Quarantined in Hell

As others began to understand the gravity of this easily transmitted virus, they too started to express some concerns


Naeem Sadiq September 27, 2021

A fresh arrival, he was allocated a blissful cottage, tucked away in the suburbs of the eternal paradise. The intoxicating fragrance from the nearby orchards filled his room. The streams of milk, wine and honey gently gurgled past his backyard. For Mohammad Bux (MB), a pious and God-fearing underpaid contracted Municipality worker who spent all his earthly life in absolute poverty and misery, it was a world far beyond his wildest imagination.

Then suddenly, one morning he woke up to discover that the heavenly fragrance from the fruit orchard was gone. He rushed out to the stream of milk and filled a glass for himself. This did not taste like milk at all. He then tried the wine and honey streams. They too had neither taste nor flavour. As he sat down to ponder what was amiss, he realised he was feverish, and having a sore throat and running nose. MB had never been registered for EOBI or social security in his previous life. Unsure of his new entitlement, he walked down to the nearby medical facility. The doctor on duty examined him with utmost care and respect. A few lab tests were ordered, whose results arrived instantaneously. MB was detected positive for SARS-CoV-2.

The word of MB having been detected with Corona spread like wildfire. Being a place of great tranquility and peace, no one raised an eyebrow. This could have gone on for longer had MB not mistakenly resorted to his earthly habits — wearing a mask and keeping social distance. As others began to understand the gravity of this easily transmitted disease, they too started to express some concerns. A small delegation met the local management and requested that MB, in the larger public interest, be relocated elsewhere.

The only other housing scheme located nearby was a place traditionally known as Hell — a location that everyone preferred to keep away from. MB was ordered to walk down to Hell on a road that was paved with ‘good intentions’. MB not being a genuine ‘hell candidate’ was placed in a distant corner, well away from all the blast furnaces, boilers and reptiles. The new place, though reasonably uncomfortable, did provide MB an opportunity to look closely at its residents. One day he took the liberty of inquiring about ‘who’s who’ of Hell from the ‘Darogha’ and also requested for a short guided tour. The Darogha obliged.

“The group that you see in that cage over there, being nibbled by poisonous reptiles are the leaders of a planet where they waged wars on small countries under one fake pretext or the other,” explained the Darogha. “And who are those being continuously grilled on red hot charcoals?” asked MB. “Oh, these are the Chief Ministers, the Labour Ministers, the Chief Secretaries, the Labour Secretaries and Labour Directors of various provinces and the Commissioners of various Municipalities. They cruelly exploited contracted sanitary workers of Municipal Corporations for years by paying them less than the minimum wage and giving them no EOBI or social security,” answered the Darogha.

“And who are those in that small room, locked from outside, burning in fire and receiving electric shocks,” MB could not hide his curiosity. “They are the Chief Executives of industries, Labour Directors and Heads of Building Control Authorities. They are the ones who suffocated and scorched the factory workers by ignoring all health and safety laws in lieu of under-the-table compensations,” replied the Darogha.

MB was shell-shocked and could barely utter one last question. “And where are all those exploited and under-paid sanitary workers who swept the streets and cleaned the gutters”.

“They have already suffered far beyond their sins. They must now dwell in the choiciest locations of heaven. Please pay my respects to them when you return at the end of this 10-day quarantine in Hell,” replied the Darogha, as he walked away to reignite the diminishing fires.

 

 

Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2021.

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