Danger, when it comes unsought for, is undoubtedly the mother of all fears. The danger caused by the coronavirus pandemic has made Manipur fearful (the silent roads, people abstaining from speaking, and the uneasy quietness) reminiscing the 2nd World War Days after Imphal was bombed on May 10, 1942. At that time also the Khwairamband market was closed (it was poignant to see Ima vendors taking back their wares home from the Ima keithel, their hopes of reopening again very far distant in the horizon,) and the schools ran no classes. Fears are varied in number (the fear that they may get infected by the virus, that they may face shortage of food, that the future of their children may be lost etc.) but behind these fears there is the will to win against the enemy virus.
The Biblical great Flood in which Noah, a few men and animals survived was God’s act to punish the wicked, is this pandemic God’s act again? It was in 1918 that the Spanish Flu pandemic broke out during the First World War, but the world was too busy with the war to take any heed to the pandemic. In Manipur, it was during Maharaj Sir Churachand Singh, KCSICBE’s reign, the British had conscripted some hillmen for the Labour Corps, but as the kingdom was insular, no one entered Manipur to spread Spanish Flu.
Insularity and isolation sometimes give security. Too much of opening doors is harmful just as a girl of 10 attending drivers at a roadside dhaba on a highway is exposed to many undesirable happenings. A village girl, in the modesty of her cottage, may remain a maiden and true to morality.
The fears have caused mental distress which is spreading in all classes of the society and it may take a long time to recover. The huge financial deficit, and the ways and means to pay off the debts have also been a factor for this mental distress. As it is, the nationwide lockdown is a very ironical act- to protect us from the virus, another front of the war is opened to win food on the roads and malls of Imphal. It has caused the loss of livelihoods and a question comes up as to whether which is more important- life or livelihood? But there is also the question whether there can be lives without livelihoods, which have been lost by thousands in the nationwide lockdown, causing debts and deficits in individual accounts. It is hard to borrow during the time of the crisis when money is not available for borrowing. This danger to well-being is the cause of insecurity and fears, and leads to mental distress which is unprecedented in scale. No one smiles, laughter is seldom heard.
In George Bernard Shaw’s "Arms and the Men”, chocolate was the most important thing in a war, but chocolates are scarce with its price rising more than 50pc. When prices increased by 7pc in Afghanistan, it made headlines in the BBC, but a 50pc increase in Manipur seems to be a normal occurrence. The second week of May was a turning point, from being a Green zone Manipur turned into orange with seven active cases which are all imported from outside the state. Another fear is that of community transmission. What will happen if any infected evacuee mixes with the community before he is quarantined, tested and found positive? If that happens, the Health services will be overwhelmed with positive cases, much beyond the capacity to provide treatment.
Another fear comes up with the opening of the domestic airlines. Will it be the same as the decision to take in evacuees? Will it open another front? The greatest fear of the public now is community transmission. Things which have not been here comes up with the turn of events, which has created public fear.
(The views expressed is personal)