hear continuous wailing of sirens of ambulances taking patients stricken with the Chinese virus to hospitals. Are they banshees carting people to death or are they angels of mercy flying them to recovery? I wonder. I read countless messages on the social media…seeking help from any source they can get from  a hospital bed to an oxygen bottle. I see hospitals giving out SOS messages that they have a pitifully few hours of oxygen left.  Some messages inform me of those lucky ones who have returned from the hell of breathlessness. Many sorrowful messages inform me of people succumbing to the virus. As we condole and grieve the death of those who have passed to the other world, I feel a sense of loss and darkness gripping me. Is my time due from this unknown scourge ? I do not know. However my odds of survival are better since I was lucky enough to be vaccinated. I might survive to tell my story another day. Who knows? This is a once in a lifetime disaster. Never seen anything worse than this. I also hear that the dead have to wait for a token for their last rites so that their souls are set free by the overworked crematoriums. I see pyres burning through the night, of those who succumbed to this Chinese scourge. However…the burning pyres are throwing light on some cold truths which all of us Indians have to face in this hour of our reckoning.  They are also showing us the way out of this dark tunnel. We should heed the last message that our fellow countrymen are giving to us. 


We’ve come to the situation because our power hungry, blame shifting, ever squabbling,  ‘tu tu main main’ politicians were busy seeking votes at each other’s expense. They were encouraging free exchange of corona at their rallies and we were paying for it with our healths’ and lives. The farmers who were agitating en-masse were adding fuel to the pyres in advance, instead of placing food on our table. The zealously religious, congregated on the banks of holy rivers praying to god for universal peace of mankind. However they were actually hastening others to their contagious death. The hapless migrants fleeing the virus are only carrying it afar like ashes in the wind. However, how does this explain the viral surge in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala and other states?  No explanations. India took its eye off the ball. Worse still, when the helmsmen of India were in their ‘forever campaign’ mode, the empowered sailors slouched and the boat has gone aground.  As simple as that. 


Will we recover? Yes we will. Eventually. However the price will be steep – much like a 4000 buck oxygen cylinder which costs 20000 today. May be much more in Delhi. There will be more wailing sirens and burning pyres of those who cannot afford it. Not that those who can afford it will definitely survive. The tireless efforts of our fantastic doctors, frontline workers and countless other normal Indians who have stuck to their job will keep us going to the extent possible. They will eventually stem the tide at great cost. The armed forces will do their bit and attempt to take us over the hill. They have their limits. The vaccinators from producers to jabbers will attempt to keep the virus at bay till they have the wherewithal. Very tellingly we have discovered that our strategic partner might prove to be an unreliable friend by denying us raw material for vaccines. Our strategic foe remains our reliable enemy. Despite offers of help, you can rely on it to take advantage of the situation and nibble at the LAC as it did last year.  Unreliable friends and reliable enemies are a dangerous combination. We need to watch our backs. While that may be so, we might not have the vaccines to protect us in a hurry. Eventually we will have them. Not today.   


Today. Each and every one of us is largely alone in this battle. The collapse of our inadequate health system in Delhi is an harbinger of things likely to come. Looking  after ourselves and our near and dear is our responsibility. The governments – centre and state might not be there at this hour of reckoning. Most importantly we need to realise that our survival is in our hands. Like I said earlier,  the burning pyres are showing us the light at the end of the tunnel provided we are prepared to see it.


In this hour of great need , all we need is a piece of cloth across our mouth and nose to keep the Virus out of our lungs and soap to keep it out of our hands and distance to ensure it does not jump into us. The humble ‘Mask’ is the first and last line of defence – the greatest weapon. Yet most of us Indians ignore it. It is a fatal attraction that many of us are spurning  the chance of breathing fresh natural oxygen through a simple mask and taking the risky option of unaffordable and scarcely available oxygen being pumped into our lungs through a plastic mask. We should know which mask is our friend and which one is the foe. These days if you do not wear one, you run the risk of wearing the other. Cold and simple. Understand it and you have a good chance of surviving. If not, be prepared to court death. The only other line of defence against the Virus is the vaccine. We have the capacity whether our unreliable friend obliges us or not. Let us use it intelligently and not despair. 


