Life Lessons During The Pandemic
All Your Worldly Possessions In A Gunny Sack
If you read my previous blog, you would know that I am documenting some events that had an impact on my life during the pandemic, so that I can one day look back on these life experiences.
One of the main events witnessed during the lockdown and the subsequent months was the mass exodus of people from big cities back to the villages. Corporate professionals went back to their hometowns as the Work-From-Home scenario allowed them to work from anywhere and they could save on rents in the bigger cities. However, with the laborers this happened for a different reason – with work at a standstill, they were not able to earn their daily wages to buy food or pay rents. The living conditions amongst the ones in group accommodations did not allow for social distancing, leading to easy spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Thus when the Government opened up transportation for them to return to their hometowns, in Bangalore we witnessed many people flocking to the Police Stations to obtain tickets that allowed them to travel. Buses were arranged to take those with tickets to the train or bus stations from where they started their journey.
Though there was a process put in place to ensure people registered with their Aadhar cards beforehand and were given tokens to come to the station based on the ticket availability, many still came and waited in the hope of getting a ticket sooner. Some just came and parked themselves outside the police station because they had nowhere else to go, having lost their accommodations. All this was happening during the summer which meant the sun was beating down mercilessly. With no proper food and water, hauling all their worldly possession in a bag – their plight was very terrible.
Some Visuals Of The Food Items Collected & Distributed
A few of us got together and decided to help the home-bound workers with whatever we could. A donation drive was organized in our apartment. People generously gave us cooked food packets, water bottles, juices, biscuits, and bread. This was taken to close-by police stations in our area and the surrounding ones in our cars. The police personnel were also helpful in guiding us as to which station had more people so that we could route the food accordingly. They also helped to ensure we were not mobbed and our safety was not compromised.
While we were out volunteering, we all also had responsibilities to ourselves and our families. So I ensured that we were double-masked, had gloves on, and sanitized frequently. A hot shower upon return washed away any germs too. But it did not wash away the heaviness in my heart as this experience taught me many life lessons.
- The basic food, shelter, and water that I took for granted were luxuries for some. One of the things I did immediately after this experience was mindful eating. While I never waste food, when the lockdown started we had started cooking more and multiple varieties as well. This was partly due to the lack of anything else to do during the lockdown and partly because of friends and family sharing pictures of meals. While I do not condemn others, I stopped doing it because I had witnessed first-hand what one small packet of biscuit could mean.
- Helping others does not always leave you feeling good. There were days that I cried at the unfairness of it all on the drive back home, alone in my car. It was emotionally draining, but I focused on the difference (however little) I was able to make, the support of my family, and prayed that we would all get through this. This helped me cope and motivated me to keep working the next day.
- Happiness does not come from possessions or money. I saw people with their entire lives wrapped up in just a gunny sack, having not eaten a proper meal but still with a smile of accomplishment on their face when they got their ticket – happy to be going back home to their loved ones.
- In times of uncertainty, we choose the comfort of familiarity of our family. As I went about with the distribution, I chatted with a few people. When I asked them why they were risking exposure with the travel and that maybe lockdown could ease up soon, they all said the same thing, albeit in different words and languages – we would rather risk and die with our family than stay apart not knowing what the future holds.
- Opportunists do not differentiate. I met people who just came and took the food and water from us. While we did not deny them, it was clear they were not people in need. They were people who still had jobs and just happened to be there. It takes all kinds to make the world go around. Energies should be focused on better causes rather than arguing with such people.
Glimpses From The Distribution & Registration Of The Migrant Workers
We were able to cover close to 3000 people over a week-long period when this transportation was arranged at the police stations. While this seems a very minuscule number., I sincerely hope we really did touch their lives. Many small units of volunteers like us were spread across the city and hopefully, we all contributed in some small way to help the people who build our homes and keep our city clean.
This blog is a salute to all the COVID warriors, including health care workers, volunteers, Government employees from other sectors who pitched in for COVID work, and anyone else who went that extra mile to help somebody else during the pandemic. This is also a sincere apology to those people who went through such unimaginable misery to just get home and be safe with their families – immaterial of the work put in, I still feel we didn’t do enough and that we failed them collectively.