“ Richa, please don’t join! It’s very risky.” mother was almost pleading,” Think about Deepak and Sanvi. You will be putting their lives too at risk”

“ But mom, I will have to do it. They need us at the present crisis. This virus won’t be contained without a vaccine.”

 “ And don’t worry about Sanvi, Deepak will look after her. I will not come home at least for six months.Now is the time to do something for humanity.”

 Worried mother mumbled something and hung up her phone in desperation.

 Had it not been for travel restrictions, she would certainly have landed here from India.

    I had tried to convince her, but I, myself didn’t know how I was going to cope up with the stress. Leaving my family behind, trying to refresh my knowledge and skill, with the fear of death looming large.

But I knew for sure that once in the lab, I will forget everything else.

I had a fair idea of why I was called back. I had been a member of the team that had done research on different strains of Coronaviruses and had been able to make a vaccine for one of these.

A new mutated strain of coronavirus COVID-19 wasn’t sparing anyone and so far no workable vaccine was in sight.

The disease caused by it had been declared a pandemic.

Perhaps it wasn’t just a pandemic, perhaps it was the punishment of man’s misdeeds.

      I vaguely remembered one incident. While teaching about plasmodium, a malarial parasite in the class, I was telling the students that it wasn’t easy to identify all the different shapes that plasmodium takes in the body of a mosquito and a man alternately. Its life cycle could not complete without passing through both the hosts.

Moreover, there were four kinds of plasmodium that could infect humans.

The only way to eliminate the parasite and malaria was to break its life-cycle.

 It could be done either with the help of drugs like chloroquine while it was in the human body or by killing the carrier, anopheles mosquito.

Someone  laughed in the class.. I knew who he could be,” What’s it, Nikhil, Why can’t you ever be serious in the class?Can you suggest any other way of eliminating plasmodium?”

“ Yes, madam,” he replied mischievously,” why not eliminate all human beings.”

The entire class burst into peals of laughter. With great difficulty, I was able to keep a straight face and reprimand him.

 But it wasn’t a joke any more. It seemed nature had decided to eliminate all men.

No doubt,it was a zoonotic disease, but  no vector was required to spread it.

    It had been eight years since we shifted to Boston. I had joined a job as a researcher and scientist at the Medical Research Institute.

I found it too taxing and left it after Sanvi was born.

  Life had its ups and downs but it was moving fairly smoothly till the world was suddenly shaken by this strange virus.

It had mysteriously appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan and spread throughout the world.

 It disappeared as mysteriously from its place of origin as it had appeared ,giving rise to many speculations.

 Perhaps it came from the infamous wet market of Wuhan.

 It might have been a bio-weapon developed by China, that had leaked accidentally.

And how was it that it didn’t reach the neighbouring cities of China, but reached European countries.

Each day brought horrifying tales of pain, loss and death.

The Govt.didn’t bother in the beginning, but when the virus started closing on us, everyone got scared.

Perhaps it was too late by then.

 I wasn’t much scared till it reached next door, where the warmest people in the world, Isabel and Willie lived with their father, Nico.

He was an affectionate old man and reminded me of my father whom I had lost recently . That was the only family in the entire neighbourhood on whom we could depend.

    While they were visiting their native country, Spain during their vacation, I got a message from Isabel that they won’t be able to return early as their father had tested positive for Covid-19 and would remain under treatment for a long time.

That was in the month of February.By then we had heard the reports of the disease in China, but hadn’t thought that it could spread its tentacles to such far off places.

      Uncle Nico, one of the noblest souls never came back. Both Isabel and Willie were not allowed to see him and perform his last rites.

Strange that they were allowed to come back without any restrictions.We couldn’t even go to console them.

   When the things started deteriorating fast, lockout was announced in the country.International flights weren’t stalled. Trains moved on and soon the cosmopolitan city of New York had 80% of its population in the grip of this deadly virus.

The authorities woke up too late . People were dying in large numbers. There was a dire lack of masks ,testing kits and ventilators.

Doctors, nurses ,scientist were busy trying their best,

It was at this juncture that I got a call from my old hospital.

Amicable face of Nico uncle floated before my eyes.

How could I refuse! I would never be able to forget that kindly gentleman, walking his dog, offering to drop Sanvi up to her school, asking us to come over a cup of tea .

   How I wished he could be saved. There were many more like him who had to be saved.

    Deepak didn’t want me to join the research .”I don’t want to lose you Richa.” was his plea .But I had made up my mind. Someone had to come forward. Why not me?

Even if something happened to me, my family was strong enough to survive.I was sure about it .

Thus I became a crusader in the cause of humanity.


Photo By: ani Kolleshi

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