As we cover the COVID-19 outbreak and the effect it has had on various sectors and communities, we also asked our readers — individuals, citizen groups and RWAs — to explain how they have dealt with the COVID-19 crisis in a constructive manner. In this article, a resident of CR park in Delhi narrates how her community has adapted to challenges of the times, how members of the community are helping each other, how they are reaching out to senior citizens and making sure that everyone comes out of it, together, as a family.
It all started with a WhatsApp group. Or maybe not. But yes, it did start with a bunch of young and not so young women and men, coming together to reach out to the colony elders. Well, not just to this colony’s elders alone, but the neighbouring too. They are also reaching out to the construction workers, to the animals on the roadside. To those in neighbouring Kalkaji, Sangam Vihar, Tughlakabad and a bit beyond.
Subir, a logistics professional heading a company that deals with essential services, has scratched out time from his schedule of Zoom and WhatsApp calls, to be responding to messages that are trickling in. Then there is Sushanta, a biker whose passion is to bike around the country. He runs a chemist shop and a few other enterprises. All that need tending too, especially in these difficult times. But this young man and his 42 friends have been delivering cooked food to the elderly, taking them to hospital for dialysis, reaching them medicines.
Shahana, a special needs therapist and Shomik, a public health professional, through their theatre group Shapno Ekhon, have reached out to the public at large – to the elderly who live alone. Sanjay and his cousin have donated cash for feeding the needy. There are many more like them who have done anonymous donations.
Monami and her band of merry friends feed abandoned animals of neighbouring colonies, as here in CR Park, the street animals and the abandoned are taken good care of. Dogs, cats, cattle and others. Yes, others mean donkeys and horses, who have been abandoned. Amongst the pets, the first casualty were dogs. Well-heeled women and men decided to abandon their pedigreed dogs. Dogs who just sat still in front of their master’s homes lost and nowhere to go. Monami picked them up. Gave them food, love and reassurance and then a home.
Community service: Providing food to hundreds of marginalized people
Then of course the temple committee supplied goods, while the Gurdwara and Police station premises were being used to cook food for hundreds of people. The task is enormous. But the community is at it. Dry ration is being distributed to families as far as 6 km away. Oh yes even more. Some 50 plus kilometres away, a few boys went to provide food to men unable to move out, as they were in an industrial area. Of course, the boys made sure that the local MLA helped out.
The markets are being opened sparsely. Fish is a staple in this part of the city. How can that be got was a query Subir received; and the green saags and different nimboos. Food for bongs is the centre of all conversation. The young ones again rose to the occasion. Home delivery of vegetables and fish has been organized. The list of vendors has been distributed. Now the Bengali soul is happy. Bhaat and jhol for the day is confirmed, accompanied by the afternoon siesta.
Shahana received a call from an elderly. The lady calling was feeling terribly lonely. She just wanted to speak to someone. So, Shahana and her volunteers now call her, quite often. The food home delivery guy has hiked up the price, a complaint that Shomik received from an elderly couple. So, the food vendor had to bear Shomik’s ire. A plumber is needed a message came to Subir at 11:00 pm. Next morning before the municipal water supply arrived at 8:00 pm the plumber had repaired the faulty water pump.
CR park: Living it like a one big ‘family’
Welcome to Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi 110019. A colony in South Delhi which was predominantly established for individuals who had to flee post-partition riots of Bengal. The land that was carved out for them was rocky, Aravallis, with scant green and water. Soon this became a hub of people who made it with grit and determination, up the social ladder, by educating their daughters and sons.
These were also women and men who set up institutions like Chittaranjan Bhavan, Bangiya Samaj, Mahila Samiti with an overarching association called EBDP, Association. With a population of little less than a lakh, in an area of 175 hectares there is an increasing concern amongst the founders of this colony. Here live a syncretic community of Christians. Muslims and Hindus, celebrating each other’s religion.
Those who live here are parents of well-educated children with glowing careers, working in different parts of the world. Many chose to stay single. There are significant numbers of elderly. All live here, happily with help from neighbours and community.
The founders of this colony have delegated their duties well. During these trying times, a network of more than a hundred plus volunteers are reaching out to the community. Well not only now. Sushanta works closely with his friends all the year-round organizing football tournament and helping police during all festivities — help manage crowd, vendors and others. Subir volunteers with Bangiya Samaj, EBDP and a few others. Shahana and Shomik run a project Neighbourhood Diaries that document lives and times of people of C R Park and how the community has grown.
The founders of this colony had dreamt of a community that would be armed with education and culture, setting up various institutions all over Delhi – libraries, schools and colleges, theatre and music schools. Having followed their dream, the Gen Next have made them proud.
Along with education and culture the community has been able to successfully build a society nurtured with love, care and compassion. What else should a community look for?
Yes COVID-19 has created many happy stories of love and compassion. May many a more such stories evolve. Here VC no longer means Venture Capitalist but Video Conferencing where people want to look into each-others’ faces and speak.
As Tagore had said ‘Koto ajaanare janaile tumi, koto ghore dile thnaai / Door ke koriley nikot bondhu, por ke korile bhai’ – Friend, you have embraced the unknown and created a bond of brotherhood, love and compassion.