A lesson of hope and optimism
Asif M Basit
Sunday, 29 March: News channels, websites and almost all platforms of social media are drenched with news about the coronavirus; it is spreading, it is infecting and it is killing human beings in thousands.
The figures are worrying and what is more worrying is that those showing us the light at the end of the tunnel are politicians; politicians who have left us sceptical about anything they say.
So, shall we sit and worry or is there anything we can do to keep up our hopes that good days will soon return? We will have to look around to see how hope can be squeezed out from the hopeless information that continues to pour in. So let’s give it a try here.
Bob Weighton, a resident of Alton in Hampshire, has turned 112 years old today. This means he was born two months before the demise of the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, on 26 May 1908. What a blessed time to be born in! Happy birthday Bob and thank you for providing the world to draw hope from your life.
Bob was ten years old when the influenza pandemic broke out. It shook the whole world in pretty much a similar manner as we are experiencing these days. Was he fortunate to be living in an age when smartphones and social media were not around? Or was he actually unfortunate? All of us will have our own views on this, but he surely did have newspapers carrying extremely worrying headlines like today.
Just as our children overhear the news we listen to whilst we are glued to our television screens, Bob too must have overheard his parents discuss and worry about the outbreak of the Spanish flu pandemic. We can imagine Bob’s father reading out from the Illustrated London News of 16 March 1918 the headline that said, “Influenza is sweeping the United Kingdom”.
Then a headline in the Scotsman on 24 June 1918 must have passed Bob’s ears that stated that the flu had turned into a pandemic.
A school-going young Bob might have heard it from his mother on their breakfast table that the Surrey Advertiser had reported that “Surrey ha[d] not escaped” the epidemic and that schools were going to be shut for an indefinite period of time.
How worrying must it have been for Bob and his family knowing that famous people like Dr A Conan Doyle (son of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and the mayoress of Southport had succumbed to the malady.
And even back then, they must have read just as we do, with a similar hint of doubt, advertisements that claim to be a cure of the Spanish flu; advertisements like the one in the Wigan Observer of 14 December 1918, that read, “Roberts’ Catarrh Cure CREVALIN cures influenza”.
News would have gone around claiming that the pandemic was a precursor of the end of the world, that people would never be able to live a normal life. All such tabloid material goes around even today in the days of Covid-19.
Did they believe such gossip? Did they keep up their hopes? Well, only Bob can tell. But as Bob celebrates his 112thbirthday today, we can say that he and his family went through the deadly pandemic with hope, zeal and ambition to live on and see the dawn of normal life.
We might not outlive the Covid-19 pandemic by a hundred years like Bob, but by the grace and mercy of God, we will together get to the other side of it.
So dear Bob! We wish you many happy returns of this day. And dear humanity, we wish you a happy return of normal life very soon. May God keep us all in His protection.