Brij Mohan Singh Rathore
Pneuma is under attack. Defined as “breath” or air in ancient Greek, Pneuma is air in motion or Pran-vayu (life breath) for the philosophers! It is the vital spirit, or the creative force of a person.
The attacker COVID 19 goes for the lungs, causes respiratory issues, develops pneumonia like symptoms and thereafter casts a storm across the entire body. The infection, like other respiratory diseases spreads through small droplets—saliva or mucus—that infected persons pass on when they cough, sneeze or talk. Weapons commissioned to counter the attack include masks, ventilators, testing kits and combination of drugs. Unfortunately, countries have been struggling to put in place this inventory in required numbers. Targeted drugs/vaccine is yet to come. The norms to fight the battle include social (read safe) distancing, quarantine and lockdowns. The arsenals in the weaponry are both preventive and curative. True to the proverb, prevention is better than cure. As many as 205 nations are waging their battle against a global pandemic. Till date the enemy virus has been able to infect more than a million people with casualties exceeding 60K worldwide. The economists would calculate the costs in the days to come. It is hoped that the battle against the Pneuma will be won sooner than later, COVID 19 shall be defeated, and the world order restored to a ‘new’ normal.
However, to win the war against the enemy in the long run and moving towards a new normal would call for paying attention to every breath that we take. Three things are important – the quality of the air that we breathe, awareness of the breath and the preparedness in case of enemy attack.
The lockdown has shown how quickly the cities with worst air quality could spring surprises and nostalgia, thanks to pollution nose diving with commensurate improvement in air quality. Gurugram is now competing with Finland on air quality, and the mesmerizing Dhauladhar mountain ranges, some 200 km from Jalandhar city can now be seen from the city rooftops. Peacocks, pythons, deer and myriad chirpy creatures are frequenting bustling urban confines. River Yamuna in Delhi is a welcome sight, not imagined in the recent past. Of course, the total lockdown – an arsenal during the battle time, cannot be the way out during peace time. It has nevertheless given people the hope that it is possible to see a clear blue sky in Delhi /NCR and breathe air that qualifies as good/very good on the Air Quality Index. Drastic measures will be called for to cut pollution across the sectors, known to be the biggest culprits. Forests, as carbon sinks, are of great help to work in tandem. It means upending the Paris Climate Agreement 2015. Vibrant ecosystems with rich biodiversity keeps the myriad life forms, including pathogens like viruses bottled up in a dynamic state. Such areas need to be secured at all cost to avoid transfer of zoonotic diseases like COVID 19. The nations will need to close ranks to make it happen.
Secondly, awareness of the breath itself holds the key. Yogis are known to measure their age not in the number of years, but in the number of breaths. Mindful breathing therefore becomes a useful tool that can be easily learnt. Breath awareness allows a person to calm the mind, overcome anxiety and stress, improve relationships and increase work productivity. Pranayama, in Ashtangyoga means, breath regulation, and is known to take care of lungs, boost immunity and improves blood circulation, along with other multiple benefits. These skills need to be integrated in the life style along with other physical exercises.
Thirdly, better preparedness to deal with similar contingencies in post COVID time will call for significantly boosting investment in public health infrastructure and personnel. Supply of masks, testing kits, ventilators, trained personnel and the drugs have surfaced as major constraint across countries during COVID 19 attack.
Once the battle against the Pandemic is over, the Pneuma as life-breath will
need more attention worldwide. Saving Pneuma is to ensure the well-being of humanity, both in the present and the future!
About the Author: Brij Mohan Singh Rathore is former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Madhya Pradesh .