LOCKDOWN LOOK BACK: ‘You don’t require money to help people, you need strong will’

Bhopal: “Hey watch it!” Rashida said as she pushed past a cop to squeeze onto the packed Shramik Express. That train carrying hundreds of migrant workers stopped at Arif Nagar, on the outskirts of the Bhopal railway station.

The policeman looked aggressively at Rashida. Carrying two buckets filled with pouches of water and streaming with perspiration, she had barely any time to react to the cop.

Rashida had to distribute those water pouches among the migrant workers who were hungry and thirsty; besides the corona-induced lockdown had rendered them jobless.

It was May, 2020, and the sky was raining fire. The asphalt roads in the city were melting. To arrest the number of corona cases, a curfew was clamped on the state capital. The children of the workers on the train were crying because of hunger and thirst. Their hapless parents were looking through window at the deserted Arif Nagar.

Everyone remained indoors, partly because of the extreme heat, partly because of the lockdown. Yet, poor Rashida and her husband Wasif were out of their shanty to quench the thirst of the train passengers.

This was the reason why no sooner had the train halted than she rushed there. She began to distribute water and food among the passengers.

As both Rashida and her husband Wasif are daily wage earners, their means were limited. And because of the lockdown, they had little earnings.

Rashida says she could not bear the cries of the children, as they remained hungry for several days.

She says helping others does not require money but the grace of God. The couple ekes out a living by doing odd jobs. That had hardly anything to do with their will to serve the needy.

The couple had spent the little amount of money they had. Yet the blessings they got from the unknown migrant workers and their children filled their heart with joy.

Rashida says as the children were crying their parents were looking helplessly through the windows of the train.

She says she began to give water to the migrant workers travelling on trains by refilling their water bottles, besides giving them water pouches.

One day, while she was distributing water the cries of a little child tore her heart apart.

As soon as the mother told the child was hungry, she rushed to her home. She brought a little Tahri (rice) she had cooked for herself and fed the child.

That incident made Rashida spend a sleepless night. She reeled off the story to her husband who understood her pangs and was ready to stand by her.

They had a pack of rice that they had received from an NGO. The next morning, Wasif brought some wooden logs from a nearby area.

Then they borrowed some pots and pans from neighbours and cooked ‘Tahri’ for the migrant workers.

As their neighbours came to know about their yarn, they contributed some vegetables that the couple added to the rice they were cooking.

Rashida says their work attracted many others. Help began to pour in. Because of the help from many people, they distributed nearly 250 packets of food and more than 300 pouches of water among the workers. As aid came streaming the couple set up eight community kitchens and worked round the clock to keep the scullery fires burning. Rashida says that showed how the blessings of God had turned a drop of water into an ocean. Now that there was no dearth of essential commodities, the couple, along with their neighbours, fed not only the train passengers but also the slum dwellers. They were also starving because of the scarcity of essential commodities.

She says setting up a community kitchen was difficult, but all the barriers fell by the grace of God.

Rashida says, “We were never disappointed.”

She says though corona lockdown was a dreadful experience it gave her a chance to serve people; else, she could not have done that.

Rashida who has no formal education then sums up: “They say a cat has nine lives. If I were a cat, I would have spent those nine lives of mine to serve the needy.” Her eyes streamed tears of joy.

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