On hope, pestilence and the divine

Sunil Sharma
…and the rains continue to pound Mumbai and rest of the country; the monsoon is in full fury, flooding, ravaging and uprooting things; an annual national narrative of despair and survival against natural odds.
And, in the midst of heavy rains, the pandemic continues unabated, striking at will, subsiding, re-asserting and in some places, diminishing fast.
And, then the Lord Ganesha arrives in full glory and humans petition the destroyer of obstacles for mercy, feeling assured and protrected.
Faith in its full splendor!
It works its magic and things calm down and settle, eliminating fear to a great extent.

Worth recalling here, below, these vintage words of Daniel Defoe about the Great Plague of London that happened in 1665. Taken from A Journal of the Plague Year, as a relevant message resonating again from 1772 to the denizens of the 2020, it aptly and uncannily mirrors similar anxiety, fear and hope---and the triumph of spirit and a deep desire for divine intercession and mercy:

In the middle of their distress, when the condition of the city of London was so truly calamitous, just then it pleased God—as it were by His immediate hand to disarm this enemy; the poison was taken out of the sting. It was wonderful; even the physicians themselves were surprised at it. Wherever they visited they found their patients better; either they had sweated kindly, or the tumours were broke, or the carbuncles went down and the inflammations round them changed colour, or the fever was gone, or the violent headache was assuaged, or some good symptom was in the case; so that in a few days everybody was recovering, whole families that were infected and down, that had ministers praying with them, and expected death every hour, were revived and healed, and none died at all out of them.
Nor was this by any new medicine found out, or new method of cure discovered, or by any experience in the operation which the physicians or surgeons attained to; but it was evidently from the secret invisible hand of Him that had at first sent this disease as a judgement upon us; and let the atheistic part of mankind call my saying what they please, it is no enthusiasm; it was acknowledged at that time by all mankind. The disease was enervated and its malignity spent; and let it proceed from whencesoever it will, let the philosophers search for reasons in nature to account for it by, and labour as much as they will to lessen the debt they owe to their Maker, those physicians who had the least share of religion in them were obliged to acknowledge that it was all supernatural, that it was extraordinary, and that no account could be given of it.

Hope somebody rewrites a journal for our times!

This edition has a special section, on the vexatious theme of identity, especially the hyphenated-identity talked frequently in the USA, as some kind of racial marker, a contested site of colliding cultures and creating subtle political binaries, in a system weighted heavily in favour of the whites and implicitly promoting the white privilege, at the cost of ignoring the other ethnic groups and their contributions,; a practice most ironically, occuring in a functional democracy, thereby showing its faultlines.
Time somebody interrogated such categories of the public discourse and perception, reducing some citizens to a strange dualism and as a double geographic being.
The real identity is being human and compassionate, treating everybody with respect and as equal---and constantly striving for such political formations.
Never heard of such hyphenated identities, at least openly, as a defining human indicator, in other countries! One happens to be a Canadian or German or French or Japanese there---or, merely a foreigner.
Ably guest-edited by the noted author-academic Anita Nahal, settled in the States, this feature brings together some of the best signatures that expertly decode this experience and its varied cultural connotations.
There are other interesting reads in the general section.
Once again, our gratitude to all the writers, guest editor Anita Nahal and readers for support.

So, here, we go on another monthly journey!

Sunil Sharma,

Editor, Setu (English)
Mumbai Metro Area, Maharashtra (India)

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