One cannot be blamed if one forgets how to present a smiling face let alone have a hearty laugh. Unless a person is supremely carefree and a character of steel who can take life as it is -- come what may, it is impossible for him/her to keep poise at this juncture of mental crisis. For long 11 months, there has been a volley of depressing news. Even if you don't lose a member of your family, chances are that you have lost one or more of your friends or neighbours, colleagues or acquaintances. Even if you are fortunate enough not to suffer the loss of either of them, you cannot avoid mourning the death of people you revered, some of them iconic figures whose demise makes the world of intellect, literature, science, art and culture, social work, business and entrepreneurship, academia and medical profession poorer.
A feeling of void, futility and hopelessness assails anyone who cares to look around and views the unrelenting rampage by a tiny virus. Notwithstanding the efficacy of a number of vaccines already approved for application in human body, there will be months or even more than a year before the benefit of their combined positive action is felt. Vaccine nationalism has already caused bad blood in members of associations, blocs and allies. In a world vitiated by biased and arcane politics and disparities, the Third World stands to be left out of reckoning for timely vaccination programmes.
On this count, there prevails a queer case in this country although credit goes to it for importing and starting vaccination earlier than not only any other developing country but also before many advanced countries. It seems people are less interested in taking the jabs. Even many educated people with unwavering faith in science are in favour of a 'wait and see' policy. In fact, Bangladesh has been particularly fortunate not to experience a second wave of coronavirus attack. Belying all apprehensions, the winter has contrarily seen a sharp fall in infection and even death. Even countries like South Korea which managed the early onslaught so creditably are now experiencing rising cases of infection but Bangladesh is reporting drastically reduced cases and even single digit deaths on some days.
The new variants of the pathogen found in Britain and South Africa and in the United States of America separately are considered super spreaders. However, the good news is that the vaccines ---at least two of them ---now in use are quite effective against those. When first reported that Bangladesh also found the new variant, it unfolded a nightmarish spectre. Mercifully, such a fear has also proved unfounded.
All this could have cheered the people here. But more than 8,000 deaths ---among whom quite a significant number of the nation's best minds whose void will never be filled ---still haunt minds. The threat has lessened but not disappeared. Like the peoples around the world, this nation is also traversing an uncharted territory, no matter if the vaccine has arrived and more are in the pipeline. Then, it is not death alone: there are other worries. The rich of the country like their counterparts elsewhere may have got richer but the common people, the middle class and some highly placed service holders in the private sector have found themselves dispensable. Many entrepreneurs, professionals and small traders are passing their days idly because their wares and services are no longer in demand.
They were not eligible for stimulus packages. Kindergartens, music and art schools, barber shops and many such professional service sectors had to close down business. When one from a friends' or acquaintances' circle has to pull down shutters to leave the city for a journey home, others also get depressed. Some develop insomnia or psychological disorder out of frustration or depression. There is hardly anything to cheer about. It will take long to heal the wounds.
This once-in-a-century crisis could bring people, communities and nations closer to each other. As if wealth will guarantee them immortality, the rich initially turned a blind eye to the possibility that even their newly acquired wealth could assuage the sufferings of the wretched if they shared it with the latter. No wonder, voices have started to become vociferous about deciding the limit of billionaires' wealth. This calls for redefining human progress and living standard.