from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: the rise of the strange.

4 September.

our art installation

The recent Economist magazine has an article about the weird conspiracy and outlandish theories arising during this period of covid19. Stories merge, grow and adapt to current fears. Such oddities have been around for a long time. (Did you know that aliens built the pyramids?)

I cannot understand how people are caught up with such mad ideas to the extent they will go out on the streets, risking contagion, to promote these ideas. To my amazement I have family and friends on FB that have indicated their following of such mad theories.

But humans are a strange (and brutal) species.

We have our local strange happenings as well. No conspiracy, no madness, just determination and lots of money. And a little bit about art.

Three hundred metres down our road, on the sloping Hills Face Zone, there is a magnificent garden, a garden of over 2 ha with a permanent gardener. We call it the ‘secret’ garden. The owner has allowed locals to wander in his beautiful garden. We marvel at the tendered lawns, the meandering paths, the huge trees, the olive grove, the water features, the views over Adelaide. Often, we have wondered why the owner has not built a house on the level area obviously prepared for one.

This last week, activity started in a strange way. Three or four containers were delivered to the site. Cranes arrived to position them on the slope. What was this all about? Next the containers were painted black. Was the owner going to store material on the site? Another crane arrived and placed a final container upright on the other containers. Was this a mistake? Had they dropped the container in the wrong position? The rumour then arrived that the elderly wealthy businessman was finally going to build a house. That made sense as many people are using this time of Cocid-19 to upgrade their properties. Wrong.

The puzzle was solved yesterday. Another crane arrived and placed three red crosses on top of the upright container. This expensive exercise appeared to be all about creating an art installation. I assume that the owner is a Christian and is making a statement … no harm done, no angry shouting in the streets.

art and belief in our neighbourhood

The art installation, which is what I will call it, can be seen from a great distance. I’m not sure what the council rules are about erecting such a construction. The council official has been seen taking photographs.

Meanwhile, I hope we can still wander in the garden. While doing so, we might reflect on the strangeness of humans.

from Rajan in Mumbai, India: Gratitude

May 1. Migration from rural to urban is reality in India. Millions of people are estimated to migrate from rural areas to urban areas and metropolitan lobour markets, industries and farms. It has become essential for them from the regions that face frequent shortages of rainfall or they suffer floods, or where there are less or no opportunity for employment. There are other social, economical and political reasons also. It also adds burden on the urban areas in many aspects.

Many of these migrants do not bring their families along with them. Once a year they go to their native places to visit families. Among the biggest employers of migrant workers is the construction sector,textile, domestic work, transportation etc. They are poor people.

Sudden announcement of lockdown due to corona outbreak and because of the sealed borders they could not go back to their native places. When all others were staying with their families, these poor people could not. Under these kinds of situations everybody needs emotional support. They somehow tried to go back even walking several miles. They were stopped on the border of the district by the local administration  and quarantine them in schools, hostels or whichever place was readily available in that area. Their life became miserable. However, Government and NGO’s made some arrangements for their food free of cost as their income is nil in these days. 

Now the State governments are trying to make some arrangements to send them to their native places. The number of corona positive cases are increasing and therefore It is a challenging task for the government to send them safely. Now after 40 days various state governments talked with each other and made a plan to send these migrant labourers to their respective homes safely. Both the Government and these migrant workers faced problems because of the lockdown. But I must say that the Governments have failed in social intelligence before taking a decision of lockdown. There is a need to amend lobour laws for these kinds of situations about fixing the responsibilities of the respective governments.

But I have a story to tell about some sensitive migrant labourers even when they were suffering. Some migrant labourers who were provided temporary shelter in a school building during lockdown in a village Palsana, district Sikar, state of Rajasthan in India. As they were getting good food from the villagers they said we will go home when time comes, but we can not stay idle for long. We may get sick if we don’t work. They voluntarily offered to paint the building. We will not charge anything but give us paint and brush so that we can facelift the school building. Students studying in this School are like our children, at least they will speak good about us, will remember us. Villagers, administration, sarpanch and principal made all the arrangements and we are grateful to them. Hats off to labourers for showing gratitude to villagers for taking care of them in time of crisis.

