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Real Life Heroes

Real Life Heroes

The pandemic corona virus has brought on its trail unprecedented agony, fear and insecurity to the people all over the world. But it also brought to light magnificent expressions of compassion, altruism and selfless love.

Without eyes being drenched one cannot read the story of Shiksha Malhotra, the actress turned nurse who has been voluntarily working at Covid 19 ward of a hospital in Mumbai since March 27. She works 8 to 10 hours a day during which she cannot eat or drink anything. “We often feel dehydrated and giddy, but the motivation to look after patients keeps us going” says Shiksha.

Actor Sonu Sood has taken upon himself the task of arranging buses to thousands of migrant workers to return home under ‘Ghar Bhejo’ campaign. Twenty four hours he is ready to receive calls from the distressed migrant workers and arrange transportation and food for them. He also opened the doors of his family-owned Shakti Sagar Hotel in Juhu, Mumbai to shelter paramedical staff and doctors.

“Health workers are the wall between us and the virus. “We are happy to provide them food and a place to rest before they resume their work the following day” he says. On May 29, he arranged a special chartered flight to airlift 177 workers, mostly women, who were struck in a factory in Kerala.

Pure altruism has motivated Sonu, his wife and children to be involved in the herculean task of arranging transportation and food to the migrant workers. “Migrant workers have helped build our roads, homes and offices. We cannot stand and watch them be homeless,” says Sonu.

He doesn’t take any credit for the enormous work he does, but he attributes it to God’s blessings. “God is making it happen and we have been chosen as tools. There are miles to go and the journey will continue.”

There are hundreds of Good Samaritans who have shared their time, energy and resources to alleviate the sufferings of the people infected and affected by the pandemic Covid 19. I reflected what has motivated some of them to risk their lives and make sacrifices for the sake of people whom they have never seen. The answer I got is ‘spirituality.”

Some of those who helped the suffering people might have rendered their service as an act of charity. But a good number of them could see God in the suffering people and they served the God who is suffering in the human beings made of flesh and blood.

Even though the worship centers have been closed all over India due to the lockdown for about seventy days, the ordinary people are not worried about the spiritual harm caused to them due to the closure of temples, mosques, churches etc. Their main concern has been their survival. They are creative enough to find out their own means of spiritual nourishment. Some of them make use of TV channels and ‘You Tube’ channels to watch religious prayers and programs.

But religious leaders seem to be really worried about the spiritual stagnation of the ordinary faithful. Some of them have lamented that religious ceremonies are essential for a believer for solace and inner peace and appealed to the government to allow them to reopen the worship centers. A few religious leaders have even claimed that the spiritual life of the people will be in peril if public worship is not resumed.

At the same time, there is also very limited number of religious leaders who think differently. They are of the view that the opening of worship centers can lead to uncontrolled gathering of people and it may result in further spread of infection. Life is more precious than the religious rituals.

I understand that the teachings of Jesus on spirituality are summarized in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7. I realized that spirituality as presented in the Sermon on the Mount has five major dimensions. They are also the indicators of a spiritual person.

They are 1) Sensitivity and compassion 2) Forgiveness and reconciliation 3) Being satisfied with the minimum 4) humility 4) and 5) creativity. These could be the expressions of the only one commandment Jesus gave his disciples before his death. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13: 34-35).

Five factors that can obstruct spiritual growth are 1) Indifference and insensitivity 2) Hatred and enmity 3) Greed and consumerism 4) Pride and 5) Blind imitation or copying. Unless and until a person liberates himself/herself from these debilitating tendencies one cannot become a spiritual person and a genuine follower of Jesus.

What the world is witnessing during the spread of corona virus is an explosion of compassion, empathy and sensitivity. Through various parables Jesus explained unambiguously that the essence of spirituality is seeing God in other human beings and responding positively to the needs of others.

Three parables: Good Samaritan, Lazarus and the Rich Man, and Last Judgement explain unequivocally that a spiritual person is the one who is able to perceive God in the needy human beings. Anything detrimental to the health and life of human beings is definitely against spirituality.

There are no hard and fast rules regarding the means for spiritual growth. As individuals are unique, each individual can have his own means. The most effective means Jesus adopted for spiritual growth was contemplation and review of life.

Shiksha Malhotra contemplated about the marvellous sacrifice her mother made for saving her from a perilous disease and it propelled her to suspend the very promising profession of a movie star and opt for the highly risky task of a nurse to take care of coronavirus infected patients. Contemplation on his own life in Bombay as a migrant induced and energized Sonu Sood to arrange transportation for thousands of stranded migrants to go home.

Let more and more people contemplate so that streams of compassion and empathy will erupt from them and flow towards the suffering millions.


(Published on 8th June 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 24)