It is not funny, this coronavirus business, sitting on my shoulders like the angel of death, malak al-mawt. It is sapping my energy just keeping abreast of the rapidly changing and fast shrinking world that was so open and free to traverse not too long ago. Chic and prized cities of the world, known for fun and frolic and food – forlorn and abandoned, humbled by a speck of a dudu. I feel overwhelmed, of course, but also humbled, that a speck of a germ can bring the mightiest, the proud and strutting leaders of this world to shut up and be brought down to earth to eat dirt, wiping off the sneers of arrogance off their pucks. No stretch of wall, however strong, can ward off the creatures, no? No amount of money or might to keep away the dudus from the very air, is there? It’s there for all of us, the rich and wanting, same to same, no? Must be a sobering feeling, no?
The Orlando weather does not help; incredibly warm and moist for March, into almost 90F, in March! Faith is so important in these trying times but the way to that avenue is shut as well. The nightly trip to Masjid Al Hayy, when in town, is a way to connect to Allah, now taken away by Corona dudus. I drive past it and feel immensely sad to see the barriers at the entrance; Allah’s house looks beautiful and forlorn.
I take the precautions as advised, of course. Social distancing in Orlando is not too much of a problem; unlike New York, we have plenty of space. I’m not going for prayers, so nobody is waiting to pounce on my hands the instant salaat ends for a handshake. My hands are reeling from all the scrubbing, soap and disinfectant it is subjected to. I’ve just returned from a month-long trip to seven countries in Africa and Asia. I feel fine but the experts say I have two weeks before I can be considered safe; are Maaha Zainab and Tasneem exposed?
At the local Walmart, I wipe down the cart with abundantly available anti-bacterial wipes. No toilet papers, of course; do they act as a defense against the dudus, I wonder; they are very popular. There is a scant selection of non-perishable stuff on the shelves and social distancing is all too evident. I call Apna Bazaar; they have no mutton or chicken. I start to feel a sense of dread and apprehension – are we headed to something more menacing?
If there is a faint silver lining to this madness, Planet Fitness, my cheap, cheap gym, is deserted – toopu, toopu – and I have the pick of any weights at my disposal. It’s a pain wiping down every workstation before and after use but it’s absolutely essential, per pundits. Except I forget if I’ve sanitized a certain weight, so do it again. But then I forget if the one prior to touching this has received my attention. Loh! My mind is going kizungu-zungu overtime in no time. There are about 50 treadmills at this outfit; only two are occupied, I am the third. I’m happy and lucky, the gym is open. Workouts, for me, are a lifeline I cannot ignore or take lightly.
All my future travels are canceled, of course. This is both frustrating and demeaning, to me. I am addicted to working, in constant contact with CAI world projects, round the clock. Local mandates keep CAI sponsored orphans in Afghanistan and Bangladesh away; we can only help with food parcels for now. It is only days before India and Yemen follow suite; Zanzibar perhaps? That’ll be a severe blow to our circa 660 orphans in limbo for education and critical care. It breaks my heart the breadwinners in CAI’s various locations have to be furloughed; something I am loathed to do.
I rarely watch the Idiot Box but with the virus making the rounds, I am forced to watch the carnage, from Iran to Italy and others. I am terrified how countries that do not have any resources will cope? Already war-ravaged Afghanistan or Yemen? What about poor African countries where CAI has a presence, in East and West Africa? It’ll surely be a bloodbath if they are seriously affected. Food prices are 20% higher than last year already and our Ramadhan Iftaar supplements aiding over 12,000 worldwide vulnerable poor families look woefully inadequate.
I’m terrified to peek into my IRA account with the way the markets have plummeted – it’s a volatile massacre, no less. There goes my dream of a somewhat comfortable retirement? In normal times, the market would be a once in a lifetime investment opportunity, no?
To take my mind of all the depressing data thrown at me and to pass my time, I try solving crosswords but Facebook is a lot more entertaining. People here have tons of advice to survive these accursed dudus, conspiracy theories of how it was created and sent to us, tons of prayers to keep it at bay and so many possible concoctions, it is both amusing, reeling and breathtaking.
So, if I recite a series of duas that’ll last hours, especially ones sent from Iran or Iraq, I’m instantly fortified; the dudus have no chance. Or, if I eat a mixture of black pepper, ginger, turmeric, and lemon mixed with honey harvested from the highlands of Yemen three times a day, I’m definitely safe. The genius does not state where I’ll get the honey from, short of traveling there and getting my behind shot at? Or, according to some enlightened saffron-clad gurus from India, I could mix some cow shit and urine and consume it, not only for protection against the dudus but intense nirvana, too. I try to search for local farmers that’ll sell me this potion but none show up locally; there are tons of them in India that’ll ship me some – at a price.
So, to keep the claustrophobic and incarceration feeling at bay, I have some laughs browsing Facebook, keep my mind churning solving increasingly complex crossword puzzles, talking and interacting more with Zainab and Tasneem, staying the course with regular prayers and duas to Allah. Maintaining trust and faith in Him, I’ll try and ride this rough patch.
As I finish tapping this Blog, there is another silver lining, from my President, no less. President Trump is going to pay me to weather this turbulent air. Atta boy, Mr. President.
We’ve got to get these corona dudus cornered. Soon, Insha’Allah.