Succour and Support All the Way

IC Correspondent IC Correspondent
10 May 2021

Kucch baat hein ki hasti mittee nahi hamari; sadiyon raha hai dushman daure zanan hamara (There is something great about us; for the enemies have come over the ages and yet we are not destroyed).

These lines from Sare jehan se aacha writer Urdu poet Allama Iqbal is about Hindustan, India, and essentially about her people. In the times of Pandemic, the second wave of which is ravaging India, it’s this innate goodness among the people of this land that keeps us going even in the face of an existential threat. While Covid-19 is leaving a brutal trail of death and destruction all around us, there are also heroes among us who are giving hope and keeping our faith in human spirit alive.

The stories of kindness and empathy are flowing in from all states; young men and women are standing up to the threat of the virus and managing to help the needy, especially since this disease involves isolation and segregation. People, at individual or institutional level, are providing succour to one and all – from the life-saving oxygen to delivering food to those living in isolation and lonely elderly people who have nobody to help them to beggars on the streets; they are all giving us strength and hope. Mosques and temple complexes have been converted into Covid-19 care centres and their management is looking after all arrangements for the inmates.

Covid-19 is becoming a great leveller of people in times of growing divides on the basis of religion and caste. It’s not only the rich and super rich who are opening their wallets to help governments and the people to tide over the crisis, even the common man living with limited means are chipping in to save lives and help those suffering in isolation by providing food, burying and cremating the Covid-dead, whose blood relatives are either sick or too scared to touch them for fear of contracting the disease; home delivering medicines, oxygen cylinder, food etc.

There are lakhs of Covid warriors helping humans to survive and living in hope of a better tomorrow in this crisis. Let’s look at some of these stories:

Oxygen Langar

Feeding people is the greatest service in Sikhism. The first time visitors to a gurdwara often break down on seeing the humility displayed by the volunteer sevadars while serving them langar or taking care of the shoes at the entry. Partaking food at langars is a transformative experience for many. However, in Covid times, a Gurdwara in Indirapuram, a modern-day locality of Ghaziabad bordering Delhi, started an ‘oxygen langar’ making hundreds of distressed people with their falling oxygen levels get a new life. 

Today, this idea has caught up with many other Gurdwaras across India and many of these are even running Covid centres and free dialysis units but the initial mover has left such deep impressions on people. Ravi Kumar, a resident of Vaishali, said his oxygen levels were falling when his son drove him to Indirapuram Gurdwara. There a sevadar promptly carried an oxygen cylinder to his car; he could inhale oxygen and quickly felt better. The roads were all full of cars and autorickshaws with patients like him. “I am waiting for this trouble to be over to visit the Gurdwara and pay my obeisance. The place saved many lives,” Ravi told Indian Currents in a choked voice.

The spirit of helping others can be so infectious. Shadam, a vendor who sells fresh coconut water outside the Gurdwara, too decided to help the Covid patients by not accepting money from many distressed patients for a day. His story was shared by a netizen on Twitter.

Giving Dignity to the dead

In Hyderabad, a group of Muslim youths has so far performed the last rites of more than 1,600 Covid-dead. These bodies were of either orphans or those whose families were too scared to touch and carry them for their last journey. Leader of this group Syed Jalaluddin Zafar says initially the group of 160-volunteers was into burying the Muslims. One day there was a call for helping a migrant labourer whose wife was left alone to cremate him. With this experience, the group started accepting calls for burials of Christians and the cremation of Hindus and Sikhs.

Giving support

Bhavana Pandita, a homemaker living in the Vaishali area of Ghaziabad, was moved to help others after her sister and her family including a four-year-old child had to be isolated after the couple tested Covid positive. They lived in the same neighbourhood and yet Bhavana couldn’t visit them. “I would cook and provide them food and medicines and all the possible help,” Bhawana said. Then she realized that there must be thousands of such families who would need help. 

