Kalpana Swami­nathan and Ishrat Syed

Down to Earth - - COLUMN -

In 2007, as we stood watch­ing Room 000 dis­ap­pear, we felt the an­guish of loss. We had been work­ing there for the past five years on the story of Mum­bai's epi­demics. Grant Med­i­cal Col­lege was the arena of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and dis­cov­ery that opened a new era of ther­a­peu­tics. The world con­verged here to com­pete in the race for vac­cines and cures, to com­pare notes, and also to share re­spon­si­bil­ity. It was a mo­ment un­par­al­leled in the history of medicine.

And here it was, be­ing erased be­fore our eyes. It was a harsh mo­ment. We said noth­ing to each other, but when we turned away from that build­ing, we car­ried with us the re­spon­si­bil­ity of giv­ing a voice to Room 000. That trig­gered a jour­ney to dis­cover the Bom­bay of 1896.

The book be­came an op­ti­cal cor­rec­tive. Through the lens of 1896, we be­gan to see that the city's re­sponses hadn't changed a whit; pol­i­cy­mak­ers haven't changed ei­ther. When the next epi­demic strikes Mum­bai, will we re­peat the mis­takes of 1896?

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