Dev woke up to chirps of birds and early morning cool breeze. He slept in a jeep that was stranded the night before in middle of a stream. Slowly he woke up to recollect how he left the airfield with a land rover packed with supplies the evening before. He travelled for hours into forest before the carburetor bust. He just hoped his order for replacement would come so that he can reach his camp soon. He remembered his professor’s words of being careful at work. He opened his bag and took out his personal protective gear. He went through the drill that he learnt at CDC. First put on the respirator and fasten it to back of head and neck. Fit the flexible band to nose-bridge and snug to face and below chin. Put on goggles and adjust face shield of hood and cover cloth till shoulders. Wear apron to fully cover torso from neck to knees, arms to end of wrists, fasten wraps around waist and neck. Finally wear gloves to cover wrist of isolation gown. He looked around for a clearance in forest as tall savanna blocked his view to a few feet. He walked out hoping his space suit is not cut by sharp grass. Shortly he started hearing voices in distance. Soon he stepped into open ground drenched with sweetly smell from fresh overnight rain. He slowly started walking, stumbling towards distant men who have not noticed him yet. As he walked he found hastily dug ground. His heart sank with realization that he is in middle of a burial ground. He felt glad he called CDC before he left his jeep. He saw men stop talking and look at him in awesome and shock. They are clearly unhappy at his intrusion and kept themselves away from him. He found a rock under a tree and sat quietly in its shade. He sat there next few hours sweating, puffing and sleepy but never removing even a tiny bit of his suit. Finally, Tom arrived with his supplies and its escort, late afternoon.
It is almost a fortnight since Dev arrived at Kijiji in Sierra Leone. As a routine he walked out of hospital into an open ground and sat on rock under shade of a tree. The crowd stopped in hush as the man in rickety chair in front, mushaa, a folk doctor started talking. Tom squatted by side of tree ready for translation. They noticed that there are more men in the crowd now than ever before, especially after the army left. There are more new faces and they silently nodded their heads while listening to their arguments, either standing or squatting on hard ground. Sometimes, they patiently waited as if their life is at stake. Most men wear a piece of cloth around their waist staring straight, piercing with their dark eyes. Dev felt they are not only listening to them but also communicating amongst themselves silently with their eyes. He noticed how their hostile stares are replaced with empathy and he felt they considered him as a champion for he crossed haramu zone safely.
Dev heard mushaa say “it is mungu’s laana!” meaning it is god’s curse. A smile on his face never left while he heard mushaa argue. Tom has always been enthusiastic not only translating but also putting forth his argument. He did it forcibly sometimes with his hands and folded fists or sometimes stomping his stick into ground just to make a point. Mushaa the wily little man with bare chest and receding, crumpled hair was never short of retort, sometimes frothing at mouth and glazing fiercely at this man for disobeying him. Dev by now familiar with his smiling face heard him long before he opened his argument. “If it is god’s curse for his past sins, who is the cursed god’s god?” Mushaa stopped in puzzlement and stared wondering how to respond. Sensing he is trapped, Tom prodded him excitedly, stomping his stick into ground and flying his limbs all over. Finally Mushaa replied “there is no god above cursed god. He is almighty!” Dev, knowing people around him expect a reply said, “If so, how is it that he survived the haramu zone?” He was referring to the forbidden zone, a burial place he crossed while entering Kijiji in his space suit. People around nodded their heads silently while mushaa scratched his head thinking of a counter.
One day late in evening when he was retiring, he got a call from his professor who was talking excitedly for several minutes, most of which he could vaguely connect to but something to the effect of control of epidemic in several villages surrounding Kijiji and what a good work he was doing since he came there. After many weeks when he packed and left, Dev and his professor spent several hours talking about his experience. He started realizing how much his course in logic at college helped him. There was this young man from Kolkata who taught them Indian logic. He never understood him completely but now he knows how he applied his arguments: if you are able to convince one he will follow you. The misery or success due to any incident may or may not be god’s act but we humans can change our destiny together. Dev felt happy knowing how his medical knowledge helped him treat his patients while logic has helped him contain an epidemic.
Sourced from DesiMD