Fear: The Jailer Of Life.
By Talha Masaood
It is said that the fear of the unknown often paralyzes the faculty of thinking of the person who experiences its overwhelming uncertainty, and clouds their judgment by doubt and trepidation. If truth be told, most of us did not comprehend the idea of such apprehension or even if we did, we could not relate to such fearful confusion and uncertainty. Now, however, life seems to have been imprisoned by such panic-inducing apprehension. Since February 26 when first Pakistani was diagnosed with coronavirus to this day, our beloved country is hardly recognizable.
Within a matter of days, the count has reached ———- patients of this virus, out of which ———- has lost their lives to it, while others are still suffering in quarantine. The consequent lockdown is not only crippling our economy but has also handicapped the normalcy of an average Pakistani’s life. Where once our parks were alive with the laughter of our children, now they are just silent, empty plots of land. Where once even the saddest, most miserable of people would be cheered up by the playful frolicking and the carefree manners of those children, now their hearts are chilled by the tense, heavy silence of their absence. Before this health emergency and Government’s consequent policies, there were evenings when families would crowd in shopping malls and market areas, and you would find it a challenge to make yourself heard over the din of the bargaining and the often resultant bickering between shoppers and the shop-keepers. Friends would invade restaurants and food corners in search of delectable cuisine which would often turn out to be junk food, demanding treats from each other. Those evenings have now shrunk into mere echoes of their lively past, as under the threat of this rapidly growing epidemic, people try to confine themselves to their homes, leaving behind a forlorn emptiness which heightens the sense of impending danger.
In addition to this general uneasiness which now borders on a full-blown depression, people are having trouble managing their precautionary measures, and those who do manage to cater to them are facing psychological problems of their own. For instance, social distancing entails that we do not come into physical contact with others in any way whatsoever. We cannot shake hands with each other, nor can we hug our family and friends. People, especially teenagers and children are finding it hard to limit themselves thus. Teenagers are callously careless about hindering such physical expressions of their love and loyalty for each other. And children cannot understand, how in less than a month these gestures of love and affection, respect and courtesy have changed into despicable acts of transferring disease to another. The elderly scoff at the idea, for they find themselves unable to break their lifelong habits of greeting others by shaking their hands and honoring their guests by hugging them. Above all, the most pitiable condition is of those adults who do not enjoy the ignorance of childhood, nor do they have the luxury of being careless as a teenager, nor are they bound by age-hardened habits for not complying with such precautions. Their misery is of another kind entirely. Knowing full well that they cannot avoid keeping social distances, they are bound by necessity to be socially distant but are unable to adequately explain to their elders and their children as to why are they being so rude and unloving. Accompanying this strain of enduring such accusations, is the burden of not being able to come up with the answer to the question, till how long would all of this continue?
They remain silent of course. However, among these adults are even those whose silence is not only for lack of an answer but is also telling of their extreme stress for not being able to provide for their families. For the dear reader, our country is a third world country and as such many amongst us work on daily wages; which is to say that with the fear of this contagious disease stifling the breath of life itself, many families are going to be deprived of the little they had gained, and be pushed back into their poverty. Owing to this regression of their fortunes, many such individuals of the underprivileged class are experiencing extreme guilt and fatal anxiety attacks.
This fear-inducing epidemic is indeed leeching all the color out of our lives. People have started postponing their family functions such as wedding ceremonies, and even in some exceptional cases, the funeral rites of their dead loved ones. Nevertheless, while such functions can be postponed till who knows how long, the approach of Ramadan cannot be dispensed with so easily. Already the religious community of our society faces a challenge in coping with the situation. If things do not settle soon, the 30 days of Ramadan would indeed be an exceptionally daunting challenge for everyone. For it is a month of social welfare and of religiously trying to strengthen our bonds with each other by inviting our family and friends to Sehri and aftar get togethers with precautionary measures against this virus, it would yet again be another blow to the morale of our people since its religious significance entails that it cannot be postponed to be celebrated in another month.
Notwithstanding such dilemmas, it should also be noted that we are not in danger from coronavirus as much as we are from making wrong and immoral choices out of its fear. Some of us, out of an instinct for self-preservation has unnecessarily started stocking up on facemasks and hand sanitizers even when we have enough for our needs, creating a shortage in the market for others. While those of a self-centered disposition have spotted a business opportunity in people’s fear and uncertainty. Capitalizing upon the panicky situation throughout the country, such people have started making money by causing the skyrocketing prices of personal hygiene products, making it hard for those with an average income to shield themselves with such products against this disease. On the other hand, as people avoid going to hospitals even to donate blood, thalassemia patients have started paying for this fear by their lives.
It is indeed in times such as these that we reveal our true colors to the world. Whether we are merely interested in preserving our own lives, in saving those around us, or in making thoughtless choices which jeopardize others, and make us in effect their murderers, would show us if we are true patriots of humanity or only self-righteous traitors to our kind.
In essence dear reader, by highlighting the current scenario we do not wish to add to the morbidity of our situation, but only to let it be understood that we ought not to let caution turn into fear and become a jailer of our lives. Let us not allow our fears to govern our actions but only caution and prudence. For we and we alone have the choice to become the savior or the murderer of our humanity.