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The corona warriors

Life is so uncertain and every minute that we breathe is a miracle, because we escape from so many dangers that could snatch our lives! During the pandemic, this thought has only got strengthened. If I am well, I am blessed and lucky so far. I don’t know what destiny has in store for me! When I read about the past pandemic which occurred a 100 years ago, it is chilling that life continued after that and we are all alive and kicking! If at all we survive the present pandemic, we have millions of stories to tell!

Just today, I happened to watch a Tamil talk show and I was stunned to hear the heart-wrenching experiences of a few people. I liked the theme of the show, which had brought in COVID-19 survivors and the people who helped them most in those hours of crises.

An old woman shared her experience of near-death and was so thankful to the youngsters who have been serving patients suffering from breathlessness by giving them oxygen support in autorickshaws, which they have stationed at various strategic places around the city, until they get beds in hospitals. These youngsters, most of them law graduates, have been living on the roads for the past 45 days! This is just one story. There were so many other living gods, who have saved so many lives during the last few months, stepping in with their own simple projects.

One woman, who lost her mother as she could not get oxygen support on time, formed a trust immediately after that, started supplying oxygen to patients arriving at General Hospital, Chennai, until they could safely get admitted to the hospital. A Sikh gentleman has been supplying free oxygen cylinders to needy patients.

The most touching story was of the male nurse who risked his own life to enter a neonatal ICU to save 47 newborn babies from a fire that had broken out from the AC. Though he is an asthma patient, he could not stop himself from breaking the window, carrying 20-kg extinguishers on his shoulders and putting out the raging fire, because he remembered his own tiny children back home and understood the anguish of the wailing mothers outside the ICU. “I knew my end was closer because the billowing smoke was just too much for my congested lungs but I trusted that my children would be safely taken care of by my wife, who too is a nurse and decided to risk my life for the call of my duty as a nurse. I am fortunately alive after spending six days in the ICU after that. I am so happy that I could save all the 47 children and my children will be proud of their father forever.”

Then the Muslim taxidriver, who drove all over Chennai with a Hindu woman struggling with breathlessness for four or five hours at night until he could find a bed for her. “I could not even thank him properly. When I offered him extra money, he did not accept and took only the rightful fare. After I got discharged, I kept trying to contact him but he never responded. He is my god who saved my life and I am ever thankful to him,” said the woman with tears.

A poor auto driver, who is running free ambulance service for COVID- affected, another poor gentleman, who has been feeding hundreds of needy people who have lost their livelihood, the dedicated doctor who continued to serve his patients, despite the fact that all members of his family were admitted to different hospitals of the city with COVID infection, the duty-conscious nurses of the general hospitals, who risk their own lives and have been attending on COVID patients day and night, leaving their young ones back home and so many more! Many of them said how the pandemic had erased so many of their preconceived notions such as “government hospitals are unhygienic, service is bad, government employees are kamchors , greedy and selfish, politicians are all selfish and inhuman, people generally are self-centred and mean, only the wealthy can do social service, media will cover only such stories where celebrities are involved.” At the end of the show, my eyes were blurred with tears!

These are just a very small sample of what is going on around the world. These few unsung heroes have already become celebrities in Tamil Nadu. But I wanted them to be known to a bigger audience.

Here in Bangalore, my own friend Mansoor has been doing amazing work with total dedication. Just today, he told me that he and a couple of his friends spent the last three days with a 19-year-old girl totally devastated, as within a span of a week she has lost her parents (who died of heart attack on losing their sons) and her two brothers (one of them died of COVID and the other one in a road accident on the same day). How can life be so cruel? “Do you think somebody is designing and executing all this drama? Just accept the ways of the universe and go by the flow,” my son says.

Just last week Mansoor helped admit a 22-year-old young mother of two toddlers who attempted suicide due to domestic violence but survived as a vegetable, to a shelter, as her poor family could not afford to take care of her in their small hut. Unfortunately, she died three days after that.

Mansoor shifted a bunch of destitute people from the shelter when they were afflicted with COVID to the triage centre run by SAHYOG (of which he is a trustee), got them treated and shifted them back safely, shifted tens of destitute people from the roads to shelters during the last one year, fed thousands of needy people through the community kitchens that he supported through various generous NGOs and donors, supplied food to hundreds of patients in quarantine at homes and also homeless people in public spaces, placed 64 helpless sex-workers, who became homeless due the pandemic, in various shelters and so many more such deeds.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has suggested that the doctors who have been serving selflessly during the pandemic have to be honoured with the Bharat Ratna. Now, how many awards will you give? Whom will you select out of these millions of selfless COVID warriors? Every warrior is a god — right from the corporation sweepers, the police personnel, the traders who have been feeding us non-stop with milk, meat, groceries, vegetables and fruits, the bank employees and staff of government departments, who have not stopped working, the media personnel who have been keeping us informed, the transporters, drivers, conductors, the hospital support staff, the nurses and of course the doctors and politicians, who have been on the field continuously and so many more. Many of them have lost lives or have lost their kith and kin but have moved on undaunted, in the service of society.

wordsofsudha@gmail.com


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Printable version | Aug 24, 2022 7:24:46 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-corona-warriors/article35650987.ece