She sent a message to the people she knew through her WhatsApp groups asking them to give her contact to anyone requiring home-cooked food during Covid. Though she supplied food to some, her effort ended up cobbling a group of volunteers who have been relentlessly helping people with logistics, checking with elderly and lonely people, speaking to those in panic. “I have no idea how we became a big group.” She says at times children living in other cities have called her requesting her to check on their aged parents who have either fallen sick or are alone without a maid to help them or buy medicines.

In Sholapur, Maharashtra

In Sholapur, Maharashtra, Cardiologist Syed Amjad Bashir inaugurated his newly finished 35-bed hospital for Covid patients. The patients are charged nominal fees in the hospital with a staff of 20 doctors and paramedics. Amjad Bashir is a well-known cardiologist in the town and he had put all his savings into building his own hospital.

Dr Amjad says, "We all are aware of the growing cases of Covid patients needing hospitalisation. We see patients are suffering and crying for treatment and their families are running from pillar to post for beds.” He was perturbed to see the situation and decided to open his hospital for the patients. He explains, "Keeping in mind the problems of Covid victims, I decided to start a Covid care centre in my hospital. I immediately sought permission from local authorities.”

Javed Bhai in Bhopal

It’s not only people with big money and resources who are opening their hearts and purse strings for the Covid-19 affected people, even those with scanty means but a large heart are doing their bit to help others. Take, for example, autorickshaw owner-cum-driver Javed Khan of Bhopal. While driving his vehicle he would see people taking seriously-ill Covid patients in autorickshaws, bicycles or even a pushcart. He was so distressed to see these scenes and decided to be of help. He simply converted his autorickshaw into a makeshift ambulance.

Each day he leaves home in the morning in search of people carrying patients without an ambulance and offers them a comfortable ride free of charge. His autorickshaw has a sanitiser and an oxygen cylinder gifted by a philanthropist to give quick relief to patients with low oxygen levels in the blood.

How does Javed manage his home without earning from his autorickshaw? Javed says he is able to manage with his savings and after selling jewellery of his wife. “It’s alright; I will earn all my life but if I don’t help others at this juncture, I will never be able to live in peace.”

Mother-son serve food

On social media platforms, Humans of Bombay shared the story of Harsh Mandavia and his mother Heena Mandavia who fed over 22,000 meals, 55,000 rotis and 6,000 homemade sweets during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in Mumbai.

The mother-son duo own an eatery called Harsh Thali and Parantha, have come up in life the hard way. Harsh was four years old when he lost his father in a car crash. Heena initially started her tiffin service and gradually set up her own business of food. When the business did well, they tried to pay back to the people who had helped them raise the initial capital. The generous donors refused to take the money and instead asked Harsh to help others with the money. With this experience, Harsh gave a call out on social media for feeding people who are without food. He says cash flowed in and he is able to feed people in the streets, in hospitals etc. Sometimes people ask him why he is risking his life for strangers. Harsh knows but for others’ help, he could have been in the position of these ‘strangers.’ Their story has gone viral on social media networks.

Delhi Cop

It’s so rare to see a policeman help in the way ASI Rakesh Kumar of Delhi Police has been doing in Covid-19 pandemic. He has been performing the last rites of unclaimed bodies of Covid-19 victims and others at the Capital’s Lodhi Crematorium while performing his duty.

Since April 13, Kumar had performed last rites of more than 50 bodies and assisted in the cremation of at least 1,100 bodies. Kumar, posted at Hazrat Nizamuddin police station, even postponed his daughter's wedding for his mission.

"Delhi Police ASI Rakesh, 56-year old, father of 3, lives in PS Nizamuddin barrack. On duty at Lodhi Road crematorium since 13 April, has helped over 1100 last rites, himself lit pyre for over 50. Postponed daughter's marriage to attend to Covid duties," Delhi Police wrote on its Twitter handle.

"I have helped nearly 1,100 people. I have taken both shots of vaccines and taking all precautions. I have postponed my daughter's marriage to help people here," Kumar said.

In Mumbai, police have been paying Rs 500 to an old lady flower seller who refused to leave her post in the Covid curfew and told police she has nothing to live off if she doesn’t sell flowers daily. All the policemen of the station have been pooling the money to support the woman ever since.

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