I must say that they may be poor but rich in their heart!

from Rajan in Mumbai, India: Slum Dharavi in Mumbai

Health Minister, Government of Maharashtra Mr Rajesh Tope in Dharavi

April 14. Dharavi is is in Mumbai, India. It is the biggest slum in Asia. It is has been founded in 1884 by during British rule. Approximately 300 thousand people stay here. It has an area of around 2 square kilometres. The number increased  by way of migration in search of jobs mostly from rural areas. Surprisingly it is astonishing to say that it has an active informal economy. Many of the household enterprises employ many slum residents. It is estimated that there are around 4,000 businesses and more than 12,000 single room factories. The products made here such as leather bags, purses, jewellery, accessories, textile etc has a market in US, Europe and Middle East. Annual turn over estimated at over US$ 1 billion.

It has not escaped from many epidemics. Plague in 1886 killed half of the population at that time. After 100 years they suffered from Cholera and now when the first case of novel Covid 19 was found, Panic button was pressed in the minds of Prime Minister to Chief Minister to Health Minister to Policy makers to general people in the country because of the type virus and the spread it may cause. How will they follow social distancing. In every small house measuring approximately 150-250 square foot on an average 7-8 people live. They are using common washrooms and many other problems. How do we quarantine them? It is the most difficult task. In addition there are 2-3 more such pockets but smaller in size in Mumbai where also the infection has entered. 

However I must appreciate the Health Minister of Maharashtra, Municipal Officials, Doctors, support staff have gone there personally to asses the situation and led the operation from front. The Chief Minister extended full support to the team. They are agressively following the strategy of CTRR (Contain,Test, Relief and Release). They all are brave people. They need a great congratulations. Young people came forward to volunteer their services.

God bless all those who are working to save them as well as the residents…

From David Maughan Brown in York: Limbo

10th April

Leaving references to Christian mythology aside, ‘limbo’ is defined by the Concise Oxford Dictionary as ‘an intermediate state or condition of awaiting a decision etc.’  We are unquestionably in a state of limbo, with the etceteras we are waiting for including a lifting of the lockdown and, in particular, a vaccine. When it comes to waiting for an effective antidote to Covid-19, there will be many people in the USA who, as their country’s death toll tops the charts, may feel inclined to consider their particular limbo as meeting one of its less secular definitions: ‘The condition of living on the borders of Hell.’ This is likely to be the more so as their ridiculous President peddles the anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine as the answer.  Sadly, ‘living on the borders of Hell’ is probably the definition many of our NHS staff would be likely plump for as they set off to work every day fearful of what the indefensible absence of adequate personal protective equipment might mean for themselves and their loved ones.

One of the difficulties with living in limbo lies with coming to terms with the indeterminacy of the sentence – there can be no equivalent of a count-down Advent calendar; another lies with finding alternative ways of making sure that every single day that passes isn’t wholly indistinguishable from every other day that passes.   These were both minor anxieties when, after 43 years, I managed to shake off the habit of going into an office five days a week.   Even in retirement, in normal circumstances, one can establish rituals and indulge in interests that at least distinguish weekends from weekdays – from watching sport, to going out to buy croissants on Sunday mornings, to having family come for Sunday lunch.   Many of the distinguishing features of weekends were organized for us – the sport, the Sunday newspapers etc; some we generated for ourselves, like the croissants and Sunday lunches.  None of that is possible now.  We could, of course, mark off the passage of the days and weeks by instituting our own rituals for distinguishing between weekdays and weekends, for example by determining only to drink wine at weekends.  At which point I decide that perhaps, after all, it isn’t so very important to make sure that every single day that passes isn’t the same as every other day. 

from Megan in Brisbane, Australia: a Greater Purpose

April 10. Events have taken a turn!  My design-a-day has been adjusted and now accommodates a Greater Purpose, the existence of which can be traced to a single pivotal moment arising from the virus restrictions: my grandson posting his first video and his challenge to the family members.
These are the developments – he continues posting his videos, but now my youngest grandson aged 6 (yes, six) is making and posting his own videos. That is how much he was enthralled by his cousin’s creativity. They are delightful! Our challenge is to do something new, to look at the view, to help Mum with the weeds, do puzzles, and when doing your schoolwork, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I admit that, in the early hours when I can’t sleep, I watch all these videos over and over again. My battery is on permanent red alert.
Another of my grandsons has now decided to write a novella! So every day for an hour, we have a chat about plot, characters, suspense, description, dialogue, he writes and we convene the following day. So you see the Greater Purpose. But there’s more.
Someone on the family group, adult or child, quite spontaneously sets a daily challenge – a brain teaser or a word puzzle, cryptic clues to find deeply buried solutions – which keeps me busy in ways I didn’t dream of when I set about my design-a-day. How things can change from one day to the next. As has been proved in a more global context .
What will you create today? How will you express your creativity?

