Dr. Deepti Naik

I didn’t think much of the fact that I was a newbie in the city. I just took my car and, with the help of a fellow volunteer and Google maps, started distributing food to the needy, five days a week.

I hail from a family of doctors from a villagecalled Baghera, in Chattisgarh. After my MD in Radiology, I worked forfourteen years as a consultant Radiologist in Bangalore. I moved to Mumbai onlyfour months back and started working at a clinic in Marine Lines.As the lockdown began, I had to cut down my work to only two days aweek. When I was looking for ways to utilize my time, I came across Khaanachahiye.I didn’t think much of the fact that I was a newbiein the city. I just took my car and, with the help of afellow volunteer and Google maps, started distributing foodto the needy, five days a week.

At the end of my first day, a few food packets wereleft with me. Instead of taking it back to the kitchen, I thought ofdistributing it in a slum nearby. I googled and found out that there was a slumin this place called Wadala. While distributing the food, I ended upchatting with a few people. Most of them were happywith the cooked food that we were serving, but someof them wanted ration. Khaanachahiye hadn’t started rationdistribution by then. So I bought ration for around fifty families from a kirana storein the locality. I continued with my distribution-roundsfor the next few days.

Things were going smooth, until April 2nd when I was suddenlydown with fever and chills. Something told me this wasn’t a good sign. When itdidn’t subside for the next few days, I gave my blood for testing forMalaria and Dengue. Two days later, the results came, and both werenegative. My WBC count was only 500. That confirmed my worst fears. I requestedfor COVID1-19 testing the same day and began treatment withHydroxychloroquine immediately. After giving throat swabs, I nervouslyawaited the results - The worst 24 hours of my life.All the instances when I could have caught the infectionflashed before me. The images of my time in the slum inWadala were particularly haunting. Did I let too many people come near me? Howmany of them were wearing masks? Did anyone cough? I was alone in anew city. How would I handle this emergency, with all my friends and family faraway? Most of all, I was worried when I will be able to see my thirteen-year-olddaughter, who was in Chattisgarh, thousands of miles away.

My COVID result came on April 9th. It was negative. Uff…I’m not joking, I cried. I am a doctor, and I know that COVID-19 is not asfatal as other ailments. I feel stupid thinking about it now, but I couldn’thelp. I cried my heart out. The same day, I went to a supermarketnearby, bought loads of groceries, and treated myself to my favorite dish.

The next day, I wanted to get back to food distribution.But the team at khaanachahiye insisted that I take the nextfew days off. I returned to my route next week.

“Weren’t you afraid to go back to food distribution after yourexperience?”

I don’t know why, but I wasn’t afraid. In fact, while confinedto my home for one week, I felt extremely uncomfortable, as if I was in my ownsafe lacuna while the rest of the city was ailing. It’sfunny, right? I was just four months old in this city, but I was alreadyfeeling attached.

Of course, when I went back, I took extra precautions. Not thatI wasn’t careful earlier. Masks, gloves, sanitizer, etc. are a must whilevolunteering for khaanachahiye. But I started taking even smallprecautions seriously - Like always tying my hair andwearing the visor at all times.

I am thankful to my friends and family for the supportthat they gave me. Particularly my eldest sister, who worksin the COVID-19 contact tracing team in Ahmedabad. She helpedassure the rest of my family that I was safe. And my daughter too.She has been so strong and encouraging, especially during those trying times.She is an expert on COVID-19 now. She even gave a presentation in her school onprecautions to be taken against COVID-19. I’m so proud of her. I have bookedtickets for May 4th to meet her. But I don’t think domestic travel from Mumbaiwill be allowed by then. Hopefully, my city will recover soon, and I will getto see my daughter again.

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Khaana Chahiye Foundation is a
non-profit organization based in Mumbai. It aims to combat the issue of hunger through relief efforts and advocacy initiatives. The organization started as a relief operation during the Covid-19 lockdown in Mumbai and became one of the most extensive crisis management operations in the city.

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