“History says we have outlived such pandemics”

by | Jun 9, 2020 | 0 comments


Saidi Mustapha Mbagati
Author, poet (author of two works, English Poetry and Swahili YA novel) (TANZANIA)

COVID 19, an infectious disease caused by the severe respiratory syndrome Coronavirus, erupted in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and then spread its tentacles globally.  Did we expect something like this; something like a mere disease holding the world to ransom? No!

A gun on world’s head
But, like it or not, the whole world has changed drastically because of one virus. Medically it can be termed thus: pandemic. But in reality, its effects are beyond the medical implications of just a disease. It has devastated lives beyond one’s imagination and while it has stilled lives in the most painful way by snuffing them out; in other ways, it has also stifled them, bringing life to a standstill!

A virus has forced the world to stand still! It has put an imaginary gun on the world’s head and has frozen it!

Gripped by a morbid fear
It has affected my Tanzania; it has caused untold disruption in the lives of Tanzanians and it has stalled our economy! How can a country function when its people are in disarray; when work has stopped and when people are forced to stay inside? How can a country operate when a morbid fear has gripped its people?

Ignorance is death
However, let not COVID-19 stake claim to all the lives that it has so far taken without any mercy! It should ideally thank the help from the double devils of ignorance and carelessness that gleefully drive innocents to its trap. Otherwise, why would an innocent four-year old child die of COVID-19?

Well, the answer is simple: the family of the kid invites death in the form of COVID by not taking care of him; by being careless with his precious life and not providing him a mask.

Writers have lost their audiences
Now, there is a school of thought, which believes that artists may have gained something from all these chaos and disturbances. Maybe, maybe not!  But, I don’t agree with this theory. I think we have actually lost our audiences!

As writers, how can we gain? And what can we gain when our people are suffering?  Yes, in a way, there will be reams of books on the topic. And maybe that would be good, because, currently, we are only sipping at the edge of this stormy ocean, which is the Coronavirus. We need to know more! We have to be more aware! We have to protect ourselves! And we have to be with Allah, the Almighty!

Nothing is permanent
I am also a believer that all things good and all things bad, will ultimately come to an end! And I believe that our sojourn on earth is temporary and with it all things that affect us. Good or bad, it will pass. Nothing is permanent.

We will move forward
We don’t know yet whether the COVID-19 will be eradicated or not, or whether this will remain as a part of our life and we will all be forced to adapt to it and let it live besides us like a permanent wound?

At this moment, all of these questions remain. And our duty now is to find a middle ground, a path and move on; move forward.

Let us open up!
Life has to go on. And I would beseech to the world that let us all open up, be free, be transparent and communicate to the world our true feelings. Let us not hide under false beliefs and propagate falsehood.

Let us desist from spreading rumours as they are more dangerous than such pandemics!

Big yes to technology
And, it is time to embrace technology and give it the respect and status it deserves. Let us say a big YES to technology!

The world is still in turmoil. And the current uneven path may continue for sometime. Look around the world: everywhere unemployment is hitting the ceiling; companies are going bankrupt. Still, as we grope in the dark, we find that we are now dependent on something that helps us navigate this dark path in some ways: technology.

Scopes are limited
Now, from a writer’s viewpoint, the scope for his future is limited. Do you think a person is going to buy a book when he does not know whether he and his family are going to survive? When he doesn’t know how his day is going to end and if ever there will be food on the table? Or whether what he is doing now will further his livelihood? This uncertainty alone is killing!

Stress, building up like a tsunami
And the stress is building up like a tsunami. A tsunami of fear!

I think we, the writers, are going to lose our readers! In a world that is desperately trying to survive, where is the scope for them to resort to reading? Can reading fill their stomachs?

Couldn’t sell copies
On a personal note, let me reveal: I failed to sell copies of my book in Namibia, South Africa, the USA and Canada. All because of this COVID- 19! And as a diehard lover of books – books that we can hold and read, I must tell you that nothing can beat the satisfaction of holding a book and reading it as opposed to reading it online!

Normalcy will return in time!
I am not an astrologer to predict the future. I honestly don’t know what is going to happen today, tomorrow or even in the near future. But, I belong to the human race — a race that has set a precedent. History tells that we humans have always outlived such pandemics! We have outlived the worst wars and the worst of global crises! So, holding on to that branch of positivity, let me declare that we will outlive this too!

Everything happens for the reason and while we are currently in the grip of this deadly virus, let not our minds; let not our spirits succumb to it!

Let’s fill ourselves with positivity and even if it maybe a tiny step forward, let us take it! Normalcy will return, if not immediately, but in time.

So many difficult periods have come into our lives and this too shall pass!

We will die of hunger
Again, as a Tanzanian, I have to say this: we may not be able to stay cooped up in our homes for a long time. We have to work; we have to bring food to the table or we will cease to exist. Many of us may not die of COVID – but we are certainly going to die of hunger!

In God, we pin our hopes
Yet, even though we face a perennial dilemma; even though we are in a ‘Catch-22’ situation — where if we go outside, we may die of COVID and if we stay inside, we may die of hunger — I firmly believe that we have someone who will rescue us from all this – God! We have God who will ultimately save us!

So in our Almighty we pin our hopes!

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