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Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai Email Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai
May 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has created many opportunities for scam artists and other unscrupulous people to take advantage of desperate people trying to protect themselves. These fraudsters have tried to sell fake testing kits and ineffective masks, as well as hand sanitizer that won’t clean your hands but may clean out your bank account.

Such people need to be put on permanent lockdown. No, I’m not suggesting life imprisonment. But I’d like to see them spending much of their lives under a stay-at-home order. Of course, if they have access to a phone or the internet, they’ll be up to their old tricks again.

Conman: “Hello, is that Mr. Ram?”

Ram: “Yes, speaking. Who is this? I’m in the middle of yoga.”

Conman: “Sorry, Mr. Ram, but I wanted to congratulate you. You’ve won a special prize: 1,000 coronavirus testing kits. All you have to pay for is shipping and handling.”

Ram: “Shipping and handling? How much is that?”

Conman: “Just $800.”

Ram: “$800! Why so much?”

Conman: “Because coronavirus testing kits require special shipping and handling. We have to put a lot of space between the testing kits; otherwise they will begin testing each other. And we have to keep them 100 percent virus-free, because if one of them is infected, the others will become infected, too. I’m sure you don’t want to be infected by a testing kit.”

Ram: “No, of course not. But how did I win this prize? I do not remember entering any contest.”

Conman: “One of your good friends entered your name in our special Coronavirus Testing Kit Lottery. It’s like the green card lottery—except Indians are eligible.”

Thankfully, the coronavirus pandemic has also created plenty of opportunity for good deeds. Many people are selflessly helping friends, neighbors and even strangers. One of these people is an Indian-American doctor in Indiana who offered free medical help.

“If anyone needs any medical help for minor ailments over the phone or video call, I am happy to help,” Dr. Mohan Ayyaswamy wrote on a local website. As part of his kind message, he informed everyone that he wouldn’t be able to do any Covid-19 testing through a video call. He didn’t want to be flooded with calls.

Patient: “Doctor, I think I might have coronavirus.”

Doctor: “What is your temperature?”

Patient: “I don’t know. Can you take it please?”

Doctor: “You have to take it yourself. I can’t take it through the video.”

Patient (muttering): “What kind of modern doctor are you anyway?”

Many doctors, nurses and other medical workers have been truly heroic during the pandemic—and so have many other people who have gone out of their way to help their neighbors and others. Some have gone shopping for their elderly neighbors, while others have donated food and medical supplies to needy people.

Also heartwarming is the online pledge that some privileged people are taking in India, promising to pay the wages of their maids, nannies, drivers and other workers during the lockdown.

“Let us as a nation come together to protect and support those vulnerable in these difficult times,” a woman named Shalet Dsilva wrote on Facebook, as she took the pledge.

These are indeed difficult times. That’s why I felt obligated to do my part, posting this message online: “If anyone has any gift certificates to stores and restaurants, I will be happy to take them off your hands, so you are not tempted to go out in public and endanger your health.”

Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI, author of the novel Bala Takes the Plunge.

[Comments? Contributions? We would love to hear from you about Chai Time. If you have contributions, please email us at We welcome jokes, quotes, online clips, and more.]

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