Pigeon    –  Bro Crow, where did all humans go?

Crow       –  (cheeky chirped) I think they all have been locked up in cages.

Has it been a normal day, one will never find a Pigeon & a Crow chirping together. Then of course it was not a usual day. The atmosphere was so tense. Lot has happened and yet more is in offering.

On Crow’s quirky reply the Pigeon looked at him and gave a loud coo as if fully agreeing with Crow. It seemed as if they were very happy on our situation.

Either it was so magical that I was able to understand their language or I suppose I was just imagining things. Since the past couple of weeks so much has happened all around the world that all the major superpowers of the globe were on their toes biting their nails. No one knew what will happen next.

A virus that is believed to be started from ‘’wet market’’ in Wuhan, capital of Central China’s Hubei province, where live and dead animals like fish, birds, etc. were sold, has now engulfed nearly whole of the Europe, the U.S., U.K., south east Asia including India and parts of Africa & South America. However, the source from which the virus had entered Human chain is still unknown.

The virus is so deadly that it has been declared pandemic by the World Health Organization. The virus is Coronavirus and disease caused by the virus is COVID-19. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, dry cough and shortness of breath. Although around 80% recover without any special treatment but still if the disease is not addressed at the early stages it becomes so deadly that it can cost a life. At the time of my writing this blog, worldwide 19,81,239 cases infected with coronavirus disease has been confirmed and numbers are increasing rapidly. Although approx. 4,86,622 have been recovered but nearly 1,26,681 people have lost their lives and the rest are still fighting with the pandemic. Not only this, the pandemic has even disrupted global supply chains and international trade. Nearly 100 countries have closed their national borders. The movement of people and tourism has come to a screeching halt. Most of the countries have ordered lockdown and curfew. It’s hard to even imagine that how deadly the virus has become.

In case of India, the deadly coronavirus has started tightening its grip. Almost in every state atleast one corona patient has been found. Till now 11,439 cases have been confirmed among which 1,306 have been recovered and 377 have lost their lives. Remaining is still fighting. The Indian economy is on toll. The trade has been badly affected. The Central Government has ordered lockdown and certain State Governments has inflicted strict curfew restrictions to stop unnecessary movement of people. Everyone has been locked in their houses.

A soft touch on my shoulder broke my reverie. It was then that I realized I was standing in the balcony of my house and my wife had brought me a cup of tea. She was staring at me. I asked her the reason, to which she replied, “Where were you lost? It has been 5 mins I am standing here holding this cup of tea and calling you.”

 “Oh! Sorry dear. I was thinking about this coronavirus disease. How badly it has affected our lives?” By this time both the Crow and the Pigeon had fled away.

“Yeah! It is so scary. Do you know yesterday only, daughter of the Chopras, our immediate neighbors has returned from London?  Everyone in our street is so tensed. Someone has even asked them to take her to the hospital for coronavirus test. Although she is not coming out, the Chopras have not agreed for the test. I don’t understand why they are being so careless.”

“It’s India my love. People here are very apprehensive of such things. They take it on their self-esteem. We belong to a closed society. People feel shy to openly admit that they are suffering from COVID-19 like disease as they can’t see others demeaning them. Take the example of famous singer Ms. Kanika Kapoor only. Despite knowing that she is infected, still she visited a high profile party and brought the lives of so many dignitaries in danger.”

My wife nodded in agreement. She continued, “But the real reason for me worrying is you. Remember you have to bring Rahul today?”

She was right I had completely forgotten it. “Oh! Yes of course. What time he will be free?”

“He is availing half day today as he has already been granted Work from Home. He will be free by 1 PM. Don’t worry you have ample of time.”

“No dear. I need to get ready fast. It’s a 100 km journey and we don’t know at how many places I will be stopped for checking.”

She stared at me with tensed eyes.

“I will take complete protection.” I assured her and hugged her.

