'It is time to make Namaste your new Salam '
These are not the best of times for the handshakes and embraces that are culturally as well as religiously embedded in our society in Pakistan.
Yet, it is a dangerous proposition in the first place to flout this idea in a country where people are mostly religious, if not by practice then by tradition.
In fact, handshakes are dangerous in the wake of coronavirus pandemic and at the worst can cost you as much as your life.
Why should we persist with a custom in these extraordinary times should be questioned!
Ironically, it is as difficult as it is bizarre to give up the norm or habit of handshake and hugging while you meet your friends and family.
But then, isn’t it more bizarre to know that an unseen species is preying upon your life from someone’s flesh, and is just a touch away.
Coronavirus in Pakistan
Today in Pakistan, the people are as exposed to the coronavirus as the rest of the world where 123 countries have already hosted the ‘unwelcome visitor’ that since left its abode at China’s Wuhan. The virus has since been named as COVID-19 and has consumed 5000 lives, besides infecting 132500 people worldwide in last three months.
Earlier the virus that had its epicenter in China has now shifted the eye of the storm to Europe.
Like 122 countries, Pakistan could neither elude the virus, nor could prevent or identify immediately its carriers from mixing up from the populace.
However, it is true that Pakistan could be able to keep the virus at bay in terms of controlling its spread. It is also true that Pakistan’s response to the outbreak has been quicker, particularly in Sindh, which is the worst affected province by national standards, but when totaled, the numbers did not exceed 15 at the time of writing this article.
Pakistan’s efforts are acknowledged internationally as the World Health Organization’s country representative Dr Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala said yesterday:
“Pakistan had come up with one of world’s best national response programme against COVID-19 pandemic.”
But is it Good Enough?
Despite all the government’s efforts and the international acknowledgment of the national efforts, it is not the time to recline ourselves and live in a delusion that the other countries are suffering as they are infidels.
It is the time for a response not only at the government’s level but also at the societal level.
In Pakistan, the national habits are not as encouraging as they should be during these times of crisis. There is a little regard for emergency responses and until water reaches the level of one’s nose, things are considered ‘normal’ in Pakistan.
Pakistan is fortunate enough that despite being China’s neighbor, the virus did not extend its reach here. Luckily, Pakistan could be able to prevent the unwelcome visitor from entering.
But it is better not to wait to allow its further spread, or it is hardly the times to be complacent about it.
Banning gatherings and announcing the summer vacations in the winter are welcoming moves by the government. But it is not enough unless society takes an active participation to push the virus away by not touching it at all.
The earlier suggestion to replace handshakes with Namaste was a symbolic suggestion as I do not intend to feel the pointed edge of the sword by suggesting it literally.
But the need of the hour is to stop shaking hands and hugging each other until the virus is not defeated. Meanwhile, there are many, infection-free ways to greet each other.