If the governments of the day want to retrieve the situation there are essentially three (draconian) steps:-


1.  Redouble the efforts at stabilising the emergent situation in major metros.This is a no brainier but has to be done hands on by both central and state governments.

2.     Impose a “ National Mask Emergency”. Anyone in public should wear a mask. Otherwise take stringent action against the individual. The Prime Minister must come on TV to give the message as enthusiastically as he did to announce demonetisation or ask us to light candles or make sound by banging pots and pans. He must lead the drive. Covid appropriate behaviour will do more to retrieve the situation. Self-discipline is the need of the hour. If not, impose it from the top ruthlessly. Time for soft options is over. 

3.    I perceive we have some stock of the adjuvant for vaccines to last at least 3-4 months. If that be so, and if the USA does not yield in the near future, the GOI should start an adjuvant  producing facility under licence on an emergency basis. If necessary, bring all vaccine producers under the Disaster Management Act to release them from all contractual obligations in national interest. Ensure at least one vaccine is mass produced from all Indian facilities from beginning to end in true atmanirbhar style. When we have indigenous options why not exploit their potential? At the same time business interests of all entrepreneurs can also be safe guarded. Ramp up the vaccination drive. Be bold. Consult all. be inclusive. Invoke ‘legal provisions’.  Do what is good for the people of India.   


Are these suggestions naïve, weird or juvenile? You may consider it so. However as a trained fauji,  I see straight, simple and implementable solutions. India must not take a step back. Meet the situation head on. Everything will fall in place. Provided we have the gumption to impose ‘Discipline’.  


Lastly. If you feel there is merit in this piece of simple writing please forward it to all you know. If you can translate it into any local language it will be great. One life saved is one banshee wail less. That is more than enough.


Jai hind 

Any one who wants to republish this article is free to do so.



18 responses to “WHICH MASK DO YOU PREFER? BY Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)”

  1. Ordinary steps produce extraordinary results

  2. Such a simple precaution, yet we throw caution to the winds. Sleepy Joe is the Brutus of the piece

  3. The real face of Americans can be seen now!! Selfish, self centred and not trust worthy!! So much for being a world leader!!

  4. Very apt and hard hitting points. Is anyone listening?

  5. Thought provoking article.Very apt and rekindles the fundamental aspects..

  6. Maybe the Atmanirbhar pundits will inhale a large dose of reality.

  7. Very thoughtful article. Absolutely on the dot.

  8. Summed up wonderfully sir.Wish people who matter have the zeal and will to implement. Citizens should help by wearing masks.

  9. Grt.very well written.wake up call.

  10. On the dot. Strict measures needed no doubt. We will see it through for sure Sir!

  11. The article is well thought out and hits at the very relevant points. Understanding friends is as important. US has a record of non genuine friendship. Atmanirbharta is what is the need of the hour.

  12. As always, excellent piece… clear, simple and workable solutions. My compliments

  13. Superb Sir.. 👌Simply Superb..! & Incisive, Like Hell.. : It Will Hit the Depths of 'Their' Conscience : IF They Have One..!! 😑You Have Shone.. AND Shown “Them” the Light..! : Provided Their'Eyes are Open.. And Not WIDE SHUT..!! 🤨Warm Regards & a Salute Sir.. 🙏 From Another Fauji..Rajan Palta

  14. So wonderfully written thought provoking article sir. Very clear and precise.

  15. A veteran with vast experience has put forward hard facts which need to be implemented to save lives.

  16. Superb write up Sir. Crystal clear and very practical road ahead.

  17. Once the crisis is over, hold the PM & HM accountable leading the nation to holocaust.

  18. Excellent article. Simple solution which requires ruthless implementation in this do or die situation

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