Let's not mask the real problem

Updated: Mar 16, 2020, 07:55 IST | Fiona Fernandez | Mumbai

Instead of taking tough calls to curb COVID-19's spread in Maharashtra, the government is wasting precious time on passing resolutions to rename Mumbai Central. Our sutradhars aren't amused, and rightly so

This image has been used for representational purposes only
This image has been used for representational purposes only

Fiona Fernandez"Where's your mask, Pheroze? Don't you know that nobody is spared of this killer virus," exclaimed Lady Flora, her shrill voice had reached a crescendo, such that Sir PM had to resort to covering his ears for a few seconds.

"Calm down, Lady…please. I have made the necessary arrangements but…" pleaded Sir PM, only to be interrupted by his friend, "There's no time. You must get one at the soonest.

And if you cannot, don't you have friends in higher places who can help you secure one?" she asked, stressing on every word since she was speaking with her mask on.

Sir PM knew he had landed in trouble by showing up for their nighttime walk with Lady Flora minus the protective gear. 'This wasn't going to be easy,' he braced himself as pearls of perspiration trickled down his forehead, and covered his face by now. Seeing his helpless face, lit thanks to it being a Full Moon night, Lady Flora felt she might have gone harsh on him. A gentle seaward breeze began to blow, and soon enough, things appeared to be back to normal as they walked past the mighty neoclassical wonder, the Town Hall.

Somehow, Lady Flora wasn't entirely convinced that her concerns had impacted her friend. "So tell me, is your mask on its way? Better still, will our friend Dr Viegas get you one from his contacts at the hospital?" Sir PM was awed by her doggedness.

"Yes…I will ask him tomorrow, after he returns from mass," he replied, hesitatingly. "Mass? I'm not so sure it is safe to assemble in large gatherings. Even the Vatican is under lockdown; all is forgiven in such times. Please tell Viegas to think twice," Lady Flora was clearly armed with all the information she needed. "Since you mentioned Viegas, I must remind you here that the eminent doctor was responsible for discovering the bubonic plague in Bombay in September 1896. The accounts he has to share about those times!" reminisced Sir PM, adding, "In fact, after hearing it all, I feel that even then, and despite the lack of modern tools, local agencies acted faster after the first cases of the plague were detected as compared to now. My sources at the BMC tell me that they went ahead and passed a resolution to rename Bombay, oops Mumbai Central terminus after city father Jagannath 'Nana' Shankarseth. See, Nana has been a close friend and aide and deserves his rightful place in the annals of our rail history. But what's the rush? I mean…we have a pandemic to tackle in a city of millions. Why waste precious time in the assembly, and later funds on this, instead of getting all hands on deck to fight this menacing virus? Bombay is the entry point for not only tourists but also migrants from across India, and we must be alert and equipped to face this mammoth challenge."

Lady Flora removed her mask temporarily to sip on some water, and now her mouth was agape on hearing this bit of news. Silently, she was impressed by her friend's stand on this colossal waste of time and funds. Both knew that they had to be well prepared, considering the vantage points they occupied in the city and the preparedness (or lack?) of the civic babus to swing into action on the double in densely populated Bombay. "I'll speak to Viegas about that mask tomorrow itself, Lady. I see your point. I've seen this city combat all kinds of hurdles – manmade or natural – and come out stronger. It's our resolve; so I'd like to believe that this too will pass," he assured his friend, who managed a half-smile. "Yes, Bombay is, and has always stood up against the odds. She will win this time, too. Now, if only, the civic gods who are supposed to look after her find another time for this uncalled-for name-changing exercise."

mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana
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