I immediately got ready, took my hand sanitizer, mask & gloves, and left the house. Our street had never been so deserted. There was not a single person on road. At normal days, at this time one can see children playing, people sitting in their verandas and some vendors selling vegetables. But now a small virus had changed our lives.

I took a right turn, exited my street and entered the highway. I switched on the FM radio. It was RJ Abhishek of Radio Mirchi. I personally like the manner in which he carries out the show. The news of #CoronaJihad trending on twitter lately was the hot topic of discussion. The RJ was interviewing some people to know their views on Tablighi Jamaat. Some highly criticized the event, some blamed it on the Government for negligence, some linked it to communalism and few told that they have heard these Jamaati are roaming everywhere and have started infecting others by their saliva. It sent a chill into my spine. The RJ then played some latest Bollywood number.

Till now I was not sure that the problem has become so grave. I had heard that some Indian Muslims alongwith few Malaysian followers of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), an Islamist organization in India, returned from a congregation held in Malaysia during first week of March. A bigger group congregated at the Nizamuddin Markaz around March 13 and interestingly it was the same day when the Health Ministry announced the coronavirus as not a health emergency. It was 3 days after when Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal prohibited all religious, social, cultural & political gathering till March 31. And then on March 19 Hon’ble PM requested everyone to observe “Janta Curfew” as a step to fight against the pandemic. Following these announcements lead to the discontinuity of the Markaz Nizamuddin program. The problem arose when all the public transports were cancelled leaving no means for the Tablighi Jamaatis to return back. Further, the announcement of National Lockdown forced these Jamaatis to stay in Markaz only with adequate medical precautions. It was their bad luck that some of them tested corona positive and people started blaming them for congregating. It took a communalist turn and being Muslims they became natural targets. I believe this might have led to the aggression of Jamaatis.

I did not realize that the third song has finished and RJ Abhishek has returned. My phone rang. It was from one of my friend Ashish. I muted the stereo and picked up the phone. Our conversation started with a casual Hi Hello talk. We asked for each other’s well-being. Our talk then drifted towards Coronavirus. We discussed about how dangerous it has become. He told that the number of cases suffering from COVID-19 has increased in his locality. He also told what he was doing to kill time at home during the curfew and lockdown phase. I told him that I was visiting Rahul’s office to pick him up. He showed some concern and asked me to stay safe and protected. Then finally he brought up the actual reason for calling. One of his friends wanted to visit somewhere as he was getting bored at home and thus, he wanted me to suggest a place at this time. I asked him if his friend was out of his mind. This was making me angry as the Government is requesting us to stay at home and people like him want to risk their lives. I suggested Ashish to strictly ask his friend to just stay at home. There is no place where he can go right now. In this way he will protect his family and his own life. Ashish thanked me and disconnected the phone.

The conversation made me realize that there are some people who are not realizing the gravity of the situation. I unmuted the stereo to divert my mind. I had almost covered 70 kms. There was still half an hour for Rahul to get free. Seeing the deserted roads I predicted to reach his office in just 20 mins. Suddenly I saw a line of few vehicles in front of me. Local police has barricaded the road and was not allowing any vehicle to move without checking. My prediction was going to be wrong. Upon reaching the barricades one of the officers asked me the reason for travelling. Luckily I was having a copy of Rahul’s Work from Home office order. I showed it to him and told him that I was going to pick up my brother from his office. Thankfully he got convinced and let me pass. He directed me to wear my mask. I apologized and took out my mask to wear.

I had just made it to the office on time. Rahul was waiting outside. His office premise was nearly vacant that day. Not many persons could be seen roaming. I avoided hugging Rahul. He sat in the car and we left. I asked him about his wellbeing to which he said, “I am fine bro. Just my day was very hectic.”

“Don’t worry. Now you are going home. You can relax.” I replied.

“Yeah!” Rahul exclaimed and continued, “Almost everyone has returned back to their native places. Coronavirus has changed our lives.” He further said, “Apart from all this there is some positive also. I have never inhaled such fresh air. The pollution levels of metro cities have drastically come down.”

