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My endeavor is to delve into certain issues to give you some perspective, help you understand the world better, attempt to understand why we do what we do, and maybe in all of this, make the world teeny-weeny better! 

Disclaimer: It may be a tad bit opinionated!

So, let's get to it...

Aap, Main aur ......Coronavirus!

Not Bagpiper, you alcoholic! For those of you who don’t know, this line “Aap, main aur Bagpiper” was made famous by Bagpiper’s ad and delivered by famous Shatrughan Sinha in his even more famous signature ‘Khamosh!’ style. Okay, so brushing aside the amusing part of this, we all are feeling this dark time is around the corner and the situation has turned grave, don’t you think? What started in the small town of Wuhan from a messy seafood market, is now being touted as a worldwide epidemic – schools have been shut, people have been asked to work from home, hiring by companies has been put on hold, masks and sanitizers are out of stock in the markets, shopkeepers are selling masks at ridiculously high prices, film directors have postponed their movie releases, major events have been canceled, cinema theatres have been shut, even my dad has postponed his trip to the US (where my brother stays) which he never does, countries’ economies have come to a grinding halt, India is on the brink of lockdown as of now.

But is all this necessary? So, sanitize your hands as we try to dig further in this long one.

Its sheer coincidence that as the news broke of the onset of COVID-19, I happened to be reading Malcolm Gladwell’s famous The Tipping Point, which thought-provokingly caused me to draw striking similarities and relate to what’s happening around us. And I couldn’t help but become curious about it and share.

If you would have seen the case incidence graphs of the major epidemics, no matter how confined they are to any specific region or community, they follow a standard graph - one that slowly builds up, then there’s a sudden spike and eventually a sudden decline and then approaches zero. Gladwell talks about three characteristics of an epidemic – one, the contagiousness; two, the fact that little causes can have big effects; and three, that change happens not gradually but at one dramatic moment. All epidemics have known to have had their dramatic moments (the spike) when things have just gone through the roof. That Tipping Point or the disease has tipped, as he puts is when the epidemic has reached critical mass, and broken the threshold. It’s as if the contagion has gotten, somehow a mysterious new lease of life to breakout and the incidence of the number of cases has exponentially increased.

No one knows for sure how COVID19 started, and no one can pinpoint so, only once the disease has gained sufficient ground do people sit up and begin to notice, and then come up with all sorts of theories and speculations. However, according to the CDC, it originated from that ‘messy and filthy’ seafood-live-wild-animal-heavily crowded market in Wuhan. They claim that “the exact identity of the intermediate host remains unknown” so who knows how it all started! Regular people can become carriers by simply moving around a crowded subway or a crowded mall or be in a crowded cinema theatre. However, I firmly believe, chances are that the disease caught the wind of a human, Gladwell calls as a Connector. As the name suggests a connector, simplistically put, is a person who knows a lot of people, is socially very active, highly energetic, highly connected person with a massive network of people interconnected in a massive network. They are people who one can easily reach, and they are obviously a part of many small worlds. That’s how they are. Chances are that this connecter went to a party or social gathering or an event etc and the virus found new hosts to latch on to causing the initial spread. But we shouldn’t be naive to think that Connectors are the only people who spread the pandemic. Gladwell calls this second set of people Mavens, which is a Yiddish word of one who accumulates a lot of information. Not only are they passive collectors of information, but once they have acquired that knowledge they have an extremely strong urge to share it with others. That’s how they are too. A maven is a person the market relies on for information. Market trusts them, coz the people know that Mavens will go great depths to acquire that knowledge and the rest of us can rely on them. We all have connectors and mavens in our social circles too.[2]

But with social media, haven’t we all become kind of mavens? But we don’t research much, we only wish to spread the news. No hard feelings! Chances are COVID19 met with a series of such Connectors and Mavens during initial stages causing the outbreak. COVID19 met with physical connectors and mavens. The news or information about COVID19 met social mavens like us and the pandemic became a social media panic.

But the real question here is, has COVID19 tipped?

Hard to say, but notice the sudden increase in the number of cases outside China, especially in South Korea, Italy, and Iran. On 19th Feb there were only 30 confirmed (or reported) cases in South Korea. By the end of the first week of March, there were 7000+ cases (or reported), an increase of 200 times in three weeks only! similar fashion is seen in Iran and Italy. As on date, there are over 1.5 lakh cases worldwide, but who knows how many have not yet been reported on grounds of social pressure, fear, shame, embarrassment, etc. Gladwell continues to say, “Epidemics are a function of the people who transmit infectious agents, the infectious agent itself, and the environment in which the infectious agent is operating.”

When the influenza pandemic or Spanish flu of 1918 broke out, during World War I, 200,000 people of Philadelphia city took to the streets, to support the war effort, and this gave the H1N1 virus a new foothold to spread. In a matter of three days only, every bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was filled with a dying patient. By weekend approx 5000 people died due to this. This mass congregation or gathering of people in one city was one of the major contributing factors that triggered the massive outbreak of Spanish flu. It is known to have killed over 100 million people worldwide in a span of two years only, including in India, where approx 20 million died.

Takeaway #1 - if people are shouting to practice staying away from public places, they are in a way right, and we all should be very wary about it, in such a time, in order to prevent COVID19 from tipping.

Contrast this, during the same Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, nine hundred miles away in the city of St. Louis, when the first two cases of influenza were detected, the city went under a complete immediate lockdown – schools were shut, libraries and even churches were shut. Shifts got staggered and public gatherings of more than 20 were banned. These extreme measures, back then, identified right at the onset of the disease in the city by the Govt of St. Louis helped them curtail the per capita deaths to less than half of those in Philadelphia, according to a 2007 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.[1]

Takeaway #2 - if governments/countries at such a time, are taking measures to lock-down cities, and shutting malls and theatres, they are in a way right to do so, and we all should be supportive of these and see these in the right light, in order to prevent COVID19 from tipping. Let’s just hope we are not too late!

