After the news of Corona Virus or COVID-19 broke out in the second half of December’19, hardly anyone seemed serious about it. Nearly seven months down the line and the whole world has come to a standstill. About 7.8 billion people are locked inside their houses, at least who can afford one. The last time (20th July 2020) I checked the novel virus had infected 14,695,003 people and claimed 610,086 lives. India isn’t spared either.
India is currently at the number three spot in the list of countries with the maximum number of COVID-19 cases and for the first time, it would be a list which we won’t be proud of even if we top it. The novel corona virus has unleashed many unprecedented new ‘normal’ in almost every field.
India hadn’t witnessed scenes like this since the partition of 1947. The sea of humanity that migrated was too overwhelming to put it into perspective. Millions of people walking thousands of kilometers, could be unimaginable for you but was a harsh reality for many. What I witnessed on the highways that connected my hometown to the rest of the country was unfathomable. The people kept flowing in flocks. Sleep eluded me with what I witnessed in the news and then what I saw on the roads. I, through my NGO and personal efforts, decided to help them in what all capacity I could. I took all the necessary precautionary measures to keep myself safe and had to be extra careful as I would return home to my mom who is more vulnerable to the virus, given her age, if I became a carrier.
My home is close to the National Highway that connects Lucknow to Kanpur and many migrants chose this route to travel further east towards UP East and Bihar. When I reached the highway, there was a massive crowd of migrants with the local police administration trying to manage a safe passage for them. I had to be quick with my decision-making regarding what all I can contribute and immediately spoke to the local police. They were kind enough to allow me to work without many official formalities after looking at the official documents of my NGO.
I decided to distribute food that can be handed out by avoiding physical contact. Since all the vegetable and fruit shops were closed it was really difficult to procure anything. I got in touch with a school mate of mine. He is into the catering business. He immediately connected me with a vegetable/fruit seller and a water pouches manufacturing plant. For a week, I did this. I would fill the luggage space of my car with bananas and water pouches on alternate turns throughout the day and would distribute on the national highway with properly coordinating with the local police on the ground.
About twenty years back my mother started an NGO, SSKK (Shraddha Shilp Kala Kendra). It was initially established with the aim to provide free education and enhancing skills of poor women so that they can become independent and have a source of income. She would train them in cooking, stitching, making soft toys, painting, etc. Gradually expanding the areas that we could contribute in.
Today, we do regular tree plantations. There is a ‘Kusht Aashram’ (Leprosy Patients Centre) nearby where about 200 patients live. Because of the nature of their disease many people avoid going near them. We make sure we supply them medicines and essential food supplies on a bi-monthly basis. We also organise mass meals for them. I can proudly say that because of my mom and her friend’s effort we have successfully managed to get a couple of underprivileged women married where we took care of the overall cost of the marriage ceremonies.
We are really fortunate that in this journey people are reaching out to us and speak to us about donating to our causes. We have been blessed that we are yet to take any donations and all this work has been self-funded. Moving ahead we are planning to scale up our operations given the nature of the pandemic and how it is impacting each and every life.
No contribution is small. When we come together, these small contributions have the power to make big differences in human lives. I through this piece want to reach out and urge you to come out and support the organisations and NGOs that are working relentlessly in providing and arranging for essentials for the poor and needy. The only way to fight something of this proportion is for all of us to come together. If you have something in mind too, this is the right time to step up and talk about it. We are moving to a more digital world and as bloggers and content creators we have access to social media which is a wonderful place to start conversations that matter. We have the power to be that voice the world needs to hear!