from John in Brighton, UK: an email from the GMC – the General Medical Council

April 10. I readily accept that examples of “being desperate” for the man on the Clapham omnibus would pale into insignificance in many parts of the World. The inveterate smoker on a long haul flight or train journey (not me) or urgently needing a leak on the motorway and the sign you pass says “Services 5 Miles” (been there, done that). Or more topically as the curtain is soon to come down on Lent my current yearning for chocolate after six weeks abstinence – surely that’ll mitigate some of the corona pain that we’re all feeling. But then there’s Matt Hancock’s desperate need for more doctors as their numbers shrink thro’ ill health (including a few deaths) and the vast numbers of patients. There’s no point building giant Nightingale hospitals if you cannot staff them. I was positively reassured that it was only to be doctors within three years of retirement who would get the call “Your Country Needs You” but just replace Kitchener with Matt or Boris. Let’s me off the hook, no need to feel guilty. 

But stone the crows on the afternoon of 2 April an e-mail from the GMC arrives out of the blue to tell me that my licence to practise is temporarily restored and if I don’t opt out within three days my details will be passed to the health service. My heart tells me that this is an opportunity to do my bit, something that will make a difference and is urgently needed – I’d love to do it. My head tells me otherwise and it’s unsafe in two ways. Firstly I’ve just received another text to say I’m high risk and essentially housebound for twelve weeks so that alone kicks it into touch. Maybe I could act as a telephone doc / advice helpline. But more generically I haven’t laid a finger nor a stethoscope on a patient for over five years. Medicine moves forward fast, my abilities retrograde with equal haste. I’m sceptical that a short refresher would get me anywhere near back to speed. I’d be worried that I might be something of a potential liability and I know from personal experience if you do make a serious error the stain on your conscience stays with you to the grave. Even in these unprecedented times I question whether I would want to take the risk and who covers my indemnity? Sadly I’ve declined the offer. Sorry Matt.

There is a final irony to this. I retired a little earlier than planned because of the bureaucracy and demands of revalidation – a process to weed out unsafe doctors (not that I was ever convinced it could). Politically correct, reassuring to the public but we all know that Shipman would have had no trouble revalidating. Maybe I would have still been in a position to help if I had stayed on – press-ganged into early retirement ‘cos I eschewed the safe doctor assessment, unwilling to resume now because I don’t feel safe.

from David Vincent, Shrewsbury, UK: An infection foretold.

April 10.  Now it’s personal.  I learnt last night that my niece, my sister’s younger daughter, has coronavirus.  She is a twenty-eight-year old, recently-qualified doctor, working in a city-centre hospital.  She was infected five days ago, and is resting at home.

I am of course anxious about her, though her symptoms do not seem serious.  She is young and fit and the likelihood must be that she will make a full recovery.  I am also concerned for her parents’ anxiety.  But most of all I am just infuriated by the event.  Many of the cases of coronavirus can be described as random misfortunes.  Not this one.  She was told three weeks ago that she was being posted to a Covid-19 ward.  I was in touch with her parents, who were very worried that she would not be given appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE).  The press was full of stories about shortages, and I could understand their fears.  But I did think that by the time she entered the ward, something would have been done.

It was not.  She lasted just a week before a coughing patient got through her inadequate protection.  This was a predictable and predicted outcome.  A monument, amongst many others, to the criminal lack of preparedness of the NHS, and the Government that funds and manages it.  We are now nearly three months beyond the point when the spread of the epidemic to Britain became a realistic likelihood. And still every part of the system is in arrears.

There is my niece’s suffering – it started with a fierce headache, and she was tested and sent home when she complained she could not taste the chocolates a well-wisher had sent to the ward.  Now she feels extremely tired.  And there is the sheer misuse of resources.  My niece was freshly trained and full of enthusiasm.  She shared a flat with another young doctor who as a consequence has had to self-isolate.  So that’s two doctors who should be on the front line, shut up at home.  It is an utterly stupid, avoidable waste.

from Rajan in Mumbai, India: Quarantine!

My daughter Janhavi Welukar, Consultant Skill Education            B.L.S/LLB, MA in Public Policy and Masters in Development Management added the following story.

