The current situation across the globe due to COVID-19 pandemic reminds writer Taslima Nasreen of her days as a doctor treating patients during the cholera outbreak in Bangladesh in the early 90s.
"I was practising at that time and did not use gloves and masks while giving saline doses to hundreds of patients everyday as I found it uncomfortable wearing them. Fortunately I didn't get any infection. However, this COVID-19 is very contagious and it's a pandemic. All precautions are a must," says the Bangladeshi-Swedish writer of "Lajja" fame who has been living in exile since 1994.
"The current situation reminds me of the time when I too worked to save people from cholera epidemic in the early 90s. I worked in an infectious disease hospital in Mymensingh where thousands of patients used to come every day and I treated them," she told PTI in an interview.
The cholera epidemic in Bangladesh in 1991 affected around 2,25,000 people and claimed over 8,000 lives.
"I feel very proud of the medical fraternity across the world working tirelessly. They are risking their lives to save humanity. Some of my acquaintances also died in New York fighting coronavirus," Nasreen says.
She studied medicine at Mymensingh Medical College and graduated in 1984. Daughter of a physician father, she worked at Dhaka Medical College hospital but had to quit due to her feminist writing.
"I was working with Dhaka Medical College but I was forced to leave my medical profession in 1993. The Bangladesh government confiscated my passport as I was going to Kolkata to receive a literature award. The government told me that I have to show my writings before publishing, so I quit my job in protest," says the 58-year-old writer.
When asked if she feels the urge to resume practice in the present circumstances, she says there has been a huge gap now and she feels outdated.
"Not now, in the beginning of my exile life if it was possible, I would have done that. I am detached from medical sciences for long. I am a full time writer and Europe embraced me as a rebel writer so I didn't think of going back to medical profession," she says.
Her two most awaited books were supposed to hit stores this month but now only Kindle versions remain a possibility. "My Girlhood" was published in March and "Shameless", a sequel to "Lajja", was to be launched on April 14.
"They have to publish Kindle version now. 'My Girlhood' was given to book shops but the next day, the lockdown was announced. However, the lockdown is much more important. Post lockdown also, I am afraid people won't get time for reading," Nasreen says.
She also demanded a ban on Tablighi Jamaat which have come into the spotlight after an event they held in here has spawned a number of COVID-19 clusters across the country.
"They should be banned because they are pulling Muslim society backwards while it needs to be educated, modern and progressive. They have millions of members all over the world and they are just spreading darkness and preaching ignorance," she claims.
"I don't understand that why India gave entry to those present at a Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Malaysia. It was known by that time about coronavirus spread in Malaysia by some of those who attended this congregation," Nasreen says.