Responsibility and Distancing in the Times of Corona

By Sritama Bhattacharyya

Before I begin writing this, I need to admit that I feel a certain degree of responsibility — the kind that one feels when they have to narrate, on someone else’s behalf, events that they are not directly involved with. We have been taught that any piece of writing should not begin with a note of self-doubt. I choose to begin by unlearning, then. In this article, I am going to write about a few initiatives I stumbled upon in the recent past which made me feel hope, a lot of hope.

It started with Soumyadipto Raychowdhury, who is an employee in the private sector, posting a message in different social media platforms offering help to the senior citizens during the days of lockdown near the Airport, Lake Town and Kalindi area. These are trying times. These are times when we wake up to people in power claiming that the elderly should die of COVID19 for the sake of a healthy stock market (yes, we are talking about Dan Patrick here). It is extremely important during times like these for someone like Soumyadipto to exist.

He, however, is not alone in this. Sayak Ghosh, a theatre practitioner and activist, also offered to extend his help to senior citizens living in South Kolkata. I asked Sayak what safety measures he would be taking if anyone needed his help. Apart from wearing the mask, they are frequently disinfecting themselves and the things they are handing over to the senior citizens, says Sayak. I asked Sayak what motivated him to offer his services when the city is being locked down. He said, unlike many countries, our population doesn’t permit the State to reach door-to-door with food and medicines. He goes on to talk about his mother who is a senior citizen and she would have needed help if he wasn’t around, so he wanted to reach out to as many people as he could within his ambit.

I asked the same set of questions to Teerna Bhattacharya, who wanted me to introduce her as a ‘conscious citizen’ in this article as opposed to a social worker. She says- ” I am doing no social work, just trying to spread the awareness and message that no one is alone… This situation demands no physical but a lot of psychological togetherness. I felt it. I am trying to spread it.” Teerna has extended her help to the people living in and around Dumdum.

This article also brings me to talk about another incredible initiative by a group of students, scholars and alumni of Jadavpur University who have been working to provide hand sanitizers, masks for essential service workers, sanitation and healthcare workers, and the poor. I got in touch with Hindol Mazumdar, a Research Scholar who, along with his friends, has prepared about 150 litres of hand sanitizer solution. It is a non-profit initiative running solely on donations. Satyaki Majumdar, a student of Jadavpur University, breaks down the ingredients for us: Isopropyl Alcohol, glycerine and peroxide. They have been distributing the solution to the traffic police, University guards, staff members, in the slum areas and to the sellers in the local markets. I asked them the same question about the precautions they are taking for themselves and others. Hindol assured me that they have been abiding by the guidelines of WHO, avoiding gatherings, using masks and are sanitizing themselves frequently.

My country is going through a very difficult time right now. The world at large is. Our lives, as we know them, have been changing with each new update on the spreading virus. All we have, is one another. All we have in the form of hope, is the kindness of strangers and– as Teerna would explain it– psychological togetherness. 

You can donate to help the activists continue their work using the following credentials:
Name: SATYAKI MAJUMDAR
SBI ACCOUNT NUMBER: 39080199422
IFSC: SBIN0011541
GooglePay Number: 8335809029

UPI ID: jhunkism@okicici

Sritama is a High School teacher and a Research Scholar.

To the people who have been mentioned in the article: We apologize if any of these narratives fail to represent what you stand for. Please write to us if you notice any discrepancies at letters@timesofcorona.com and we will make necessary corrections.

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