“Yes you are right. Not only pollution level but crime rate has also come down. Disease like COVID-19 does not differ among caste, religion, sex or status. It can happen to anyone anywhere. According to various religious texts like Bhagvat Geeta, Quran, Bible, etc. it is believed that whenever evil powers grow, nature finds a way, like coronavirus, to correct everything. People have started giving values to their families. They have started staying at home due to this pandemic.” I added.

I was so engrossed in the conversation that I did not realize that we had crossed the place where I was stopped by the local police. On the way back there was no barricading. I looked at Rahul, he was fallen asleep. Rest 30 kms was spent listening music.

We were crossing a city when I saw some people gathered on the road side. By the time Rahul was also awoken. While passing the huddle I saw a man and my feet automatically pressed the brakes and our car came to screeching halt. Rahul gave me a stern look as if sensing my thoughts. Ignoring him I reversed the car. Upon reaching the group the man I saw came running towards us. He was in his 30s. His face was tensed and eyes full of tears. His body was completely drained. I asked him what has happened. He wiped his tears and said in a hoarse voice, “Saab humari madad kijiye. Meri bibi ko bachha hone wala hai aur iis corona ki wajah se koi humari madad ni kar raha. Humein pass wale haspatal tak chodh dijiye.(Sir please help us. My wife is about to deliver and due to corona no one is ready to help us. Please take us to the nearest hospital.)” He started crying again.

I comforted him and assured him that we will take them to the hospital. Without wasting time he ran to bring his wife.

Rahul gave me an angry look and said, “Are you mad? What if they are corona infected? Atleast think before acting.”

He was right in a way. They might be infected. But at that time I felt it was the right thing to do. I assured him not to worry everything will be fine. Rahul surrendered with a grunt. The man returned carrying his wife in his arms. We both wore our masks and gloves and opened the back door to allow them to enter. Nearest hospital was just 5 km away. We reached in no time. We helped the man in taking his wife inside. The hospital staff came immediately to attend the woman. We waited for few minutes and when everything was under control we were about to leave. The man came running to me and touched my feet and started crying. He thanked me and showered me with blessings. I picked him up and said, “Bhaiya aisa mat karo. Sab theek hoga. Ye lo mera number aur call karke btana ki beta hua ya beti.” I assured him that everything will fine and gave my number and asked him to tell me whether he had a boy or a girl. The man gave a slight smile and led us to the car.

I felt as if I have added some value to my life that day. Rahul sensed my thoughts and smiled, “Bro now if you are satisfied shall we continue our journey?”

I gave a hearty laugh to his remark and ignited the car. We were back on the highway. We were still 30 km away from home. I told Rahul that upon reaching home we will first bathe and sanitize ourselves before meeting anyone. He agreed. Rest 20 km was covered in some light discussions. Suddenly from nowhere a flying object came and hit on the front window pane. We were taken aback, being at a speed of 110 km/hr I could only sense a bird like image in the rear view mirror. It took us few minutes to digest the incident.

Finally, we reached back home and my wife came running to welcome us but as discussed we straight went to the bathrooms. She got surprised but did not stop us. After sanitizing myself when I came back she just asked, “Is everything ok? How was the journey?”

I laughed and said, “It was hell of a Journey at the time of Corona.

Back on the highway the Pigeon was sitting beside a dead bird and was crying profusely. The bird that came in front of my car was the Crow. The Pigeon said, “Oh! My dear friend this Corona virus has not spared even us. Prior to this crisis, these humans were out of their cages and constantly travelling. There used to be not much space for us to fly so low. You would have been still living.”

Before my signing out, one thing is still left to tell you. You all must be eager to know whether that man called me. Yes, he did call me in the same evening. He was very happy. His wife had delivered twins, both a girl and a boy. I congratulated him and felt proud of myself.