With a few exceptions, the blockade is being enforced. Life has been hugely disrupted, but lives are being saved.
The coronavirus shows no sign of slowing down. On the contrary. It now covers three-fourths surface of the globe. The number of people dying increases by the day. No cure is on the horizon. More people have died in the United States than in China, Italy and Spain.
In the most powerful, wealthy, scientifically advanced country, confusion prevails. President Donald Trump is at odds with medical experts and several Governors of states. The other day, President Trump made the astounding statement that the US economy would start bouncing back by the middle of April. He knows next to nothing about the coronavirus. Even the most renowned medical experts are floundering.
Thanks to the timely blockade imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi India has so far managed to keep the pandemic within limits.
With a few exceptions, the blockade is being rigorously enforced. Life has been hugely disrupted, but lives are being saved. Our doctors and nurses are working overtime, so is the non-medical staff. The Prime Minister has undoubtedly earned the gratitude of the nation. His second speech broadcast on TV left no viewers in doubt that the country faced an unprecedented health crisis. Social distancing was a must. In the Cabinet meeting, Cabinet Ministers sat six feet away from each other.
How am I coping? I am confined to one room, so are my wife and our younger grandson. The elder one is in London. Our son and daughter-in-law are stuck in Himachal Pradesh.
How do I pass my day? In great comfort, free from tireless visitors. My well stocked library is next to my bedroom. I read more than five hours a day and watch TV for a couple of hours. The rest of the time my wife and I are together to put the world right. In the evening, I take a half-an-hour walking, without leaving our home, in Jorbagh. I also write my column for The Sunday Guardian. I do not brood. I reflect, talk to my friends on my cell phone. I do miss the newspapers and the postman.
In the last few days, I have read over 2,000 pages. The recently published masterly biography of Adolf Hitler by Peter Longerich weighs nearly a kilogram. It is 1,334 pages long. The end of Hitlerana is nowhere in sight. The author’s research is amazing. He gives new insights about the public and private life of the Nazi dictator, on how he founded the Nazi party after World War I, against heavy odds. How Hitler became a mesmerizing orator, his well thought through philosophy of Nazism about which Hitler writes at great length in his autobiography Mein Kampf (My Struggle), which he wrote in 1923 while he was in jail. In it, his loathing of Jews is emphasised chapter after chapter in unrestrained hate. He writes, “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew. I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”
I have read several books on Hitler but none so riveting. The author’s character sketches of Hitler’s high-powered, high-handed henchmen are engrossing and disdainful. Who were these congenital murderers? Herman Goering, the brilliant fanatical dwarf Joseph Goebbels (Minister for Propaganda) and S.S. chief Heinrich Himmler. Each one under the specific orders of Hitler sent six million Jews—men, women and children—to their death. “The Jews were considered vermins. Each one had to be eliminated.”
Even a few months before he committed suicide, he was keeping an eye on how the killing of Jews was proceeding. On 30 April 1945, Hitler was in his underground bunker with his long-time mistress, Eva Braun. She swallowed a pill and died in less than a minute. Hitler then shot himself. In his will he had left instructions that his and Eva’s bodies be set on fire so that they did not fall into the hands of the Russian army, which was rapidly advancing to the centre of Berlin where Hitler’s bunker was located.
If I were asked to name the most erudite, intellectual and scholarly Prime Minister, it would not be Jawaharlal Nehru, but P.V Narasimha Rao. P.V., as he was popularly known, spoke and wrote Telugu, Tamil, Sanskrit, Hindi, English, Urdu and Persian. He had a brilliant and razor-sharp mind, and the memory of an elephant. He was a diffident External Affairs Minister, but a decisive Prime Minister. We had our differences—at one time very public, but I respected his wisdom and well-practiced silences. The common comment was, “When in doubt, do as P.V. does”. I am in the midst of his semi-autobiographical book, The Insider. It is 760 pages, laced with four-letter words and is mildly critical of Jawaharlal Nehru’s Prime Ministership.