Kaala Paani tackles a fictional version of a real disease called LHF-27, which leads to severe coughing, high fever, black scarring on the back of the neck, and, after a brief respite, death. The outbreak happened during peak tourist season in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the ferocity of the incident was exacerbated by the Swaraj Mahotsav because more people means more infections. Politicians, law enforcement agencies, healthcare officials, and anyone who could help began working on containing the infection and finding a cure. Meanwhile, a company called ATOM, which showed an immense amount of interest in “doing great things” for the islands, selfishly looked after their own while shirking responsibility for the damage they had done.
What Is the Origin of the LHF-27?
There’s no big mystery behind the LHF-27. It’s basically a disease that can’t be repelled with antibiotics because the bacteria is resistant to it, and it periodically happens in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The tribals of the island believe that it happens when the gods are angry, but it’s just a disease that rears its ugly head when animals or humans access a particular spot on the island, as that ground is teeming with the aforementioned bacteria. Kaala Paani goes on a tangent about how Japanese soldiers landed in Andaman and Nicobar and came face-to-face with the plague, as well as the Oraka. They extensively studied the disease by working with the Orakans. But that’s not as important as what’s happening in the present day. One of the top employees of ATOM, Saurabh Wani, planned to give a grand welcome to their CEO, Mr. Shaw. For that, he would’ve had to come to Andaman and Nicobar via helicopter. And since a helicopter needs a helipad, Wani started building one on Oraka’s hallowed ground, i.e., the ground that had the deadly bacteria in it. When Mr. Shaw sent his wife instead, the construction was abandoned. That whole process destabilized the soil, though, and when it rained, the bacteria made its way into the lake. ATOM used the water from the lake to supply water to the surrounding areas, which led to a catastrophe.
Why does the Oraka hold the key to curing LHF-27?
Back in the day, a small platoon of the Orakans scoured the jungles of the island to search for a cure for the LHF plague, and it was led by the chief of the tribe. Since it was a long hike, the chief’s son got tired. Even though the chief told him not to stop until they’d reached their destination, the son drank from the river without noticing that there was a dead animal lying there. In order to prevent further contamination and spread of the infection, the chief told his son to go away and never return, thereby essentially signing his death warrant. The son didn’t protest and started walking away from the Oraka locality. When he was at death’s door, he found a cave, and he entered it with the intention of making it his final resting spot. But that was where he found the Andamani Echinacea, an herb native to the islands. My cursory research shows that there’s no plant of that name. So, much like the disease, the plant is also fictional in nature.
Anyway, coming back to the plot, the chief’s son consumed the herb because he was hungry. However, that ended up curing the LHF that was about to take his life. He brought the herb back to his community, and they not only started consuming it but also planted it where people died of LHF as they saw it as the only thing that could kill the bacteria in the land that caused the disease. Due to continued consumption of the Andamani Echinacea over the years, the Oraka tribe developed a natural immunity against the LHF bacteria. That’s why, even when they drank the contaminated water from the tourists, they weren’t harmed. This boon turned into a curse, though, because as soon as the LG of Andaman and Nicobar, Zibran Qadri, and Wani heard that they could extract the cure from the bodies of the Oraka, they greenlit the genocide of the tribe. ATOM had destroyed the places with large quantities of the Andamani Echinacea, so they didn’t even try searching for the plant.
What is ‘Kaala Paani’ saying through the LHF-27 epidemic?
Kaala Paani is explicitly stating that capitalism is a curse. Companies and their owners will always say that they want to develop the nation, generate employment, and modernize the world, but all they are doing is hollowing the earth to make money. They can’t go anywhere with that money because their lives are finite, and other planets are not habitable yet. However, that’s something that doesn’t bother them. They’ll search for a corner and hide out until the storm that they’ve created has passed. So, they should be shooed away every time they come up with a plan to carve out a piece of the little greenery we have to build something that’s wholly unnecessary. The Netflix web series is also pointing its finger at politicians. They are not only supposed to listen to the masses, but they are also supposed to craft environment-friendly policies. If a village, town, city, state, or country is uninhabitable, there won’t be people left to govern.
For that to happen, our elected and selected politicians should be educated and not genocidal. And by “educated,” I’m not saying that they should have some complicated degree from a well-renowned institute. By “educated,” I mean that they should be aware of the position they are in, and their problem-solving abilities should be through the roof. For that, one doesn’t need a degree; one needs practical knowledge, and practical knowledge can be acquired by being on the ground. If a politician is afraid to do on-the-ground work, then they should resign. The show highlights the importance of protecting minorities because they just want to live their lives peacefully. If we can learn from them, we should. If we are not open to learning from them, we should leave them alone. The series underscores the fact that we need a robust healthcare system where a scientist’s opinion is prioritized over everything else because, nine out of ten times, the things that they say are correct. In addition to all that, Kaala Paani is asking the general public to show empathy. Yes, they should definitely direct their ire towards the powerful and those who are receiving VIP treatment. But they should look out for their neighbors and fellow citizens because once we cross certain moral boundaries, then we’ll be dead before a disease gets to us.