Once again I seek your apology for the unintended gap in communication. WordPress has again changed its editor and I have been struggling for the last one week to understand how it works. I am not sure if I have understood it completely and correctly, so I would refrain from writing anything important today. It is indeed frustrating to write for an hour or two only to find that all your precious text has been swallowed by the black hole of Internet.
In fact, the whole world is going through crisis at present. But I am not worried. I know that humanity has faced such crises before, and has survived. I know that fellow scientists and researchers in medicine are working day and night to come up with an antidote to this virus. It is the eternal battle between Chemistry and disease; and I am confident that this time too it is the former which would prevail. Until that happens, we have to rely on doctors and health care workers to ward off this attack.
But in India the condition is worse. This is the country which has for ages admired and worshipped knowledge and education, yet ironically it is education sector which is in the greatest mess. Still, I would excuse it; after all, crests and troughs are part of progress, and an ancient civilisation like India cannot avoid it. So I do not complain. It will improve. If it could happen in Delhi, it can happen in the rest of the country as well.
But have you noticed, even with such sorry state of education and science awareness, how the citizens of this country all of sudden in such time of crisis transform into intellectual supergiants? While the medicos are ruining their health while searching for antidotes, these self-declared physiologists would tell you that lemon, turmeric, cow urine, red chilli and Shanivar Vrat can treat coronavirus. ‘You were a fool to have studied medicine; you have wasted your time doing PhD in Chemistry. You should have come to me and I would have taught you everything in a week!’
This is nothing new for India. We have seen and heard such claims, but mostly they had been confined to Physics, especially astronomy, aeronautics and space technology. Though it did result in annoyance as well as entertainment, it did not cause much harm. But medicine and health is different. Here life is at stake, and in the face of epidemics, such misinformation and rumours can have disastrous effects. You are aware of people who prefer to treat themselves first based on their own ‘understanding’ of medicines — however incorrect — and only when it fails do they visit a doctor. No, I am not talking about traditional knowledge or home remedies (turmeric, honey, tulsi), instead about popping in pills at random without any diagnosis or understanding of the underlying problem. I am told about a student who applied Iodex when he had a headache!
Fortunately, the administration has taken the right steps by locking down the nation, though I doubt how far would it be successful with Indians who are known for their lawlessness. I understand that sensible people are staying indoors, and are getting nervous, bored and irritated. At the same time, it is such empty minds which are workshops of WhatsApp University where aforementioned geniuses are produced. Let me share an anecdote with you. It is a real incident, which I have shared with only one or two persons before. When I see newspapers reports of coronavirus tests, I recall this event to which I was a witness. The test was a milder one, and a routine check up. But it was interesting nevertheless.
The idea was simple. We hope and pray for the best but accidents do happen. And wisdom lies in being prepared to survive any such incident. In case of accidents, the first information required is the blood group of the victim and accordingly any loss of blood could be addressed. If unknown, valuable time might get lost in doing tests. So our institute made arrangement with a city based pathologist to conduct blood tests of all its employees and students. It served two purposes — first, any abnormality in health status of the employee/student could be identified, and secondly and more importantly, the blood group could be known. Employees were supposed to get this test done even if they already knew their blood group. The institute would bear all costs. All employees and students participated with zeal and fervour.
So far so good. And nothing unusual. Story begins when three students shared an auto to visit that pathology lab and get the test done. To protect their identity, I call them as A, B and C. The fellow named A is of course Amit, your narrator! And the other two, B and C . . . never mind. So the test was done and the pathologist asked us to collect the report later. So we made yet another trip to the lab to collect our reports.
So far so good. And nothing unusual. Twist in the story came when we were travelling by auto to our hostel. Near Ambavadi, I noticed that C was lost in his thoughts, daydreaming. On my insisting, he said innocently, “I don’t know. But I faintly remember that when I was in school, I had an accident and the blood test conducted then said my blood group was A+. And here it is saying O+. How can this happen?!” I assured him that it is completely normal not to remember things properly after so many years. Of course, one does not notice things seriously when a child. It must be a mix up or confusion in recalling. It must have been the same blood group. But he wasn’t convinced, “No, I remember it was definitely A+.” At the same time he ruled out any possibility that the current pathology test could be wrong. Neither did he strongly insist that his memory was strong and infallible. He was merely having doubts and enjoying his moment of empty contemplation. Nothing serious. In order to pull him out of his cyclic thoughts I remarked jokingly, “Sure. The wave function associated with your blood group must have undergone time evolution. Solve the time-dependent Schrödinger equation, and you will get the explanation!” He burst into laughter.
So far so good. And nothing unusual. Heavens fell when we noticed that B was silent all the time when the other two of us were having zestful conversation. His face was stern and serious. Finally he opened his mouth, “It can happen. Sure. It can happen.”
“What can happen?”, we asked.
“Depending on the part of body they collect blood sample from, the group would be different.”
First I thought he too was joking. So I told C, “Now here comes a yet another explanation in your support!” And he joined me in laughter.
But B wasn’t joking. He got even more serious: “Stop laughing. I am not joking. It is how things are. Depending on where they take the blood sample from, the test would reveal different groups. In childhood, most probably they took blood from your buttocks or arm, and now from your finger tip.”
His tone and even more his look conveyed to us that indeed he was not joking. So the physicist in me resorted to reasoning and logic:
“See. Suppose this fellow met with an accident and lost a lot of blood. The doctors need to supply him with blood. And for that they require the blood of the same group. That is why they are conducting this test. At least this much you do agree. Now if the blood group of a person could be different depending on part of body, then how could they supply him with fresh blood?”
He didn’t see through the logic and kept insisting.
I didn’t give up: “See, blood is liquid matter, and is in constant motion. How come the blood in arm, the chest and buttocks do not get mixed up?”
He wasn’t convinced.
I continued, “When the doctors can’t mix blood of different groups (e.g., in different persons) how can the different groups mix in the same body?”
He wasn’t convinced. I was getting tired. Now C came to my aid: “Or do you want to say that blood in different parts of one body don’t mix up? So that way the blood from donor’s arm would be given to the arm of the patient, that from donor’s back to the back of the patient. Do you even admit such a proposition?”
The debate went on for a long time. I am cutting it short. Hope you already got a flavour of the argument. On one side were A and C, and on other B. Still, we were losing. Or at least we thought so. Actually, his hypothesis and arguments were so absurd, bizarre and silly that we didn’t have any clue how to argue with him. Add to that he wasn’t even listening to our objections, logic and reasoning, nor was he interested in them. The more we argued, the more rigid and arrogant he became. Soon their tempers flared up. I was physically frail in front of them, so thought it better not to participate in any imminent physical duel. Also, till that time I was moderately modest and polite.
I really appreciate the forbearance and patience of the auto driver. Voices were rising higher and higher in an attempt to prove which theory passes the sonography test. If you are thinking that was all, then you are wrong. Now new arguments were presented in support of their respective theories. C said, “My friend is also a pathologist. So I know!” B retorted, “Great thing! My own brother is a doctor! Who would know better than me!”
Believe it or not. I really wanted to jump out of the auto.