The following conversation was overheard between two elderly gentlemen sitting on a park bench, after their evening constitutional. Obviously they were wearing masks and were perched at the two ends of the bench, respecting social distancing etiquette during these dystopian times. This necessitated their having to speak in a much louder voice than would have been the norm, exacerbated by the fact that one of the two spavined septuagenarians was hard of hearing. It is a well-established medical fact that those who are partially or stone deaf tend to speak the loudest, in the mistaken belief that the recipient of their pearls of wisdom is equally deaf. In turn, the person who is blessed with reasonably normal auditory functions, feels obliged to raise his voice several notches seeing as he is speaking to a handicapped individual. All this enabled the recorder and reporter of this conversation, sitting alone on an adjoining park bench with a newspaper spread across his face to cover his curiosity and identity, to hear every word as clear as a bell. Thankfully, his hearing was totally unimpaired, and he was able to enjoy this elevating give and take, cut and thrust that so enlivens an exchange of views amongst our senior citizens.
‘You know Chatterjee, I don’t much care for this chap who heads up WHO.’
‘That’s right. This chap called Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He is an Ethiopian. He is the Director General of the World Health Organisation, WHO.’
‘Can you please adjust your earplugs, Chatterjee? I am talking about this Ghebreyesus fellow. The guy who is the boss at WHO.’
‘Oh, that WHO. I get it. What don’t you like about him, Narayanan?’
‘His name, for a start. Impossible to pronounce and for you, impossible to hear. What’s more, he is forever groaning and moaning about the Covid19 pandemic. Never has anything positive to say. The only positive thing he talks about is the quantum jump in the number of positive cases worldwide, and how we are all destined to suffer for a very long time before things get better, if they do at all. Who wants that?’
‘WHO wants that? Surely not.’
‘Gosh, this conversation is already tiring me out. No, no, pin your ears back, Chatterjee, and listen carefully. What I meant was, when these experts talk about infection figures and so on, positive is negative and negative is positive. And Ghebrewhoever is always playing the harbinger of doom role to a nicety. Never has anything positive to say. Or do I mean negative? Whatever. Altogether a gloomy cove, as Bertie Wooster might have put it.’
‘Who is saying all these positive negative things, Narayanan?’
‘That’s right, Chatterjee. WHO is saying all these positive negative things. Mainly this Gheb chap. At last the penny drops.’
‘But tell me Narayanan, why does this Gebresellasie character moan so much?’
‘For crying out loud, not Gebresellasie, who was an Ethiopian long-distance runner, Olympic gold medallist. No less. He had nothing to moan about. Always smiling he was, showing his pearly teeth. This Ghebrewhatsit is the WHO guy.’
‘Exactly. What is more, WHO initially gave China a clean chit on this whole pandemic imbroglio. In spite of the Wuhan mess.’
‘Who gave a clean chit?’
‘Exactly. WHO did. And that was the main cause of the spread of the Covid19 virus. Now WHO is backpedalling furiously, trying to make amends. And they have now become prophets of doom. Particularly this Ghebgawdhelpus. He should be wearing sackcloth and ashes. His latest salvo is to warn us of the virus being airborne, scary droplets floating around all over the place. In the old days, the Kings and Emperors had a short way with harbingers of bad news. Chop chop.’
‘WHO didn’t. I am talking of Kings and Emperors. Don’t you hear anything I say, Chatterjee?’
‘Look Narayanan, I heard you perfectly well the first time. When I said, “Who did?” I didn’t mean “WHO did?” I meant “Who did?” Who, Who, Who, not WHO, WHO, WHO.’
‘All right Chatterjee, stop hooting like an owl. I regret I ever started this WHO conversation with you. Deaf as a doorpost and dumb as well.’
‘What was that?’
‘Nothing. To get back to WHO, now that India has a strong representation in the organisation, we can expect greatly improved quality of communication.’
‘Who is in WHO from India?’
‘This time you got your who and WHO right. Firstly, there’s Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at WHO. She is extremely bright, articulate, intelligent and very presentable on TV.’
‘For God’s sake, not with the who again. I just said who. Turn up the volume on your hearing aid and listen. Soumya Swaminathan, the one with the distinguished grey hair. Given a free hand, she’ll run rings round that Gheb guy. By the way, she hails from Kumbakonam and her Dad is Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, father of India’s Green Revolution. My TamBram friends tell me that Kumbakonam denizens are razor sharp. I should know. Being a TamBram myself, and all.’
‘You’ve been watching Pacino in Scent of a Woman again, haven’t you? Hoo haa indeed! To get back to WHO and India, we now also have our Union Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan, who has taken over as Chairman of the WHO executive board. Decent bloke, Harsh Vardhan. Was a doctor, I believe.’
‘God, give me patience. Harsh Vardhan. He is our health minister, now a big dad on WHO’s board. With him and Soumya leading the way, it’s a big feather in the cap for India and bodes well for our campaign against the wretched Coronavirus.’
‘In other words, Harsh Burman and Sukanya Subramanian are the who’s who of WHO. My hearing may be slightly impaired, but I thought that was a bloody good one. Don’t you agree?’
‘It’s Harsh Vardhan and Soumya Swaminathan but you were near enough, for a deaf adder. Well if you must insist on earning cheap brownie points with your pointless puns and poor jokes, who I am to stop you?’
‘Who indeed? By the way, I heard that Trump is withdrawing his contribution to WHO because of what he sees as an unacceptable tilt by the organisation towards the yellow dragon. What say you, Narayanan?’
‘By Jove, you’ve certainly boned up on your current affairs, Chatterjee. I am impressed. Trump may have dumped WHO, but Xi Jinping is playing Chinese Checkers with them. Like he is doing with us in Ladakh. What’s more, apparently they have the vaccine as well.’
‘WHO has the vaccine? Wow!’
‘It is China who have the vaccine, not WHO. Well, fry me for an oyster!’
‘Then why does WHO keep saying the vaccine will take more than two years, if ever, to arrive?’
‘Good question, Chatterjee. I shall shoot off a mail to ICMR and ask them for a true assessment on the subject.’
Postscript: This enlightening discussion would have dragged on interminably, but our reporter had to leave at this point, leaving the two senior adversaries jousting in animated banter. Which left him pondering on the question, ‘Who is in charge of the world’s health? WHO?‘
Hahaha! Love these Sureshisms. In true blue Punch style.
Nice sense of humour to deflate a serious pandemic situation.
👌😂Good one Suresh! Enjoyed reading this witty take on the state of WHO’s
whos and general health affairs…
a crispy presentation of the Covid related incidents…..sandwiched between WHO & who…..a nice dabble…..
Only Suresh! Who???? Arey, amader Sushesh….whodunnit!
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