congested. It would take another nerd to swallow this drivel. We have a rail system that runs 20000 trains every day, and yet it is supposed to be over burdened by just a couple of hundred trains, at a time when the lockdown was in force and NO passenger trains were running? Mr. Goyal must really think that Indians are all stupid. ( Actually, come to think of it, he may just be right- didn’t we believe that Mr. Modi would set China right? Or was it Nepal?)

The RWAs in our cities exemplify the power of nerdity in gated communities. They are ruled by tin pot dictators, usually retired middle level chappies who were pushed around during their stifled careers and now have a chance to show some atmanirbharta. Having pushed out all their domestic support staff to starve on the roads, they next brought all their petty artillery to bear on those residents who were suspected or proven Covid patients, and stigmatised them like the lepers of yore. Read the mortifying story on the op-ed page of the Hindustan Times of 14.6.2020. It is by one Dr. Upendra Kaul, an eminent cardiac surgeon and a Padma Shri to boot. Titled I HAD COVID 19. AND SOCIETY DECIDED TO STIGMATISE ME: it describes his demeaning treatment at the hands of his RWA and neighbours. And these same RWAs now want the govt. in Delhi to again impose a lock down! They are concerned about only their own middle-class “safety” and the country’s economy and the remaining 800 million people can go to hell. The solid voting block that they constitute, is it any wonder we are where we are as a nation?

The last time I looked at our tattered constitution we were a union of 32 states and union territories, give or take a couple destined for reorganisation by Mr. Amit Shah, and we could travel freely between them in search of jobs, vacations, brides and cheaper booze. But it took just one invisible virus to undo all of Sardar Patel’s hard work in 1947: we are now a smorgasbord of containment areas, red, orange and green zones, sealed borders, captive labourers. Enthused by a heady cocktail of power, a comatose judiciary, a suspended democratic process and dubious advisors, Chief Ministers are busy “sealing off” their states whenever they hear someone sneeze or cough. Haryana, Delhi and UP do it every third day in turns. Tamil Nadu built a seven foot high wall on its border with Karnataka, without waiting for Mexico to pay for it. UP and Rajasthan cops even got into a scuffle about people entering/ exiting their respective areas, in a eerie prelude to the Galwan valley and Pangong Tso face-off . ( China probably reasoned that if these guys do it all the time they won’t even notice if we do so too. They were right, we didn’t.) Mr. Kejriwal even attempted to prevent people from other states coming to Delhi for medical treatment till he was reminded that he too is a Haryanvi and not a Delhi-ite. This governance by sealant and adhesive, however, achieved nothing except inflicting untold misery on families, supply chains, businesses and employees: all these states continue to witness huge jumps in infections, probably because the virus refuses to show its aadhar card or proof of residence- hum kagaz nahin dikhayenge.

There is no end to the nerd wisdom we have been exposed to in recent times. The legal burden of the state is carried on the quaking shoulders of a Solicitor General who is actually a birder- his knowledge of vultures is unmatched, even though he can’t tell the real from the imagined ones. An ex union Minister who fancies herself as an animal activist and an environmentalist gives a communal colour to the death of an elephant and weeps copious tears for it, but is blind to the wanton destruction of tens of thousands of hectares of forest and hundreds of species by her own govt. Another union Minister ( where does Mr. Modi find such rare specimens, even by the abyssal standards of his party?) has assured the nation that we can make China eat humble pie if we ourselves stop eating Chinese food. No wonder poor Jawaharlal Nehru couldn’t defeat them in 1962- there was no Chinese food in India back then, you see. By the way, this is the same worthy who penned that hit song ” Go, corona,go!” which has busted all charts and taken India to no. 4 in the Corona Hit Parade.

The nerds have been going from strength to strength. The ICMR and the Ministry of Health continue to reiterate that India has not entered the community spread phase, even though we are hitting 13000 cases every day ( according to a leading epidemiologist our daily cases are nearer 50000 and will reach 200,000 by end July.) But hold on! maybe the mandarins are right. They are probably waiting for Lakshadweep to record its first case before announcing community spread. Isn’t it part of our great Indian community, and how can we leave it out? All for one and one for all, after all.

Our official mouthpieces too have made themselves at home in nerd land. The MEA spokesperson tells us one day that the Chinese are on their side of the LAC and we are on our’s, and all is hunky dory. The next day we are told the two are disengaging! As Col Ajai Shukla pointed out with irrefutable logic: how do you disengage without first engaging? Similarily, we were informed after the bloody fracas at Galwan on the 15th night that all Indian soldiers are “accounted for” ; the next day it is tom-tommed that the govt has managed to secure the release of 10 Indian soldiers captured by the PLA! This is precisely the kind of creative”accounting” that made Mallya, Choksi, Nirad Modi et- al multi billionaires, but as you know, it didn’t do much for the country. On being questioned by Rahul Gandhi the External Affairs Minister “clarified” that our soldiers were armed but protocols prevented them from using the weapons when they were being killed. Surely, we have found the successor to the Dalai Lama now- Mr. Jaishanker combines in himself the pacifism of Mahatma Gandhi and the corporeal emancipation of the Buddha. All that remains to anoint him now is to send him to the LAC in Ladakh, introduce him to some PLA thugs and wait for him to turn the other cheek. And once he climbs out of the Galwan river and is appointed the Dalai Lama, we can claim sovereignty over Tibet, for if you have the sovereign, you have the sovereignty. Let’s see how the Global Times wriggles out of that MEA logic!

We have faced many viruses during our time and have gradually acquired immunity against them. But the virus of nerdity sweeping the country for the last few years, and its exponential growth, is straining our immune system to its limit. It is time to remember Martin Luther King’s wise advice: “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” It is as important for the country to develop an immunity to nerdity as it is against Covid. My humble request to these nerds is to take pity on us and remember that confronting stupidity can be as painful as death: when you’re dead you don’t know you’re dead- the pain is felt by others. The same thing happens when you’re stupid.

Avay Shukla retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains. He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla. He used to play golf at one time but has now run out of balls. He blogs at http://avayshukla.blogspot.in/

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