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COVID-19: “It Is Love And Empathy That Enables Us To Survive Such Difficult Times”

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Editor’s Note: This post is a part of #EveryOneCounts, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Save the Children, to spark conversations around how in the fight against the coronavirus, everyone counts, and every voice, every action can make a difference. Join the campaign and publish your story here.

Compassion is probably the most beautiful emotion humans can ever experience. In compassion lies the answer to the biggest of challenges, and strength to tide over any obstacle. Today, the world is faced with an unprecedented crisis and nothing seems to be containing the deadly COVID-19. However, in the middle of this massive crisis, we are also experiencing some great human stories. These are stories of empathy and integrity; these are stories of ‘care’ and ‘compassion’. Here, I’ll tell a story about a forgotten community and its act of selfless kindness, carried out in the most unassuming manner.

I work with an organisation named ‘Koshish’. It’s a field action project by Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and we have interventions in Bihar, Maharashtra and Delhi. This is the story of Lalbagh community at Mansarovar Park in the East Delhi region, where Koshish has been working for the past few years.

There is a settlement of about 300 families, comprising mainly of two communities: Mahavat and Kapadia. While both the communities have been living in the area for well over 40 years, like most homeless groups, they, too, kept getting displaced every few years, moving to nearby areas. Many of these families have been living in their current location for about 15-18 years now. With loss of traditional occupations, the current generation engages in vocations like selling old clothes, lemon-chilli threads, playing drums, or other casual labor work. Most of these people do not receive any entitlement or benefits from the State’s schemes or programmes.

It is this love and empathy our people possess, which enables us to see through all kinds of disasters and difficult times. Representational image.

Almost an invisible group, these people live a highly vulnerable life. They survive on their daily earnings, and therefore have been facing difficulties since the COVID-19 situation arose. The community has been dependent on the relief material provided by voluntary groups. And uncertainty about future work opportunities is only making their situation more vulnerable.

However, this vulnerability and challenging time failed to temper the core that these people are made up of. It is their act of kindness and compassion during this hour of crisis that makes their story an extraordinary one. Two days ago, when our supply of dry ration was supposed to arrive, the person who was coordinating did not inform us on time, and the driver of the tempo that was to bring the ration called my colleague Prem just a few minutes before reaching the area.

The vehicle for which we have a pass was not available, and therefore reaching the area was not possible. He called up our community volunteers and explained to them the situation, asking them to not only receive the ration, but also identify the families in the community that required ration urgently.

In an amazingly beautiful show of empathy, these volunteers, along with the Pradhans of the community, held a quick meeting and decided that instead of distributing the ration in the community, they should distribute it to the families in the nearby areas as they had received the  information that those families did not have anything to eat (We had provided ration in this community 10 days ago, and 3-4 days ago, another voluntary group had come to give them ration, leaving them with ration to last them for another week or so).

These volunteers identified some 50 odd families from the nearby area and invited them to come to the community, turn by turn, giving them the ration packets. There is another settlement nearby with 50 odd families that needed food. The entire ration was distributed to these 100 families without any hesitation; all planned and executed by the community volunteers.

At a time when people are uncertain about their own survival, it would have been only an obvious decision for them to keep the ration for themselves. Instead, they decided to support people who had nothing on them. Isn’t it beautiful? Is this not a valid counter to the popular narrative that is often played for poor people in general and more specifically the homeless?

The knowledge that they would be taken care of, might have played a small role in their decision. But it is solely their compassion and integrity that was instrumental in this.

I believe, more than anything else, it is this love and empathy our people possess, which enables us to see through all kinds of disasters and difficult times. COVID-19 has created an unprecedented crisis, no doubt about it, but our people too have an unmatched ability to care and empathise with others. The coronavirus can never win over this essence of humanity.

It is experiences like these that give hope and confidence for a better world. There can never be a bigger inspiration than these human stories where nothing but kindness forms the core.

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  1. javaid mir

    Dear Author
    Some stories emerging aftermath of CovId 19 are disturbing, be it hoding of Food , non prioritization of Medical equipment s, apathy towards health workers etc. When one is worried about the toll on social fabric and order by those events, the Story of the community you highlighted gives hope. The degree of compassion and empathy among members of this community towards other needy is actually the contribution on account of rationalization of essential resources for survival from pandamic like COVID 19 . To overcome any catastrophic event including current pandamic, the services of community institutions is called upon, the capacity building and proper orientation and selfless behavior is pre-requsite, the volunters you are discussing are the part of that community institution who are equipped with these traits, The stories like these are not only case studies to showcase but they are actually the motivational factors for those developmental worriers, whose morale needs to kept high

  2. javaid mir

    Dear Author
    In this unprecedented situation like COVID 19, there are many dishertning stories comming across, be it like harassment of heath workers, faith based violence, prejudice toward particular communities etc. But the story you are telling is in true sense a motivator and hope. The community you takled about though low at the cost of living and but are high at compassion , empathy and we, feeling. Their act to let the ration go to other most needy instead as they perceive they themselves not out of stock is a perfect lead towards rationalization of food resources which country is striving for. To drive the community on account of basic needs in pandamic like Covid19, requires the community institutions ans humen resources, equipped with skill, selfless behaviour and compassion the volunters you talked about are filling the criteria. The story you are telling is not only a case study to showcase but it is the motivator to those developmental warriors who are on forefront to deal the community and social aspect s of this pandamic
    Hope to listen from you more
    Best of luck

  3. javaid mir

    Dear Author
    In this unprecedented situation like COVID 19, there are many dishertning stories comming across, be it like harassment of health workers, faith based violence, prejudice toward particular communities etc. But the story you are telling is in true sense a motivator and hope. The community you talked about though they seem low at the cost of living but are high at compassion , empathy and we- feeling. Their act to let the ration go to other most needy, as they perceive themselves not out of stock is a perfect lead towards rationalization of food resources which country is striving for. To drive the community on account of basic needs in pandamic like Covid19, requires the community institutions ans humen resources, equipped with skill, selfless behaviour and compassion the volunters you talked about are filling the criteria. The story you are telling is not only a case study to showcase but it is the motivator to those developmental warriors who are on forefront to deal the community and social aspect s of this pandamic
    Hope to listen from you more
    Best of luck

    1. Mohd Tarique

      Thank you so much for the kind words. Am glad you find the story motivating. Yes, as you said, these people are an inspiration, indeed. Lots to learn from them.

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