A Disease of the Heart

Easterine Kire

Metaphorically speaking, it is a disease of the heart, the Corona Virus disease or Covid 19. Although it attacks the lungs and rapidly damages them, the wider ramifications are that it causes damage to the human heart both before and after contagion.

The virus has firstly created an atmosphere of great fear. It is composed of different kinds of fears – fear of contamination and contagion, fear of the vaccine and to top of it all, fear of those who have recovered from the viral infection. 

More about the atmosphere of fear engendered by the pandemic: Not long after lockdowns were imposed last year, there were stories of police brutality in the newspapers – against doctors returning from duty, against civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tribalism reared its demonic head more than once. Selfishness came to the core in the hoarding of rations, the raising of prices of goods overnight and the abandonment of good sense and fellow feeling. All these were engendered by fear in the heart of man. The pandemic showed its true nature as a heightened exhibition of looking out forNumber One. That became the priority for many, because their survival instincts kicked in. May we never relive another 2020 again when the poorest of the poor were abandoned and the migrant workers unnecessarily perished like so many flies. 

The horror of the disease first appeared in the story of a man in West Bengal beaten by the Police when he went to buy rations. On reaching home, he died of a heart attack. 

An invasion was made on the human heart by the pandemic, and many succumbed to it. Included in the invasion was the stigma placed by people on recovered patients. It was hurtful and directly wounded their hearts. People allowed their great fear of contagion to override their common senseby shunning those who had recovered.

As though the heart did not have enough to endure, there was more to come. Never in the history of the modern world has a population had to suffer over their dead as now. If the photographs of funeral pyres burning incessantly are notevidence of the pandemic managing to shred the human heart to pieces, what is? A young woman in Bangalore had to wait alone for eight hours at a crematorium to cremate her father. She had no other family members in the city. The most recent news is that family members are asked to leave the crematoriums as soon as the body of the dead starts burning; they are denied their desire to give their loved one company until the burning is completed. There is no space for grieving, no room for the heart to express love through the rituals performed for the dead. Burials are mechanical affairs hastily performed to avoid the spread of contagion.

It makes us despair that we are reduced to this. 

But there are still people combating this disease of the heart; I name a few like Rev Letlal Haokip, who pastors Journey Church in Delhi and is officially placed in charge of a Christian Cemetery in SouthWest Delhi. Pastor Letlal continues to bury those who died of covid 19 and have no place to be buried. The church even contributes towards burial charges. 

In Nagaland, there are some small churches combating the pandemic in their own way. The Grace Covenant Church has been steadily feeding numbers of the homeless in Dimapur. Their regular number of 87 has now grown to 127 as many poor people who have lost their daily work, are scrounging for food. The New Life Church, Kohima, regularly provides refreshments to police personnel on duty; they also provide rations to Destitute homes and people in dire need. This is the exemplary manner in which some people are vanquishing the disease of the heart. Not all involved in acts of love can be mentioned now. Even as the pandemic attacks the human mind and implants all kinds of fears and robs it of fellow feeling and humaneness, there are acts of kindnesses being planted in our towns that combat heartlessness. There is still hope and cause to hope.

Do not be fearful. Fear is a spirit intent on your destruction. Guard your heart and your thoughts; for your thoughts dictate the direction of your heart. 

Let us shine light on the works of those who are blessing the human heart with no thought for their own safety, not because they are irresponsible but because their hope is rooted in a much higher source than themselves. We are a people so good at imitating others. Why not imitate the way of light being walked out by the followers of light? Combat hatred and fears with compassion and inclusion. Perchance, such acts might prove more potent at destroying the disease of the heart than any other method. 

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