The world was perplexed – how India and other South Asian countries could beat the virus.
As the world went berserk over the relentless march of the Covid-19 pandemic with Europe and America clocking newer records of deaths and infections every day, as reports from New York to London described how patients gasped for air and died and how the haunting sirens of ambulances ricocheted off the empty streets – the only sounds of the cities for a long time to go, the South Asian shores were comparatively and strangely quiet.
From India to Bangladesh, politicians and bureaucrats boasted how they had successfully defeated the evil virus.
As recently as March, India's Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the country was "in the endgame" of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership as an "example to the world in international cooperation".
The international media started speculating as to why the South Asian nations were relatively unscathed and sought various pundits' wise words.
A few reasons were cited. The region's hot climate was one. It was said the virus spread fast and furious in the cold climate of the northern hemisphere. So Bangladesh or India was spared because of the warmer climates.
Then the case of demographic advantage was advanced. South Asian nations are overwhelmingly made up of young people who were said to be more resilient and resistant to the virus.
Then some western scientists said these countries were so polluted that their population had developed some kind of immunity. The virus could not beat their immune system.
Some Indian scientists even came up with another explanation that the South Asian people have a unique kind of protein cell in their bodies that protect them against the virus.
With such lame "wisdoms" about the little understood virus making rounds, people and governments let up their defences.
Life returned to business as usual. Shopping malls became humming places. Celebrations of religious festivals became widely attended. The latest pictures of some 3.5 million people joining the Kumbh festival in Haridwar of India even as the pandemic was going out of hand were enough to strike dread in any sane mind.
Meanwhile, economists and policymakers forgot about the pandemic and started counting GDP and making forecasts.
It seemed we refused to look reality in the face to such an extent that in Bangladesh, Covid treatment wards were dismantled in many hospitals and ICUs taken away. Instead of bolstering the health system, the countries switched to a self-congratulatory mode as the healthcare system fell by the wayside.
So when the inevitable second wave appeared with a vengeance, everybody was caught with their pants down. The pundits went back to scratching their heads afresh as the myths they had created came crashing down and patients scrambled for hospital beds and oxygen.
Haunting pictures again started surfacing – two people sharing one hospital bed and one oxygen cylinder, a man sitting on the pavement waiting for a hospital bed with an oxygen mask on with the cylinder upright beside him, a woman calling out loudly "Balaji, Balaji" beside her dying brother as the man goes lifeless.
In Dhaka, in the darkness of the night, a disquieting scene unfolded in the hospital neighbourhood of Kallyanpur as people frantically rushed from one hospital to another, inquiring in high-pitched voices: "Do you have ICUs available?"
People lined up before the local distributor of an injection used for treatment of arthritis, Actemra, as the stock of the medicine that is considered the last line of treatment for Covid patients, got exhausted.
And Bangladesh went for a tentative "lockdown" that left more activities open than closed. Even those few restrictions were withdrawn from yesterday as livelihood became more important than lives.
Now the big Eid festival is approaching and millions will rush to markets and shopping malls with the false notion that things are okay and that they are invulnerable to this deadly disease. Borders with India will be open instead of closed tight.
We can only keep our fingers crossed and hope against hope that our situation will not get as bad as that of India's.