I am not a religious person but I did experience one thing that sages and gurus talk about—moha or attachment with and yearning for things worldly
Ravi Shanker Kapoor | June 14, 2021 8:42 pm
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia
Cowards die many times before their deaths, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar said, while the valiant never taste of death but once. I certainly died many times during the corona affliction. I will have to carry this cross of shame all my life.
This embarrasses me, and surprises me. Everybody is afraid of death; I am no exception. But this time it was petrifying. About 12 years ago, I got dengue, which is no less lethal than Covid-19; it also caused anxiety at that time but that was a small fraction of what I experienced during the corona crisis.
This is despite the fact that whereas I was hospitalized during the dengue affliction for several days, this time there was never any need to visit a hospital. The fever never touched 102 degrees, the oxygen level usually hovered in the 97-98 region; it never went below 96. I never felt any pain or weakness during the illness. Yet, I feared death like never before, dreaded it. Why? I am still trying to find the answer.
The news of being Covid positive rattled me for several reasons. First, it shook my self-belief. I was quite confident of being immune from the virus. I am a regular gym goer, six days a week; this has been going on for decades. And not for light exercises. I am into, among other things weight training, doing 100-plus kg bench press. In fact, I have increased my capacity by 15-20 kg in the last couple of years. I also had also taken a shot of Covaxin on April 3, that is, 18 days before getting the fever. I couldn’t get Covid-19.
But I did. Still, mathematically, my chances of dying were negligible. The fatality rate of Covid-19 was reported to be below 2 per cent. With my regular gymming, regulated diet regimen, and partial vaccination, I was most likely to survive—which eventually I did. But ‘most likely’ is not ‘certainly.’ And that vexed me: why not certainly?
This occasioned a great deal of anxiety. I couldn’t sleep properly; for weeks, I had to take sleeping pills; even these were often ineffective, such was the level of anxiety and fear. Doctors, friends advised me to do some meditation. Some said, Bhagwan ka naam lo… That’s another issue.
I am an agnostic—that is, a person who is not sure about the existence or non-existence of God, ultimate reality, etc. A pitfall of being an agnostic or atheist is that in times of crises, you can’t seek any divine help. You can’t pray to some deity for the blood report to be normal; the god of chance takes charge. Since you can’t pray to chance, there can’t be any prayer or meditation; there can’t be any cure for anxiety.
In those dark days, I also got this thought: why didn’t I ever get serious about God, religion, the telos of my life, indeed of life in general? I read about and pondered over politics, economy, history, philosophy; I have written countless articles on them, plus half a dozen books. I even studied philosophy of religion; but God or faith never became my personal concern, let alone become my “ultimate concern,” as Paul Tillich said religious faith is. Survival, though, became my ultimate concern during the corona crisis; I thought about nothing else in that period.
Further, I never had any religious awakening, even during the days when jitteriness was at its peak. There was fear of death, but no spiritual flash, making a believer out of an agnostic.
But I did experience one thing that sages and gurus talk about—moha or attachment with and yearning for things worldly. It was during corona that I realized how much attachment I have with the world. Before that, I didn’t regard death too seriously. A bachelor without dependants can often be casual about the consequences of indiscretion. For instance, intimate engagements with women during pandemic. Kaun hai apne peechhe ronewala? Waise bhi zindagi mein rakha hi kya hai?…
But I was wrong, for there is a lot in life that I long for. The dreams that I want to come true, the ambitions that I want to realize, the happiness of seeing dreams coming true and ambitions getting realized, the happiness that ensues when dreams come true, the pursuit of happiness and the happiness of pursuit. Specifically, setting up and making big a genuine conservative media platform (not some sanskari mouthpiece) committed to promoting individual liberty and capitalism. The books that I had intended to write. Will all this never happen?
This thought tormented me. And not just grand ambitions. My family members—will I never see them in person again? My friends—time to bid adieu to them? Discussions, meetings, chats with them—never again? The restaurants, markets, malls, parks, gardens, other places I liked going to—no more visits? The scarves, ties, cufflinks, the expensive perfume I recently bought—won’t I use them again? The fine woolen tweed blazer that I got stitched for myself last winter—won’t I wear it again? The women.
Everybody and everything I was so intimate with till yesterday, my world that was an integral part of my life, my existence—is it coming to an end? So soon, so abruptly! The song Abhī to maiñ javān huuñ…, beautifully sung by Malika Pukhraj, resonated with my being: Ye ishq kī kahāniyāñ/ye ras bharī javāniyāñ… ye āsmān ye zamīñ/nazāra-hā-e-dil-nashīñ/inheñ hayāt-āfrīñ/bhalā maiñ chhoḌ duuñ yahīñ/hai maut is qadar qarīñ/mujhe na aa.egā yaqīñ/nahīñ nahīñ abhī nahīñ/abhī to maiñ javān huuñ” (https://www.rekhta.org/nazms/abhii-to-main-javaan-huun-havaa-bhii-khush-gavaar-hai-hafeez-jalandhari-nazms).
Especially hai maut is qadar qarīñ/mujhe na aa.egā yaqīñ—I couldn’t believe that, against the backdrop of such pleasures and joys, death was nearby. It was not, as I realized after a long period of tribulations.
I will like to highlight a serendipitous outcome. I lost 6 kg weight. The coronavirus did which my years of gymming couldn’t. Now the challenge for me is to maintain the status quo; I am trying to do that.
All my family members and friends helped me recover with their constant interaction and support. I am indebted to them.
I also want to express my gratitude to Dr. Manoj Ahuja who regularly monitored my health. Doctors Sunita Singh, Vandana Garg, Dheeraj Khatri, Shruti, Jha, and Ashu Gupta also helped me by providing valuable counsel. Thanks to all of them.
I have been cured. Back to the normal.