People reach out to the elderly in Kolkata

Volunteers bring them medicines, groceries, even provide emotional support

While most people are spending the lockdown by reading and sharing COVID-19-related WhatsApp forwards, a small number of people in Kolkata are utilising the time to reach medicines and essential supplies to the elderly confined to their homes.

Take Debayan Datta, for example. Even before the lockdown was announced in Kolkata, he put a post on Facebook saying something should be done for the senior citizens living alone. Within hours, he was anchoring a WhatsApp group of about 80 people called ‘Let’s Help’, each one of them volunteering to help in some way or the other.

“On an average we are reaching medicines and groceries to five or six houses in a day. Volunteers are functioning in their respective neighbourhoods,” Mr. Datta, who works with the hospitality industry, told The Hindu. “The idea came to me because I too worry about my elderly mother when I am travelling — I can relate to the plight of those who are unable to visit their parents [because of the lockdown].”

On Tuesday, ex-banker Mohammad Nehal and his lawyer friend Syed Ehtisham Huda also began a similar service. “I have already received some 25 calls, they are all on behalf of the elderly who need life-saving drugs,” said Mr. Nehal, even as he shopped for medicines at a store in South City Mall. He also put up a Facebook post calling for volunteers for this “humanity-first initiative”.

During such as unprecedented lockdown, help, sometimes, is not just about reaching essentials to the needy.

Luna Chatterjee, a brand strategist who is part of the Let’s Help group, has been assigned to stay in touch with an elderly couple, just to assure them that they are not alone.

“They are total strangers — they are the parents of a friend’s friend who lives abroad — but I call them every day to let them know we are around. Such people don’t just need essential supplies, they also need people to talk to,” said Ms. Chatterjee.

Sometimes, emergency situations are unprecedented in nature. “The other day we got to know of an elderly man living alone with four cats,” said Ms. Chatterjee. “His neighbours had poisoned the cats. People instantly reached out to him and guided him to the veterinary hospital. The vets, unfortunately, could save only two cats.”

The Kolkata police and the municipal corporation too are circulating messages on social media, offering help to Kolkatans who live abroad but have relatives back home.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 3:49:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/people-reach-out-to-the-elderly-in-kolkata/article31157000.ece

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