April 9. QUARANTINE has become the new “it” word. Everything in our lives has started revolving around the “quarantine” issues. Memes about quarantine have been flowing in like biblical flood since the start of lockdown period; your WhatsApp, Facebook Instagram everywhere there’s just one thing trending. In this time of social distancing Virtual has become the new Real. Screen time has increased since personal interaction has reduced. If you scroll through your feeds on social media, you’re bound to run into many perspectives of people about this quarantine period.

Some people are looking at the optimistic side for mindfulness and are of the view that maybe we all should practice this for more days in a year to enhance mindful living. There are retrospective talks about missing one’s loved ones and missing important things in life like the growing up years of your child, children or parents living abroad, maybe a broken relationship or friendship which was worth much more and many such thoughts and feelings. Some people said it’s a great reminder of how important nature and environment is and we are nothing but small specs of a much larger system. Some even said that it is an humbling experience as one understands the true meaning of life itself and what it means to live. Whichever medium you use today, you’re sure to have come across one of these things. But in my mind, it’s just intellectualizing things.

I dedicate today’s article to my mother and many such mothers across the world. My mother was a housewife. Every day when I returned from school, she would greet me with an enormously enthusiastic smile like I had just made the discovery of the century. She would then proceed to feed me healthy food (for which she would have to find new ways of garnishing to make it more interesting for me). Then it would be the time for my homework, sleep and then sending me off to play time. By this time, it would be the time for my father to come home. She would greet him so very lovingly and chit chat about his day and share a nice cup of tea with him and move on for dinner. Then sleep then again breakfast, send child and husband to school/office and the same routine would continue. She went out once a week to get the groceries and would get about 5 hours per month to do her own thing. And yet I never heard her say I am bored, or life is too monotonous, or I feel caged, or I am depressed, or any those fancy things we discuss today in times of quarantine.

One thing to note is that my mother lived in the pre-social media age. Our lives today are nothing different than a regular housewife’s life every day. But see the hoopla around it. This comes from a life of privilege and luxury of spending our time on our own terms without any restrictions. I can’t imagine how my mother and many other mothers kept their morale, energies and creativity high every day of their lives. The only thing they strive for is a happy and healthy family, good education for their children and prosperous lives of their children. Now imagine having to do all of this on a tight budget. Today I pledge that I dedicate all my 21 days or more to all those housewives who imbibed the simplicity within the complexity that we know as “life”. And henceforth promise to keep my spirits high, help people around me and find innovative ways of keeping my mind active and healthy for as long as I can.

from Barbara in Florianópolis, Brazil: Community news and listening to mothers

7 March. We learnt from our neighbour that there are about twenty contamination cases in our neighbourhood. That was quite a surprise, although we knew that there was no good reason for our area to escape miraculously from the worldwide plague. We live in the island part of the city which is not very populated except during the summer that has now ended so we feel that this low density of population is probably a good thing to limit the spread of the virus.

Our house is in a condominium where there are about fifteen other houses, all with young children, thus we are faced with the question as to whether to barricade ourselves totally from our neighbours or to let the kids enjoy playing with each other every now and then. 

It is still unsure when schools are opening again – some people say at the end of the month, others mention September. I wish we had a few more toys and books to entertain the kids, although we are doing pretty good at inventing new games and making fun child-friendly scientific experiences.

We see more and more people wearing masks. I asked at the pharmacy: there are no mask available anymore in the whole of Florianopolis. We will probably end up making our own ones if it becomes clear that we need these. A few weeks ago, I turned down my mum’s offer of masks, thinking it was an unnecessary and superfluous precaution. Who said we should always listen to our mothers? 

from Megan in Brisbane, Australia: Go Home, all cruise ships!

April 9. Feedback on the cruise ships wanting to dock in Sydney. Four have been refueled and stocked up to get them back to their ports of origin. It has been a massive maritime exercise and one that the NSW government should be proud of. They stood firm. Go home! And so they did. Not so for the culprit of all culprits, the Ruby Princess. That is still in port, and a criminal investigation has been opened to determine whether misinformation on the condition of the passengers was provided, which resulted in the passengers disembarking and returning to their homes across the country, by planes trains or automobiles.

Easter is approaching and the federal government has issued very clear guidelines for each state. The article below gives all information and is worth a read. The efforts the government is going to to contain the virus is admirable and one hopes that there will be co-operation