It is speculated, that Spanish flu alone caused more deaths than the war itself.”

In the mid-90s, the city of Baltimore faced one of the worst outbreaks of Syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease. One of the reasons researched by John Zenilman of Hopkins University was the breakdown of medical facilities in the city due to budgetary constraints. There was a drop in clinicians, physicians, staff and the facilities would even run out of drugs. And the disease erupted and spread from inner Baltimore to streets and highly dense neighborhoods.[2]

A similar thing happened during the Spanish flu epidemic that entered India in 1918.In October that year when the first few cases began to show up in Bombay, the medical facilities broke down and people called out to other people to help. Despite so much progress from back then, we still are under-capacity to handle a widespread epidemic - if that is, COVID19 becomes one (hope it doesn’t!) According to Central Statistics Office and Chinmay Tube, there are currently 0.5 hospital beds per 1000 inhabitants and 0.8 doctors per 1000 inhabitants in India i.e. less than 1. Contrast this to figures in the US, Italy and South Korea which are 3, 5 or even 10 times higher, but still those countries are under-capacity.[3]

Sadly this is true!

Takeaway #3: If the government or hospital leaders around you claim that “we are well-equipped to handle a corona outbreak in India” be wary of that too!

So, what does all this (OR COVID19 outbreak) point to?

This blatant situation staring at us points us to the old age “prevention is better than cure” and “stick to the basics always” Don’t be an asshole to only rely on governments to do something and squarely hold them responsible to do something about this but know this, that we, as citizens of India too have a responsibility towards preventing the COVID19 from tipping. Not just in spreading crap or making crappy memes, but to be really aware of the real dangers of what could happen if we don’t act in unison. Now, no one is asking you to stay put, sit at home in fear and not meet people, but take adequate precautions.

Takeaway #4: Way back in the early 20th century or even before, people were clueless about what’s going on in the rest of the world. They didn’t get to know about infection until it hit them. They couldn’t prepare themselves for any dangers in advance. Or the information got to them when it was too late. So, be thankful, that you are living in this Information age, where thanks to social media, we are able to reach out at literally the speed of light, to the rest of the world, and inform others of the pervasiveness of the dangers, with the help of such ‘live virus tracking’ tools. Be thankful that we are even able to educate others of the dangers, well in advance so that people can take necessary precautions. So let’s be wise with the info you receive and not just be forward-button-pressing-mechanical-idiots.

All this then leads us to...

The 5 PERSONALITY TRAITS of highly clean people

1. They don’t distance socially, as they are always connected to others. They only avoid meeting people in very crowded places as of now. You are all connected by whatsapp, social media. Be social on those. Now is not the time to distance ourselves from one another, but stand together, support and help one another. The term social-distancing floating around these days is a misnomer in this digital era, but spare us in making memes or spreading rumors. In fact delve deeper, study, research on what are we looking at here. Some helpful links are -

2. They have Obsessive Cleanliness Disorder, and it’s time that if not obsessively, we realize that basic hygiene for cleanliness is needed. Some basic things that they do, which you and I can try to follow, but which our mothers have kept on harping about –

  • They obsessively sanitize themselves: if they are in a car and going to eat food, they sanitize. If they come home from outside, they sanitize. If they are in the gym using equipment like treadmills or those used by others, they sanitize. If they get off the metro or subway, they sanitize. They think of all the situations which could lead to possible infection and sanitize.

  • They carry handkerchiefs: They cover their face if they sneeze or cough and it’s criminal for them to lend their ‘kerchiefs to others. Use them wisely.

  • They go to the gym with their own separate bags and carry their own towels.

  • They avoid using public toilets, now that I know won’t be possible if there is a serious nature’s call, but be careful and.... sanitize!

  • They wash their feet before bed, wash their hands obsessively and some of them even take a bath multiple times during the day. I know of a person who is so obsessive, that when getting off an auto-ride, and asked to pay up, she literally opens her purse in front of the autowala and tells “Bhaiya, please take out the money yourself from my purse”

Will the people with real OCDs please standup!

3. They don’t things for granted, because they are mavens – true collectors of information and they yearn to help others by educating them. They are not bullshitters but when you talk to them, they talk genuine and pay no heed to rumors. They don’t make a mockery of a glaring issue like this but creating memes. If they don’t know shit about something they keep shut.

4. They don’t panic in the face of anything, because they get to the bottom of it and implement what’s necessary at that moment. For them, their life is precious, at the same time they feel they too are responsible for themselves and the people around them. They know their health is their own responsibility.

5. They follow the 3 pillars of fitness. They do not underestimate the importance that the three pillars of vitality, eating right, rest and mind have to play in their lives and so they consistently stick to it. Despite facing dangers, they smartly employ vitality by regularly exercising and maintaining body vitality no matter what. They don’t employ the danger to control them and convert it in the form of an excuse (e.g. you can exercise at home too if you are totally gripped by the fear of going outside) Moreover they follow a healthy and balanced diet taking into cognizance all the principles of the ‘Eating Right’ pillar. They know the importance of adequate rest and the power of having a calm mind. If you do not understand the shit about pillars I’m talking about here, click here to read.

It's all the more vital for us to take care of our health and not start to worry about it in the face of danger or worry about it before it's too late. And even if god forbid, adversity does strike, fitness will give you the mental toughness and endurance to deal with it.

And finally, one small piece of advice, don’t try to act cool in the face of all this and don’t ignore the real dangers staring at us.

Be safe, stay healthy, stay fit and stay tuned.

Until next time,




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