Opinion and Editorial

Back to basics

Shilpa Bhasin Mehra
Filed on May 23, 2021

Until the end of 2019, we did not attach much importance to the simple act of breathing.

Breath is Life. That is the first thing we do when we are born as well as the last thing we do on the earth. In between the first and last breath is our life. Since the last one year and more, we have only been hearing about people struggling to breathe when struck by Covid 19, because this virus notoriously threatens our very existence by attacking our respiratory system. Some win the battle and some don’t.

Until the end of 2019, we did not attach much importance to the simple act of breathing. It was happening 24/7 and without our even realising it. That is human nature — we take the things that come to us easily for granted. But when that very same thing is endangered, we suddenly value it more than anything else. We are not worried about our house, cars or jewels. We want to simply be alive and for that we need to breathe.

The recent news about the acute shortage of oxygen in hospitals, the lack of supply of oxygen cylinders and the black market of oxygen concentrators — how unprepared were we and how shallow have we become to think of extracting enormous money for saving lives in such dire times. Something like the air we breathe, which is free of cost, has suddenly become so expensive and hard to get. We are surely living in very strange unprecedented times.

Although Yoga has been around for centuries, but at present there is a huge interest in it because of the importance of breathing that it teaches us. The classes of Pranayam are most attended and for good reason. Since there is no sure shot remedy or cure for this virus, we may as well protect ourselves by building our immunity system and strengthening our lungs.

Covid 19 has shaken everything around us. Be it the governments, the health care system or our very existence. It has also in a way separated the grain from the chaff. A man gasping for breath as the oxygen cylinder gets empty is not thinking of anything else but about his next breath. People earlier died of fatal diseases and conditions, but not because they were deprived of life giving oxygen. We don’t have to be doctors or students of Biology, to know the importance of oxygen.

We teach our children how to eat, sit and walk but we don’t teach them how to breathe. It is so basic that even a new born baby knows how to do that. It is indeed sad that something that we having been doing effortlessly since our birth is now being threatened. Our constitutions and laws provide us with many rights, including the right of life and liberty. But Covid 19 is attacking these fundamental rights and snatching from us our life and liberty. If we cannot breathe how will we live? We seem to have forgotten the meaning of liberty, because we are in living in a state of lockdown with no freedom to do anything. But then what will we do with our freedoms and rights, when our life itself is in jeopardy? Can we just breathe please?

We have heard this announcement a zillion times in the aircraft that in case of turbulence the oxygen masks will drop down. Please put the mask on yourself first before assisting others. We never thought that this would become the story of our life in the year 2020 and counting. We are living in the most turbulent times known to mankind. Unlike in the aircraft, the oxygen masks are not dropping automatically from anywhere. We have to be strong ourselves first in order to help others. We all have a duty to do whatever it takes to protect ourselves from this deadly virus. Only then can we collectively win this battle.

There is a time for everything. There is a time to make profits, but this is the time for humanity. Let the medical supplies reach the ones that need it the most. Businesses and individuals are urged not to use this time to make profits and sell life-saving drugs and equipment at exorbitant prices. Everybody has the right to life and to breathe.

It’s funny, but you never really think much about breathing. Until it’s all you ever think about –— said Tim Winton. It is as though he was talking about our present crisis. We are living in a time when just breathing can be such a luxury and it is comes at a premium cost.

Our life at present reminds me of the Giordano ad, Back to Basics. We are really talking about the basic requirement of life, to breathe. Frank Sinatra has the perfect advice for us — Take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.

Shilpa Bhasin Mehra is a legal consultant based in Dubai and the founder of Legal Connect

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