By Preeamvada Dookhun
The pandemic has changed our daily habits and screen time routine. Many of us have ended up spending hours on social media – be it Facebooking to keep the gossiping alive, You-tubing to know what the celebrities – famous and smart ones – are doing, or simply check those recipes; Zooming or MSTeaming to make sure we don’t miss any free webinars, or work-from-home meetings to stay connected with the professional world and, of course, Whatsapping to forward inspiring quotes, share daily glimpses of our lives, chatting and video-calling our dear ones, without forgetting Netflixing to balance the moods – and TV to keep updated with the news. So basically, besides cooking, cleaning, sleeping, bathing, probably shopping for groceries, and maybe exercising, the only other thing that is keeping many people in pandemic affected areas busy is nerve-wrecking hours stuck to their screens. From my own screens my experience of the world last week was…Love, Horror, Faith, Fear and Curiosity.
Love. Last Monday, Hindus celebrated Raksha Bandhan, the unique festival that glorifies the love and respect between brothers and sisters. ‘Rakhi’ as we know it, is when the brothers promise to protect and take care of their sisters. I was happy to follow live via Whatsapp as my sisters tied Rakhi on our brother’s wrist. But this triggered mixed feelings in me. What about those who don’t have either a brother or a sister? Or how do you explain to the older daughter(s) that the baby or little brother is expected to protect her?
Indeed, this is where parents step in to give the right interpretation that makes sense to today’s inquisitive kids, and the context. ‘Of course, beti, it’s not only about the brother who protects the sister or vice-versa but it is about brotherhood and sisterhood where, as a family, we always stand for each other. Be it brother-sister or sister-sister or brother-brother’. In fact, due to the pandemic and distance, many sisters found themselves celebrating Rakhi alone – like me being in Australia far from my sisters. But somehow I felt closer to my sisters, for we know that despite our quibbles, we are always there for each other, supporting, teasing, watching out for and listening to each other. Happy Raksha Bandhan sisters!
On Tuesday, I watched with Horror the blast in Beirut, which killed nearly 150 people (as at today 07 Aug 2020), injuring over 5000. One Australian is among the victims. Apparently, a fire started near the warehouse, blowing away 27,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate pellets, which are primarily used as fertilisers, releasing toxic red gases and spreading despair in an already politically and economically torn country. Australians feel concerned as ammonium nitrate, classified as a dangerous good is produced, stored and used widely in Australia. Though it is tightly regulated, the explosion in Beirut rings a bell of caution and reminds Australians just how disastrous it can be. The other Horror of the week is the Wakashio oil spill in the south-eastern waters of Mauritius. I am lost for words but pray that we are able to avoid l’irreparable. Courage! to the volunteers who are joining the authorities on the massive national clean-up. Stay safe.
On Wednesday 5th August, I watched the live telecast along with millions, as Faith triumphed and the ‘wait of centuries ended’, when the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, performed the Bhoomi Poojan in Ayodhya for the Rama mandir. For the unaware, Ayodhya is considered to be the birthplace of Lord Rama who represents the epitome of Dharma. The much-disputed land endured three decades of legal battles, along with the wars and the blood of thousands of Hindus since the 16th century. The final verdict awarded in November 2019 by India’s Supreme Court offered the aggrieved defendants twice as much land further away and a Trust was set up to lead the re-construction of the Rama Temple. This is a historic celebration for Hindus worldwide as ‘the structure will stand as a tribute to the best of timeless human values’, and is not just a religious affair. We can say with a little pride that the world’s first Rama Mandir is found in Mauritius at the Ramayana Centre at Union Park. Though small, it was still the first of its kind.
Victoria went into stage 4 lockdown and a curfew last week. Alone it has reported nearly 70% of Covid cases and deaths across Australia. The second wave has been deadlier for Victoria with elderlies in theirs 60s and above. Now the Fear of second waves is palpable in other States. Interstate borders closed again, travel bubbles were cancelled, businesses were going slow and people had to don masks when out in public places. Some States have re-introduced the bans on get-togethers. One could nearly hear the despair in the voice of Premiers as they addressed the people to share the bad news of the deaths of Covid-19 cases and the disobedience and reckless acts of certain people – like the woman who repeatedly bashed the head of a policewoman on the concrete floor, when asked the reason why she was not wearing a mask!
Nevertheless, the Australian government, both federal and state, is visibly doing what needs to be done. The hardship allowances were extended and eligibility criteria relaxed, businesses closed but assistance promised, paid sick leaves granted to Victorians so that they don’t go to work when sick or with symptoms, additional staff to support overwhelmed teams in hospitals and aged care centres, and finally tougher penalty for those who still choose to wander around when expected to self-isolate or simply be indoors. As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, we can only cooperate in unity to come out of this crisis.
The last thing to catch my eye is the unbelievable ‘tournure des choses’ in the case of Indian actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s murder. It seems that it is no longer a case of suicide but murder. Widespread queries from millions of fans, chilling testimonies of people from the Indian film industry – mostly the ‘outsiders’, namely actors, directors not from the Bollywood ‘gang’, parallel investigations by local media people, especially, the TV anchor Arnab Goswami’s intimidating questioning have forced the CBI to take up the matter. Even the Mumbai Police was accused of tampering with evidence and not collaborating with Bihar Police – who are also investigating the case in parallel, since the FIR was lodged in Patna. This is certainly an ‘affaire à suivre’.
Until next time…
* Published in print edition on 11 August 2020