Familiar street vendors and vadapau sellers have returned to Churchgate since March, but this making news speaks of life turned upside down by the mysterious Covid-19 pandemic.
Sellers of pirated books and busy road traffic returned to the Kala Khoda area with its striking Gothic architecture, and the ghosts of Englishmen and women who walked the same streets 100 years ago.
The sprawling coffee shop inside the ‘Fab India’ showroom in Kala Khoda had barely three customers; restaurants and small shops are closing, while online behemoths make billions offering devilishly tempting cheap Chinese goods – with Faustian discounts enabled by overseas hedge funds.
Retail businesses are open but near empty with public transport restrictions. What economic future have governments mapped? Extinction of small retail, the neighbourhood shop, and millions of jobs lost? A global economy controlled by six or seven mega billionaires who will rule the Earth?
Has doing business become criminally unfair? Do governments pay empty lip service only before an election to level the playing field?
It’s a survival fight on the street. ‘Aswad’ restaurant proprietor Pappu Kesarwani near The Oberoi in Nariman Point resumed serving his popular Rs 90 thali after this summer of suffering. “All is well, sir”, he grinned with folded hands of thanksgiving, saying his staff are well too. How many like him will survive?
But even a devastating pandemic delivered disguised blessings in an optimist’s half-full glass. Many discovered inner strength, ingenuity to overcome hurdles, experienced generosity of strangers the past 10 months.
14-year old Subhan Shaik left school in November and became a tea seller in Mumbai’s Bhendi Bazaar to support his mother and education of his two sisters. After local media reported his courage, Mumbaikars rushed to help. Smiling Subhan who wants to join the Indian Air Force has since returned to school.
But alongside courageous struggles, new startling questions about Covid-19 confuse a world losing patience – with no consensus among experts about the virus even after a year of torment.
A half-deserted Marine Drive in the evening light showed India’s financial capital is not walking the path of European capitals such as Berlin and London, where thousands protest prolonged lockdown and pandemic restrictions.
On 26 November, 22 leading international scientists, doctors and medical researchers wrote a letter shaking the foundation of the global response to Covid-19.
Their letter to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Solna, Sweden, (https://cormandrostenreview. com/retraction request- letter-to-eurosurveillance-editorial board/) said the widely used RTPCR test to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus had “10 major flaws at the molecular and methodological level”.
They accused the original paper certifying the RT-PCR test ‘Detection of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019nCoV) by real-time RT-PCR’ of being published in Eurosurveillance (23 January 2020) without sufficient peer review.
The 22 scientists claimed the certifying paper had instructions to test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus “without having virus material available,” and instead relied on Chinese scientists’ genetic sequence published on the Internet.
The 22 signatories included molecular genetics scientist Dr Pieter Borger, virology specialist Dr Ulrike Kämmerer from the University Hospital in Würzburg, Germany, Microbiology and Immunology Professor Makoto Ohashi from Japan’s Tokushima University and former Pfizer Chief Scientist Dr Michael Yeadon.
These scientists declared the RTPCR test had no “scientific rationale” and “there was no viral isolate to validate what they were doing”.
“There is nothing at the centre of it,” a signatory Dr Kevin P. Corbett told award-winning Swedish journalist Celia Farber. “It’s all about code, genetics, nothing to do with reality, or the actual person, the patient.”
What is the hidden truth about Covid-19?
While experts contradict each other and governments enforce extreme policies based on conflicting information, jobs continue being lost, schools closed and people suffer critical daily problems. The Maharashtra government is indecisive about resuming the city’s lifeline of
commuter trains for all. Are lives being saved or lives being ruined? Surely there exists a safe way to both save lives and livelihoods.
While new pandemic questions deepen the mystery into sinister realm, job losses increase in Mumbai, the epicentre of India’s finance, media and advertising industry.
Many fight back adversity. A five-star hotel chef Akshay Parkar lost his job and he now makes and sells biriyani in his new roadside stall in Dadar.
For those braving challenges amid a mystery pandemic, this is a season to strengthen oneself and serve others. Strength, like the truth, is within.
The writer is a senior, Mumbai-based journalist.