Coronavirus: Kafkaesque surrealism in slow motion

Tapan Misra

Kafkaesque surrealism is being played in slow motion. Traditional differences of friends and foes are blurred or obliterated. Victims are fighting two enemies. One invisible virus and another agonising fear, lurking deep inside brain, not being able to identify the enemy with all the vast experiences, acquired through evolutionary metamorphosis over millions of years.

The soldiers fighting this dreaded pandemic are wielding wierd weapons – stethoscopes, sanitizers, face masks, space suit like garments. And very very small people, sanitation workers, police, fire brigades whom we were ignoring all the while.

The enemy came with war trumpets blaring from distant land. We all thought they will not cross borders. We all the while were enjoying the ennui of confidence on the invincibility and sanctity of our borders drawn on worthless papers. Before we even could rise out of our collective stupor, the enemy was on our doorstep in the form of spectre of death for no reason. We empathised with hapless victims in faraway lands, but we consoled ourselves with the obscurity of their identities. We initially found the carriers of contagion were Globetrotters. We closed all windows to the outer world with great belief that contagion strikes only those who can afford sojourn to foreign, unknown lands. It will not hit us as we are rooted on the soil we were born. The victims were distant names. Suddenly for last two days the victims are having names and faces, very familiar to us, colleagues, distant neighbours. Suddenly the chill goes through spine: Will they become our blood relations in near future?

We just started grappling with unfamiliar nomenclatures like ‘quarantine’, ‘social distancing’ , suddenly the invisible ghost started becoming real life horror. Suddenly familiarity, friendship, relations have become anathema. Seclusion became preferred destination for God’s preferred animal who always had a hidden pride of creating and maintaining an abstract and unique animal trait – social behaviour.

This enemy is weird. No respect for race, wealth, civility, religion, knowledge, social standing, borders, technology, dreaded armaments or any other attributes or machines created by human mind. What I see, a bloody war, which as human race we may win with our innovations and inventions. But the cost will be enormous. We better take it as a warning. Next time we may not be as lucky. It is a stark reminder that human race has to understand nature and respect it, the way our forefathers used to do. Nature has a bizarre way of taking revenge for all the atrocities we inflicted on her.


The author, Tapan Misra, is a renowned scientist, presently posted as Advisor in the Department of Space, Government of India.

We have reproduced this piece, originally posted by the author on social media.

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