When Amitabh Bachchan, Bollywood’s biggest star, speaks, the entire country of India and many in the diaspora listen. Which is why Big B, as he is known, has been the face and voice of many public health campaigns in India, including the campaign on coronavirus. And so when he announced last night via Twitter that he has tested positive for COVID-19, it sent shockwaves throughout India and beyond. Amitabh Bachchan, his son Abhishek, his daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai, and their granddaughter have all tested positive for the virus. The news comes, almost like a Bollywood drama plot twist, as India announces new lockdowns in the face of rising new infections each day. Bachchan’s story is a reminder that coronavirus does not discriminate and is the great equalizer and villain we must all work together to overcome.
Amitabh Bachchan, who is 77 years old, is being cared for at Nanavati Hospital in Juhu, Mumbai. His Tweet sent his 43 million-plus followers into a frenzy as they sent best wishes and prayers for his well-being and his family’s safety. And I am sending my own personal thoughts and prayers along with the SEEMA family’s best wishes to the Bachchan family and to all other families suffering the ravages of this highly infectious virus. Amitabh Bachchan urged everyone who had been in contact with him to get themselves tested. India is now reporting more new cases each day with the third highest cases in the world, after the United States and Brazil. And the cases are growing, with concerns that with India’s dense population, infections will spread like wildfire.
So what do we do to combat this invisible enemy? To protect ourselves, our families, our communities, and society overall until we have a vaccine? According to experts, it’s all in our own hands. The CDC says “the best way to protect yourself is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. Stay home as much as possible and avoid close contact with others. Wear a cloth face covering that covers your nose and mouth in public settings. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.” These same measures, plus social distancing and staying home if you feel sick, also pave the path toward preventing you from infecting others and causing community spread of coronavirus.
At the end of the day, the solution lies at the hands of each individual. At no point has it been more important for each individual’s actions to matter so much for the overall wellbeing of society.
And it can be done. Nearly 50 countries around the world are doing it, as you can see in the charts of countries who are winning the war against the pandemic. They show us that it can be done. We can also look to history and other public health campaigns like vaccine-preventable diseases, smoking cessation, motor vehicle safety and HIV transmission, where we have put our collective public health safety as a priority. As we wait for a vaccine, if we can continue to protect ourselves at the individual level and protect others by taking the same public health measures, we can quell the spread and prevent a raging inferno.
Every Bollywood drama has a wicked and wily villain who is one step ahead of innocent people and dead-set on destroying the world. And inevitably, it is the everyday woman or man, fighting against all odds and standing up to the system — a role often played by Big B Amitabh Bachchan — who comes to the rescue and is the hero of the story. These everyday heroes may fall prey to the villain, but as in the movies, when working together in unison, they have the power as individuals and in strength of numbers to ultimately triumph.
Check in with yourself to ensure that you are taking care of your mental and your physical health.