Coined by Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1946, ‘Scientific Temper’ describes an attitude towards life where every decision, every argument made by an individual is the result of logic and science. Though the term is the origin of Indian sub-continent, we are the very people who lack it. In this time of crisis, with covid-19 on a rise and no sign of flattening of curve, people are busy finding solutions through public meetings of Nizamuddin Mazrak or cow urinal.
There have been instances in the past one and half month since the ‘Janta Curfew’ was first initiated by the prime minister that showcase how intolerant we are towards the logic and can justify government’s actions with any reasons that appeal to us. When the prime minister asked citizens to clap or beat utensils, the reason behind this initiative that did the rounds of social media was ‘it boosted blood circulation’ or ‘rendered the virus ineffective’.
This was the beginning of the superstitions that were to come up in order to secure a win over the pandemic. From drinking cow urine to eating rasam, they have emerged as a potential way to prevent the spread of the virus. This is not new to our country. We have shutdowns during the lunar and solar eclipses. And the best reasoning to everything is given as ‘It is scientific. It has been mentioned in our scriptures.’
When the prime minister announced to switch off the lights at 9 pm on April 5 for 9 minutes, the first thing you see is a portal of Government of India putting up a video explaining the ‘science’ behind it. But in these testing times, the only hope of survival, we might have, is developing ‘scientific temper’.
What doesn’t surprise me though is these steps are science for most people as if mocking the medical staff and their efforts across the world to curb the virus. If lighting ‘diyas’ and clapping could cure the disease, Italy and Spain would not be in the dire condition they are today. Though Prime Minister in his address said that the point of the exercise was to thank and encourage our health workers, it is no reason to propagate it as a scientific method to prevent the pandemic.
The world has progressed in the field of science since the first anti-biotic ‘penicillin’ was invented. And so, has India. We’ve come a long way from beating cholera to swine-flu to covid-19. But what still remains embedded in our society is our superstitions under the umbrella of culture and rituals. ‘Scientific Temper’ is a fundamental duty as mentioned in the constitution of India.
When Jawahar Lal Nehru first used the term, he would have never expected it to be a mix of both logic and religion i.e., we want our health services to be of world standard but at the same time keep praying for the well-being of our own.