Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

Pawns in the Hands of Nature

musing-logoThe current Coronavirus pandemic has made us all (I hope) re-think our priorities.

I am sharing this article written by one of my favourite columnists from theSri Lanka Sunday Times – and hope the sentiments expressed will strike resonant cord with my followers.


One of my dear friends, who arrived in Sri Lanka from Mexico before all these travel bans were introduced, brought me a much appreciated gift.

Knowing my partiality for pale lager beer, he brought me a case of Corona.

Fortunately he had truthfully declared to the customs officer here that he was bringing with him a few cans of beer not exceeding his normal liquor allowance — and was waved through the green channel. I can just imagine the furore that might have arisen if he had declared that he was bringing in a case of Corona from Mexico!

Anyway, I am now seated with a well-deserved glass of healthy amber liquid containing its regulatory slice of lime. As I savour my Corona, I am musing on the pandemic caused by this new coronavirus — now elevated with the name of COVID 19 — which has taken all of us by storm and is gradually changing the way the world had been functioning for the past many years.

All over the world, people who used to commute to work in trains and buses and cars are staying at home and working (or doing no work and ice gahanava-ing, just as they did in their offices) from home. Universities have closed and lecturers are starting to deliver their lectures online. Airlines are not flying internationally and lucky countries like Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand and Cuba which do not share land borders with others have an easier task than most other nations in minimising the influx of infected people.

Still we all have our own problems. Here at home, we have places like our “Little Italy” to which several returnees from badly affected Italy have come back, conveniently avoiding having themselves screened by health authorities. Tracing them and their contacts will remain a problem for our authorities to prevent them spreading Europe-acquired germs to their families.

But we in Sri Lanka are used to surviving curfews (having lived through situations of war and civil unrest and insurgencies) and managing with what is available – unlike the British and Australians who are hoarding and even fighting over toilet paper!

But I philosophically muse to myself as I take a sip of my Corona that the hectic pace of the world, the rat race of the so-called First World which has even permeated down to ancient lands like our own, has significantly slowed down. We are being forced to isolate ourselves, within limits of course, and stop rushing around.

While air travel has made life easy for people who want to travel conveniently and quickly to far off lands, it is not good for the earth – because planes emit carbon dioxide and other pollutants like Sulphur into the atmosphere. With very few airplanes flying around these days and less ships dirtying the seas, the world may have a chance to get cleaner and breathe again.

As each day passes we are (or should be) grateful for being alive. We need to live in the moment and take each day as it comes.

The coronavirus will change the way we communicate and interact. We will learn to do more online and function in a virtual world. Our methods of learning and teaching, of negotiating and making agreements, of buying and selling things — these will almost certainly change as a result of the way we are forced to manage in the months to come.

Perhaps families may have the opportunity to spend more time together and neighbours may have the chance of getting to know and help each other — something which does not generally happen in a westernised world.

I guess all of us will take the time to wash our hands more often and practise social distancing and safe intercourse (no pun intended here) with others with whom we come into contact.

I believe the world will in due course overcome this dangerous virus. We humans have come through worse pandemics — for example the Influenza pandemic of 1918-20, the Hong Kong flu of 1968-69 and the H1N1swine flu of 2009-10. Sooner or later, the new coronavirus will be overcome, thanks to the drastic measure being taken by governments, the ‘service above self’ actions of our own medical and nursing workforce (especially those of our armed forces) and the efforts of all of us who cope with the new normal of everyday life.

But I hope as I nurse my own Corona, that before the pandemic subsides and the world reverts to its previous lifestyle, we use this period of slowed down living to reflect – and to realise that slowing down is not such a bad thing.

Since this century began twenty years ago the world has been aggressively rushing to get the better of Nature.

And Nature, in the form of a tiny virus less than 125 nanometres in diameter, is showing us that we humans, whatever we may be in life, are but pawns in the hands of Nature.




This entry was posted on March 21, 2020 by in Uncategorized.

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