The Germ Within Us

By Dibyasree Chattopadhyay

You must have stocked enough…
enough to see you through this crisis
Crisis of the long-grain rice, of the multigrain flour, of the freshly diced fish or chicken breast,
of the expensive brand of potato, the organic vegetables and pulses,
of the imported apples, kiwis, grapes…
Crisis of sanity, patience, compassion…
Is it even relevant now?

You must have donated enough…
enough to remind your agitated conscience of having done your bit…
A bit here, a bit there, a few thousand for the migrant workers,
a few thousand for the doctors and the nurses,
a few thousand for the fund raised by a friend or a cousin’s son…
Your conscience is clear;
the dirt, filth, hunger are but natural consequences of this calamity.

You must have ensured your safety
Safety from the infinitesimal germ with infinite power…
Safety of your family from that feverish maid with a mild cough, by driving her away
Safety from that neighbour’s son or daughter, 
returned helplessly from abroad, by shutting your doors and windows…facing that house…securely…
Safety from that infected corpse’s capacity to be contagious, by stalling the cremation…
Your safety is not compromised;
the impuissance of that maid or that alien from abroad or that bereaved family is so inopportune…

You are petrified…
Your selfishness, indifference, venality has mineralised your humane emotions…
And you are now a stone…
A stone that is scared…
Scared because the stock prices are plummeting
Scared because the value of property is depreciating…
Scared because the great-leveller has arrived…
An infinitesimal germ with infinite power…

Dibyasree has been a high school teacher for 24 years. 

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