A lady of 32 or 35 years of age was driving her luxurious car along a highway wearing sunglasses. She was frequently looking at the watch in her right hand placed on steering. Vehicles could be counted on the fingers of one hand. No pedestrian was seen on pavement. ’City of joy’ was hibernating to recover from ‘COVID–19’ because the number of SARS-CoV-2 infections and deaths due to the same started to increase at a geometric progression all over the globe. Governments around the world loosened the restrictions of social distancing to avoid further economic meltdown. Countries actually tried to save their people from dying in hunger, but the aggression of the infection compelled governments to back out. The colour of the mask covering the lady’s nose and mouth matched her dress well. She got a call on her smartphone held by a holder attached nearby to the windshield. The name on the touchscreen was “Ma” which means “Mother” in Bengali. She touched the ‘Accept’ button on the touchscreen and spoke in Bengali – “bolo ma” which means “Tell me mother”. An aged husky female voice asked in the same language – “kiray bayriyaycheese?” – The female voice on the phone wanted to know if she had set out for her work-place. The answer from this side of the phone was – “oh! bhoolay gaychee go!…………” – She actually groaned that she had forgotten to call her mother while leaving home, she also asked for confirmation if her parents, maternal uncle and maternal aunt were healthy. As she had ended the call, her phone rang again. She responded to that call in Hindi – “ha Bindu jee boleeyay” that means “Tell me Bindu”. The voice of Bindu sounded tense. Bindu said – “Dr. Kanika, the condition of the patient of bed number 3 is deteriorating”! Dr. Kanika’s voice also reflected concern – “Do you mean that 90 years old asthmatic patient? My Goodness! I’m on my way! Bindu jee, I’m coming”! She pressed the accelerator pedal as she had disconnected the call but the engine of the car suddenly stopped. Then she was near the end of the long highway. She tried to restart the engine a number of times while the car was in dynamic inertia but all the efforts were in vain. She shouted “Holy Shit” within herself in acute disgust. She finally got out of the car and saw a middle-aged man who was passing by on a rusty bicycle. She waved her hand to attract the attention of the man.
After ten minutes……
Tulip Nursing Home, New Boulevard, Kolkata
The eye balls of the ward-boys, nurses and doctors froze in astonishment when they saw Dr. Kanika, the richest doctor in the nursing home, entering through the gate in a poor and rusty bicycle. After entering nursing home, Dr. Kanika wore a bio-suit in the changing room and entered one of the COVID–19 wards in a great hurry. As she entered the ward, she saw Bindu covering the face of the patient lying on bed number 3. Kanika remained very upset during the rest of the duty-period on that day. Generally doctors are trained not to get attached with patients emotionally because the same can hamper the treatment. It is the duty of a doctor to solve the problems of a patient who should be considered as a subject only. Kanika could not help being emotional yet because the old man used to remind her of her loving grandfather who died just a year ago. While leaving nursing home for the day in the evening, Kanika saw a message from the man who lent her his bicycle. She promised him to return his cycle at his address. Kanika showed Bindu the address from her smartphone to check if she knew the shortest way to reach there. The address was of a slum, Becharam Street. Bindu not only told her the shortest way to get there but also told a strange fact about the slum. The slum was one of the many slums clustered in a region and the cluster was the most infected area of the city, the slum of Becharam Street was an exception though. No infection was reported from that slum. Then Kanika talked to some other doctors of the nursing home on the matter and came to know that a very few infected people from that slum were admitted to other nearby hospitals but they recovered very fast without any treatment. Kanika was not only amazed but also determined to go to the slum immediately and investigate the matter in spite of the risk of infection.
Five hours later…
12 A.M. IST, Dr. Kanika’s Home
All the lights were off at the ground floor of a three storeyed luxurious house. Light was on only in a single room with windows closed at the first floor. A shadow was walking to and fro inside the room. Kanika was thinking deeply over the details of the backgrounds and lifestyles of the families of Becharam Street slum whatever she came to know meeting and talking to them. She herself was not sure why the occupations of the people of the slum were drawing her attention the most while thinking – “clearing cloudy contact lenses, tenderizing meat, lysing wound adhesions,………”. Besides, she met a handful of people who were workers of industries of laxatives, tooth powders, digestive tablets, skin lotions etc. After a couple of minutes, she lay on her bed and started to study the basics of those industries on phone-internet. After the whole day of work, she was feeling very tired and drowsy but her inquisitiveness was not letting her to sleep. One common factor among all those industries suddenly caught her eyes – ‘Papain’! Kanika knew that ‘Papain’ is derived chiefly from the unripe fruit of the papaya or pawpaw tree and its enzymatic properties have found application in many industries. Then Kanika came across one research paper on treatment of some industry-workers suffering from dyspnea, cough and chest tightness due to exposure to ‘Papain’ as they work in ‘Papain’ dependent industries. A shiver ran down her spine and she got up as she read the words – “dyspnea”, “cough”, “chest tightness”. These are symptoms of ‘COVID – 19’ disease also! She at once called somebody – “Sir, Dr. Kanika speaking. Sorry to disturb you late at night. Can you please approve me for a team of health-workers tomorrow morning? I need to collect blood samples of the people living at Becharam Street slum………………………….”
After fourteen days…
Cover Article, Monthly Scientific Journal, Tulip Labs, Kolkata
“A breakthrough in the battle against COVID – 19……………………………………Dr. Kanika Chatterjee has discovered an anti-enzyme that counteracts the ‘Papain like Proteinase’ enzyme that is a part of the polyprotein molecules produced by ‘SARS-CoV-2’ infected human cells. ‘Papain like Proteinase’ enzyme is very important for not only ‘SARS-CoV-2’ viruses but also for all the viruses of ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Related Coronavirus’ species to multiply in human body. Inside an infected human cell, ‘pp1ab’ polyprotein molecule splits with the help of ‘Papain like Proteinase’ enzyme into sixteen nonstructural proteins that help to produce new viral RNAs through replication and transcription processes. The immunity systems of couple of people working in ‘Papain’ dependent industries for long have been found to produce the anti-enzyme that can neutralize ‘Papain like Proteinase’ enzyme………………………….”
Kanika was looking very happy that night. She returned home and flung herself on her bed after taking a long shower. She was singing her favourite Rabindra Sangeet softly lying on bed – “Bhalobashee, Bhalobashee ……………” as she was painting the long and beautiful nails of her left hand in pink.
All of a sudden she felt a sore throat. She stopped singing and sat on the bed. She held her nail polish bottle in her left palm and started to cough keeping her right palm on her breast.