“Indian Variant”

Yesterday (25th May 2020) marked one year since George Floyds death which ignited the Black Lives Matters protest.  Last year when these protests startarted my initial thought was “Why only Black lives, why not all lives?”, until I saw the video of that brutal killing on twitter. It shocked me and impacted me deeply and I started reading more about the racial abuse and dicremination against blacks. I realised my understanding of racial descrimination and bias was too naive. Any form of racial descrimination, bias and prejudice has no place in modern society and should not be tolerated.  

When COVID-19 hit last year, I was one of the persons impacted by it. It was a difficult time and luckily I recovered from it (my experiance). In the early days many of my friends and acquaintances used to call the Covid-19 as “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan Virus”. I felt it is racist and defended strongly against calling it that way. I insisted that they call it “COVID-19”. (correct technical name is SARS-CoV-2) . 

Now after more than a year, the virus has mutated multiple times and new strains are becoming more contagious. The new strain of virus is called in the media as “Indian Variant”, it has infected millions of people in India and created enormous stress on the fragile health care system. This new strain of virus is B. 1. 167.2 is known as the “Indian Variant”.This new variant is definitely a cause for concern as it is spreading like a wildfire. But is it right to call it “Indian Varian”?.

I will not say that all the media houses and social media streams are saying it, there are many exceptions. Thanks to the Financial Times and Economist – They have used a better phrase and nomenclature.

Variant” and some sites were quick to correct the naming. (It’s not the ‘British variant.’ It’s B.1.1.7 ). The other variants were also called as Brazilan Variant, African variant based on the origin of the variant. In many cases naming the disease based on the origin is a practice but there is no standard set by WHO. There are various suggestions and discussions going on this topic. (World needs single naming convention)

Though it is easier to name the variant based on its origin somehow it doesn’t feel right. 

I’m strongly against calling these variants using racial prefixes. Personally I don’t feel safe to go out and feel the freedom. It is not that when I go to get milk from my local Sainsburys people will call me “Indian Variant” absolutely not, but it is that sense of discomfort and intention that I should not cause people discomfort and make them feel “I’m not safe”. Even if they dont have such concerns I will not be comfortable. 

You have to remember there is only one single race for all humans that is “being human”. Humans are sharing the planet with millions of other animals and plants. We should stop using the language that creates division among people. 

You should pause and think before calling the virus strain of the COVID-19 as “Indian Variant”. 

I may not be able to stop it but I would also like to spread the original “Indian Thought” on unity. Today unfortunately even in India it is forgotten. Across the globe, the obsession with “success”  has made us into “self centred”, “independent” individuals. It is high time that the attitude in the society changes from “me” to “we”. 

Next time when you read “Indian Variant” also think of this “Indian thought” on universal “universal wellbeing”. 

During my school days we used to say this prayer, which captures the essence.

ॐ सह नाववतु। सह नौ भुनक्तु। (Oṁ Saha nāvavatu | saha nau bhunaktu )

Aum, May we all be protected, May we all be nourished

सह वीर्यं करवावहै। तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु | (Saha vīryam karavāvahai | Tejasvi nāvadhītamastu)

May we work together with great energy, May our intelect be sharpened (may our study be effective)  ( and to make it happen the following )

मा विद्विषावहै। ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥ (Mā vidviṣāvahai | Oṁ Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ || )

Let there be no Animosity amongst us. Aum, peace (in me), peace (in nature), peace (in divine forces)

I wrote this blog to remind myself to read/listen to the mention of the “Indian Variant” with the mindset of peace and harmony. Peace.

Update 01-Jun-2021

 World Health Organization has announced today they are offering a new system that follows the Greek alphabet.

Naming SARS-CoV-2 variants

Thanks to 

  1. http://aumamen.com/  for the sanskrit verse and translation.
  2. Shri Siddeshwar Swamiji for the Inspiration and reminding me about the prayer through his lectures
  3. family and friends, and all those working tirelessly across the globe against this pandemic. 

References 

  1. The prayer (http://aumamen.com/prayer/asatoma-sadgamaya-lyrics-and-meaning)
  2. t’s not the ‘British variant.’ It’s B.1.1.7  (https://www.statnews.com/2021/02/09/not-british-variant-call-it-b117/)
  3. World needs single naming convention – https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00105-z

by Raghavendra (Raghav) Mithare based in London – May 2021 (views are personal)