What would you tell the family that refuses to get home the body of its immigrant worker-son/husband home, browbeaten possibly by village elders for a reason that might as well be illogical?
Bikram Vohra | September 15, 2014
He worked. He fell ill. He died. In Saudi Arabia. Two days ago. He contracted the MERS coronavirus* and his family is reluctant to repatriate the remains back home amid fears that they might get infected if they came in contact with the body. Arab News carried a front page report that has become a global measure for where love has gone.
Out of the window.
Dasharati Sattaih from Telangana is truly alone. On a cold slab in a mortuary. The paperwork lies undone. And the wind does not blow the notes of a flute through his hair. nor do the bugles play.
The family is afraid to get him back because they are scared they will be infected. Grief and fear in equal measure. Egged on by ‘well-meaning’ and cheerfully malicious fellow villagers who are probably adding dollops of fear to the scenario of tragedy.
God forbid, you had to face this dilemma what would you do? I imagine 999 out of a thousand would say, rubbish bring him home and we’ll say goodbye. But then, even this family would have said the same if they had been asked a hypothetical question. No one ever thinks of self-preservation till the occasion arises and then it is a question of “me first?”
The human race never knows its heights of courage and the right thing or its depths of cowardice. On the face of it, we are appalled by the what we would see as the family’s indifference and callousness. We are all capable of rationalising our actions.
This guy was sweating it out for the family. In another land. Saving every coin to send home. And they have all turned away. Isn’t there anyone in government or the police or the medical fraternity who can go to this family and allay their fears? Surely a collector or an inspector or the local doctor can get over there and say, look bring your son/husband/brother home, there is nothing to fear.
In the interim, just for a moment see it from their viewpoint. They are rural and poor and broken-hearted and afraid and being browbeaten by the neighbours and the whole village that if they bring the body home they will be ostracized, even asked to leave the village. How can they place everyone in jeopardy.
Even at this moment, though the poor man is lying dead a thousand miles away, there would be those in that little village avoiding the mournful home like the plague had already hit.
When it slams you in the face, what do you do? Get irrational? Of course, but superstition, misinformation, rural gossip, all that kicks in. We fear for ourselves.
So Dasharati is still to finish his final journey from that cold slab in the mortuary to...?
*Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV. Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness. About 30% people confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection have died. This virus has spread...through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. However, there is no evidence of sustained spreading in community settings. (Information taken from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website)
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