Angels and the secret life of Covid Jug Suraiya Trivendra Singh Rawat, former chief minister – or should that be Chief Metaphysician? — of Uttarakhand could well have been on the side of the angels in a monastic retreat of the Middle Ages. To help pass the time of day between the services of Matins and Vespers, in the absence of 24×7 TV channels, FB and Twitter, monks in medieval Europe are said to have developed their own versions of mind sports which might be described as scriptural Sudoku, consisting of conundrums like the one which raised the question as to how many angels could be accommodated comfortably on the head of a pin. After much tonsure-scratching, the consensual answer arrived at was that angels being celestial beings, and therefore incorporeal and not constrained by the determinations of physical dimension, an infinite number of them could without duress be ensconced on a pinhead, leaving legroom enough for a seraphic version of the lambada, if blithe spirit were so inclined. As if in agreement with this angelic argument, the neta, prior to his precipitate ejection from the august office he occupied, raised a point of both spiritual and spirited debate, when he went on record to say that “If we talk philosophically, then Covid-19 is also a living organism, which wants to live and has a right to live. However, we consider ourselves more intelligent than any other organism, and we are now after it and want to escape it.”
Science, known as it is for its pernickety splitting of hairs and its importunate insistence on the burden of pragmatic proof, might demur on the grounds that the virus in question, like any other virus, cannot lay claim to life, in the conventional sense of the term, as it needs a living host in which to survive and replicate itself as a parasite.
Moreover, with a reported diameter between 80 and 140 nanometres (nm), the virus is a thousand times smaller than the cross-section of a single strand of human hair, contravening the fundamental requirement set by Stephen Hawking and others that to be deemed a life form an organism must be large enough to provide for the ingestion and egestion of nutritional matter. However, the former CM’s angelically analogous advocacy of extending the prerogative of existence to all entities — no matter how problematic their presumptive existence in terms of physical size, or how baneful their presence to other living creatures such as humans — could well inspire an uber-PETA organisation calling itself RITES, an acronym representing the demand to Remove Impediments To Every Species. It was in keeping with not just letter of the lore, but with the true spirit of what could be called biological democracy – the doctrine that all creatures, big and small, are equal but sum are more equal than individual others – that the green light was given to the Maha Kumbh Mela by then CM Rawat, thus enabling the coronavirus to do its thing, without let or hindrance by such human-devised impediments as face masks, social distancing, and swab tests. Similarly, the mass electioneering rallies held in Bengal and elsewhere were part and parcel of the endeavour to ensure a franchise that was truly universal and not restricted only to people, and that too people who could prove they weren’t illegal cross-border infiltrators, in that it invited the active and unimpeded
participation of our viral coevals who were, according to the RITES of passage, as entitled as we to life, liberty, and the pursuit of propagation. A spokesperson for RITES, who on closer inspection turned out to be none other than ex-CM Rawat wearing a different hat from his extensive array of reserve headgear, averred that it was high time that humankind jettisoned its arrogant and outmoded 21-century anthropocentric take on the cosmos and hearkened back to a more inclusive age when angels, and other non-human agencies such as the bacterium which caused the Black Death, the precursor of today’s coronavirus, were given unhindered play on the ethical imperative of equal opportunity. As an ancillary benefit to this laissez-faire policy, those carried off by butonic pestilences were assured by their heavenly hosts of a secure berth not only on an infinitely accommodative head of a pin, but in the godsend of a hospital bed, ventilator and all. Amen.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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