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Window Seat: Superstitions at the time of Corona

29/03/2020 at 6:00 AM

Superstition by definition is a widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, or a practice based on such a belief. Period of crisis increases superstitions or even create new ones as people turn to magic remedies to the crisis.

Covid 19 pandemic has created panic across the world. It has also created superstitions. It has prompted people to indulge in practices that have no scientific basis or logic.

Consider this: the PM called for daylong Janata Curfew and urged the people to clap or blow conch or beat metallic thali (plate) to show our appreciation towards the doctors and medical workers. In Odisha and Bengal hordes of people came out of their homes, hit the street and went round singing bhajans accompanied by dhol and ghanta(metallic gong). This defeated the very purpose of ‘Janata Curfew’.

In Odisha and Bengal elaborate puja and even jagyna have been organized to ward off the evil called corona and purge the earth from its bad influence.

In Arunachal Pradesh some people have started believing that a hair found in Bible and soaked in water is the new vaccine for COVID-19.At Namsai in Arunachal Pradesh a message has gone viral among the Buddhists which effectively says: Dig the land near the house door and you will get coal. Then mix the coal with water and sprinkle in the house and corona is gone.

Superstitions are not limited to India only.

In Jerusalem, as a way to exorcise the crisis, someone has suggested drinking Corona Beer whilst praying to God since “drinking a nice glass of alcohol during prayers gives them extra power.”

For ultra-orthodox Rabbi coronavirus is a clear sign of the “coming of the Messiah”. Almost in the same strain, in Odisha some people are looking at Corona as Kalki avatar out to purge the world.

Although the government is trying its best to keep people indoors and enforcing social distancing- even by shutting religious institutions, some superstitious practices are creating problems.

In this time of crisis, there are sane voices also to which people must listen to. The highest Muslim authority in Jerusalem, Grand Mufti Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, said on the radio that health is “more important than religious practice,” and that “protecting oneself is one of the foundations of Islam.” In Aizwal, Mizoram Church authorities have suo motto shut down mass. Several Hindu temple and Sikh gurudwara authorities have also taken similar decisions.

In the time of a crisis like this- scientific temper helps. Superstitious practices do not.

Guidelines for Media Persons

Media persons who are going out for coverage, especially in vulnerable areas at the time of threat of spread of Corona virus are at a great risk. They need to take care of themselves while performing their duties.
Here are some guidelines by my friend Snehasis Sur,  veteran television journalist and President, Kolkata Press Club.

1. Wear a mask and change it as soon as it gets damp. Remove it from the elastic bands and do not touch the mask itself. Put the new one on touching only the elastic bands. Your employer should provide you with a supply of N95 masks.

2. Carry a hand sanitiser with you at all times. Wash your hands as often as you can with soap and then use the sanitiser. If there is no water, carry wet wipes and then use the sanitiser. Wash your hands afterwards as soon as you can. And don’t forget to sanitise your mobile phones.

3. If a politician is giving a statement, agree amongst yourselves to record him from at least six feet away. Try to stand without huddling. Better still,convince dignitaries to conduct digital press conferences, with questions from journalists taken up live. There’s plenty of technology available today to make this happen.

4. Do not touch the mics at all. If possible, wash the mics and disinfect them on your return. After which hands have to be washed and sanitised. All equipment, especially tripods, should also be washed and disinfected.

5. Avoid clip-on mics. Use directional mics as much as you can.

6. If you are in a contaminated facility, do not place your equipment on the floor. Do a hand-held shoot.

7. After an assignment, remove your clothes immediately and take bath. Wash your clothes in hot water and soak in disinfectant. Keep one pair of outdoor shoes that you remove at your door when you get home. Wash them whenever you can. Keep a separate pair of indoor shoes.

8. If you are using public transportation, use sanitiser on your hands as soon as you get off. DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE.

9. Try and stick to locally-sourced cooked food while on assignment.

10. Wear a mask in your office. You have no idea who has been exposed or where they’ve been.

11. At a press conference, try to get everyone to sit leaving two seats vacant between two people. If that’s not possible, stand maintaining a distance.

12. Take time out to snack on fruit, maintain a healthy diet and do not skip meals no matter how pressing the assignment may be.

13. Try and get as much legwork done on the Internet and phone. For the next few weeks, at least, we must avoid as much exposure as possible.

14. Your newsroom should maintain hygiene. Sanitising surfaces twice a day with disinfectants is a must. All laptops, desktops, machines, and surfaces should be disinfected.

15. If you experience onset of coronavirus symptoms, report to your office and immediately self-isolate yourself.

Time TimekiBaatHai!

See how things change with time. Earlier, if you remained at home- you were called lazy. Now for the same act you are called sensible.


Journalist turned media academician MrinalChatterjee lives in Dhenkanal, Central Odisha on the valley of Paniohala Hill. mrinalchatterjee@ymail.com

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