Just up the road from where I sit now in Bibwewadi, Pune, is the building where the D’Silva’s stayed until three days ago—that is, until three members of the family were identified as the first official cases of Sars in Pune. The spooky feeling I got as the news broke seems a little alarmist now. Still, even now I’m not fully cured of the intermittent thoughts of falling victim to this newest of mankind’s scourges. There was even a moment when I felt a semblance of relief at the thought of sure, if not imminent, death.
Camus’ The Plague keeps coming back to me:
‘Other men will make history... All I can say is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims - and as far as possible one must refuse to be on the side of the pestilence.’
‘We refuse to despair of mankind. Without having the unreasonable ambition to save men, we still want to serve them.’
‘The plague bacillus never dies or vanishes entirely... it can remain dormant for dozens of years in furniture or clothing... it waits patiently in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, handkerchiefs and old papers, and... perhaps the day will come when, for the instruction or misfortune of mankind, the plague will rouse its rats and send them to die in some well-contented city.’
And those scenes of the plague-infested town in Buñuel’s adaptation of Benito Perez Galdos’ Nazarin. And Scorsese’s bleeding-black tale of death and redemption Bringing Out the Dead—“I came to realize that my work was less about saving lives than about bearing witness. I was a grief mop.”—with that soundtrack of Van Morrison’s ‘TB Sheets’.