BY Harsimran Kaur ON Mar 22, 2022 IN BOOK REVIEWS, TO HELL AND BACK: HUMANS OF COVID/BARKHA DUTT/NON-FICTION
Covid behaved like condescension—a superiority over human perseverance and endurance. It left thousands of people bereft of hubris self-existence, unapologetically espousing the predicaments of human capriciousness to life’s peripheral vacillations.
The author, Barkha Dutt too felt defeated when she lost her father during the Delta strain of Covid virus. The book is not about her personal tryst with the deadly virus but a chronicle of human tragedy, debilitating enough to create inequalities and inequities. It’s a journey travelled indefatigably by the author to meet the humans of Covid, emasculated by the intransigence of life; looming over them an inexplicable behemoth ghost of death and destruction. Travelling from Delhi to Kerala, cascading up and down to small villages and suburbs, living in the most obnoxious circumstances, Barkha fought tooth and nail to bring forth the “real Covid” and its contemptuous need to be evil stalking human profligacy and churning it into desultory poignancy.
Anathema to the core, Covid dissected wounds which would be difficult to clot and recover. The author has tried to put balm on the insurmountable bereavement by giving a voice to the sufferings of people. Leaving behind the grandeur of the studio and putting on the springing feet, she covered invidious exigencies in people’s lives; it could be the stoically entrenched woman grieving her husband’s gratuitous suicide or children crying unattended at their mother’s demise due to asphyxiation or the health workers so called “Covid Warriors” pillaged off their dignity and labeled as “pariah.”
If Tuberculosis is said to be a “poor man’s disease” Covid dented the roof of being called a “rich man’s disease”— a disease ingratiatingly plummeted inside the core of a poor man’s body making him susceptible to dehumanized disparagement. And, then what we saw ahead was a wave of migrant helplessness, loss of jobs and children binded to their nest with no schools. The disparity between the rich and the poor was obvious. The Indian caste system offered no recluse to the all prevailing caste subtleties with “Covid Survivor” as the new bludgeon of inclement prejudice and aberration.
The first spiral of Covid pandemic in 2020 lurked like a swollen lymph node deleteriously inflamed by an anonymous serpent. The anxieties were massive and protocols echoed a pestering backlash of pontificating life as unworthy. The second wave saw people getting caught like sugarcane in the gears of a juicer – withered and shriveled.
The fear still pumps in our heart of what lays ahead, of what we are to lose and finally grapple with the idea of death looming phantasmagorically. What happened during the pandemic is furtively ballooned by the government. Their self-justifying exculpation cannot recover the bodies ingloriously thrown in the Ganges and the inequalities that are furnaced between the rich and the poor.
The book is a candid masterpiece of facts and fall-outs that disheveled the very essence of human existence.
To hell and back and to hell again…very soon!!
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