I believe if we want to help, we can help even one person and fulfil our duty. और पता है क्या, मुझे ना नींद बहुत अच्छी आती है.
I have worked with multiple social initiatives, but the scenario has never been this desperate as witnessed during the pandemic. I am from Deoria, UP, and I came down to Mumbai in early 2020. When the lockdown was announced, I sensed the widespread panic it caused. For weeks, I was hesitant to walk out of the house. However, with the lockdown extending, the situation kept getting worse on the ground and I became aware of Khaanachahiye s food drives through Ruben with whom I had worked in Jagriti Yatra.
The first initiative I participated in was a food distribution drive in Ghatkopar. After which I volunteered for the western express drive. On the Goregaon to Dahisar express route, we distributed 500 meals daily from June to September 2020 serving the homeless and the absolute needy with cooked meal packets.
I also volunteered with the 'Migrant Transit' Drives at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus when migrant workers and their families from all over Mumbai and surrounding areas were heading back home. That experience was like a horror movie playing out in real-time. Besides sharing the food we did what we can to help our friends in transit. I remember once helping a mother reunite with her child who was in the last compartment of the train while she was in the first. Hearing their stories made me realise the hardships they had to face before they decided to exit the city. The situation was chaotic and depressing
Being a part of KC, I have witnessed the misfortunes the pandemic has bought. Post the 1st lockdown, I started working with KCs Hunger Map Project in which we started mapping clusters in the city where there is demand for food. Hundreds of volunteers worked for weeks to map the city. We also ran food drives called 'Sunday for Mumbai' as part of this exercise.
My work on the ground enables us to find genuine beneficiaries who need support and help them. During the floods this time, I was able to reach various communities stuck in a desperate situation both in Mumbai and in the Konkan Region
Working for KC, I have realised the difference between our perception and the ground reality in terms of hunger and poverty. In Palghar, I have come across families who do not even own chappals. I have seen families with houses so small, they sleep in the house in shifts
I interact with our beneficiaries regularly. Sometimes, it is overwhelming learning their stories and knowing that we can only provide limited support. Once, while distributing food in Cuffe Parade, an old man came to me and said: “आप हमारे भगवान हो”. And these four words still echo in my ears and make me realize there is no service higher than this. Even if we can't solve all their problems, we can make sure they are not hungry. We have to take the first step. There is no one else.
My fellow volunteers inspire me immensely. They bravely leave their houses to visit the most vulnerable places and serve the most needy. There is no schedule, no holiday when someone is in need. जब फोन आता है, निकल पडते हैं.
Interviewed by Bhavna Patel