Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Reading the swine flu the Shakespeare-ian way

Deaths in India usually go unreported unless they are high profile or large in number. In a country of huge numeric proportions one cannot keep up with the loss of life. Which may also be why politicians and religious leaders often say, “Only five or ten died.” Unless the loss is closer to home and of a relative or friend, most of the time the Indian public also follows similar patterns. The swine flu or the H1 N1 virus has got media coverage not because of the numbers but because of the panic it has created in the minds of the people. The panic felt within the media has then been transported on to the audience as well. It is but natural that these instances bring us closer to the life we live and the fragility it reflects.

The Christian churches in Kerala and India have for several centuries advocated having a clean soul and a clean heart. The indoctrination makes us pray for a clean soul and we even go to the extent of asking God to wipe our heart clean. In all this cleaning up we forget the lessons of personal cleanliness that we learnt in school, and the importance of washing our hands.

The swine flu precautions that one gets to read on the internet and in other forums are very clear in what they say, “Wash your hands with soap and water.” And yet we are washing our souls and forgetting the basics! Shakespeare can’t to any stretch of imagination be a favourite of the church. Especially with the gory details of treachery and death that some of his plays bring out! And yet his Macbeth brings an aspect of truth that we cannot deny. Lady Macbeth tries to wash off the blood on her hands which at times in hallucinated engagements is a feeling of guilt of the murders she has initiated. A biblical instance of this is when Pontius Pilate washes his hands off the guilt of handing Jesus over to the mob, who asked for his life.

I remember a student I had who would keep washing his hands very regularly. So much that it ticked off his fellow students and even teachers. This led to the teachers calling for a meeting to discuss his behaviour. At the end of the meeting we decided that we should not read too much into this and let the matter rest. But he has definitely risen from the ashes. Post swine flu he is the only sensible guy around. Atleast he minimizes his risk of contracting or spreading the flu! These are also times when religions have to introspect to understand the importance of our actions. The need of the hour is to be clean, inside and outside.


rocksea said...

that was a nice read of washing hands, from different perspectives... :)

Fr Jerry said...

There are so many ways of seeing the same thing. Thanks. :)