24 March 2020

We need no-charge humanity

Crises have a way of spawning pundits. Today, for example, we have epidemiologists, virologists, relief-deliverers, quarantine-supervisors and other experts in fields relevant to combating the spread of the epidemic. Most of them wear multiple hats and almost all of them have this special gift — knowing exactly what the Government should do down to the very last detail. It is as if they’ve studied deeply all relevant demographic information, have a good sense of available resources, are wizards at handling logistics in the worst of conditions and  world-renowned nutritionists to boot.

We need people to come up with ideas, don’t get me wrong. The problem is there are good people with good ideas, good people with bad ideas, bad people with bad ideas and their proportions in any random sample are such that what is good and practicable can get obliterated by that which is not.

The dimensions of the problem are in fact of an order that we have to defer to the overarching authority, in this instance the Government, whether we like it or not. It’s the Government that can deploy resources. We can only hope that the best is being done and will continue to be done.

It is easy to prescribe, especially when one doesn’t have to take responsibility for outcomes. It is a comfortable firing zone because if the outcomes is even a shade less than perfect, it gives the prescriptor the right to make grand declarations that begin with ‘now had they done what I suggested…’

It is obviously worrying because it is not something that is within our control as individual citizens. However, there are two things we can do. First, we can focus on that which we can control, for example social distancing, adhering to precautions prescribed by the relevant professionals, self-quarantining, self-rationing and finding productive ways of occupying ourselves.

Secondly, we can be like Susantha Kumara.

Susantha is a father of six, living in Kalubowila. He owns a three-wheeler which helps him put food on the table and spend on his children’s education. The curfew and the nature of the crisis has made things very difficult for him. His friends help him at times. Sometimes he borrows. He gets by, somehow.

A few days ago Susantha posted something on Facebook. Here’s the English translation.

‘Doctors, nurses and attendants of the Kalubowila Hospital: if you are without a vehicle call me. I will take you home free of charge (I do not know what the situation of the law is, but I am hereby volunteering to show my gratitude for the services you render). In the event of any legal issues, I will handle it on my own. My numbers: 0752 760 216, 0760 930 216.’
He ended up taking discharged patients home. He told each of them that they can pay him whatever they wished. He was expecting just the cost of fuel. He wrote, ‘I dropped helpless patients at their homes until around midnight. Even if people had money, they didn’t have vehicles. Even those who had vehicles were worried about violating the curfew. But I realized that the majority of our police officers understood what humanity means. I bow before them with gratitude. And most of the people I transported were like that too. Whatever they gave me they did so thanking me profusely.

He posted a picture with a caption: ‘this father had been discharged four days ago but couldn’t leave because of the curfew…this mother couldn’t come either…I took them home. They gave me money and showered me with blessings. I am overjoyed.’

In the midst of all the pontification, ill-willed and otherwise, backed by sound knowledge or not, there are stories that touch and cut the heart. There was a photo of a table full of various food items. And a notice: ‘Those of you who usually earn a daily wage: please take anything here that might be needed in your house and by your children (free of charge, no need of thanks).’

That’s being a Susantha, so to speak. People doing what they can, over and above attending to things within their control. No theories, no whines, no grand posturing. No charge.

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News' on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week]

'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing
Is the old house still standing? Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds

Distance is a product of the will

Did the mountain move, and if so why?

Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)

You can always go to GOAT Mountain

A love note to an unknown addess in Los Angeles

How about creating some history?

There ARE good people!

When we stop, we can begin to learn

Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 

Forget constellations and the names of oceans

Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons

Katharagama and Athara Maga