The Pandemic Archive - Words Left Behind - Manmeet Bhalla

How is the virus affecting you as a creative?

I still remember the day when I heard someone in the department (I work as a research scientist at the Department of Microbiology, University at Buffalo) telling everyone that China had an outbreak of COVID-19. In a sarcastic tone the person said that "I do not know why those people eat bats and mammals, these things should be banned". My immediate thought was that we never considered banning eating pork when the swine flu outbreak happened or giving up on eating poultry permanently as a result of bird flu and SARS. As a microbiologist, I knew that there was no need to panic as the world had seen many epidemics and pandemics every now and then. Problem with us humans is that we think we rule the planet and are invincible, especially with our technological advancements. No doubt we have come a long way in terms of advancement of our society but we should never forget that we are just one of a million species existing on this spinning planet. Every species gives rise to new environments and every new environment then gives rise to new species. This law is inevitable and has formed the basis of innumerous species that we see around us. Also, every species is faced by threats from predators as they try to establish themselves. We never pay attention to when others face similar pandemic and are wiped out. But this pandemic hit humans, so fear and chaos was inevitable. 

With-in days, news reached that COVID-19 is now in the USA along with every country on this planet. News channels and social media projected data about rising death tolls and infection rate, as if this was the only news and the best source of income. Soon the society came to a stand-still, just like the scenes from apocalyptic movies. On a personal front, I was amused about the fact that an invisible force has brought the HUMAN society to a complete standstill. The society which took years to come to this level of competence was helpless in a couple of days. Being a microbiologist, I knew that this is a new species which we are getting exposed to, so our body and immune system is not yet ready, but eventually will be. Two of the groups were hit hardest, the elderly (with declining immunity) and people with immune-deficiency. Looks like nature is biased against the less fortunate. Surprise element was when young people started to get infected at an alarming rate. Medical findings exposed the underlying lifestyle related weaknesses in the immune system hidden behind the young skin. This was the time when I thought of letting my thoughts out to the general public. Ideas were always there. All I was missing was the perfect motivation which came out as a result of pandemic. Not one day was I afraid of getting sick because I do not believe in living in fear of dying. For quite a long time, I had this simmering anger inside me seeing how backward human society has gone with all the advancement. Our food choices, the pleasure of taste, lazy lifestyle, lack of physical activity, and many more things have come as a consequence of human advancement. To me it looks like that we ourselves did a lot to set the stage for a pandemic and it was a matter of who strikes when the iron is hot. The new set of thoughts and reactions all over gave me many ideas to make art on. Besides, I got ample of time to read books and work on my inner-self which was ignored for quite a long time. I was struggling for a long time to find myself, my passion, my purpose and I found all these during this pandemic. I am a firm believer of the idea that everything happens for good. Our society is already finding new ways to support each other and overcome this tough time. Although, it has and will take a tremendous effort to bring forward a new perspective where we again formulate a new type of society but the effort will be worth putting. There is a hope that this hard punch will not only wake us from our sleep but make us more strong

~Manmeet Bhalla~

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