Lockdown 7: The Plague
Lockdown 7: The Plague
This long lockdown has led me to discover many new things and one of them is the Audio Book. I have always been a strong votary of the physical book for I enjoy the touch, feel, and smell of a book in my hands. However, since I was starved of good books to read in my home library and there was no way to buy a book from Flipkart or Amazon, I turned to alternatives and discovered Audible, the audiobook app managed by Amazon.
I am currently on a 3 month free trial period, being a Prime member. I started by listening to two self-improvement titles, both of which were extremely informative and very well presented. Then I picked up a thriller, written by a hitherto unknown author. It was amazing. I then listened to thriller short stories in Hindi directed by Anurag Kashyap (Thriller factory) and narrated by Nawazudding Siddiqui and other artistes. Excellent. I even listened to a story narrated by Amitabh Bachchan, a ghost story.
One of my WhatsApp friends posted about a story called “The Plague” written by Albert Camus, the famous French writer. I had read two of his books “The Fall” and “The Myth of Sisyphus” earlier and hence chose to listen to “The Plague”.
It is a long book to listen and one required patience but I persisted and finished the book today. It is a moving and poignant tale about a small city in the French-occupied Algerian city called Oran which is hit by the plague. The small city is sealed off from the rest of the country and the story is about how the disease affects the residents in many different ways. I could see a lot of similarities to what is happening today in the world.
The entire story is narrated by a doctor who is fighting a bitter battle along with a small team of doctors and volunteers to fight the plague. The doctor views the developments from various perspectives and this is what makes his narrative fascinating.
We learn about the citizens who progress from being skeptical about the illness at first, then with growing concern and then filled with hopelessness. Finally, when after months the plague retreats, they realize how much freedom they had lost during the long months of isolation.
We are told about patients whose suffering is unbearable and painful. Old, young, and infants; rich and poor are felled mercilessly by the plague.
We are introduced to the priest of the local church who believes initially that the plague is God’s curse on human beings for having lost faith in Him. He also believes that there is no human cure for the plague and preaches his followers to accept the curse and hold their faith in God. But as the plague gets worse he finds that more and more people are losing faith in God and believe that only the Doctors can save them. When the priest himself is afflicted with the plague, he initially refuses medication but later realizes that no God is going to come to save him.
The narrator also talks about relationships. Husbands separated with their wives, lovers having to live apart without any communication. We also come across people who welcome the plague as they now have opportunities to do black marketeering and duping gullible citizens with fake medicines.
The story is set in the 1930s when we did not have technology except the radio and newspaper. Imagine how life would have been, with no way of communicating with your near and dear ones.
Most of us today are angry that we have to stay indoors like prisoners. We even hear that in America there are violent protests against lockdown. In our own country, many feel that the lockdown is meaningless and should be ended immediately.
We, however, forget how fortunate we are to be living in a world that is more connected today than ever before. I can video call my daughters in the US and South Africa every day to find out whether they are safe. We are privileged to have brave journalists who dare to be there on the streets to tell us what is happening. We should thank the police and medical staff who are proactively arranging everything needed for us to feel secure. Yes, we are indoors but not cut off from civilization as it was during the Plague described in the story.
The temples and mosques and churches are shut, but God is there with us, in our homes. Millions of migrant workers are separated from their families, have lost jobs, and are facing untold suffering. But the government, both at the Centre and the States are committed to taking care of them to the best of their ability.
The story of the Plague brings out one thing clearly. A man may lose everything he has in times such as these, but there is one thing he will never lose. Hope and the will to fight and survive.
In the story we see the Doctors trying again and again to formulate a serum that can save lives, and finally succeed. The same story is being repeated now. Scientists and doctors across the globe are racing against time to make the vaccine that can prevent the inevitable deaths.
What the COVID 19 attack has shown is how the entire brotherhood of man needs to stand as one, help each other in any which way they can, and conquer the virus.