BHOPAL: The long days of lockdown began. And everything felt gone. The stealthy coronavirus seemed to have stolen into every nook. A librarian Afsana was upset; for, she was unable to provide books to children. On behalf of a voluntary organization, Muskan, Afsana runs a library in Gandhi Nagar in the city.
The lockdown dulled her mornings. On one such morning, she was standing outside her dwelling at Sector 3, Gandhi Nagar. A ten-year-old child ran towards her. He said, “Didi, give me some food. I haven’t had anything for three days.” So hungry was he that his asking for food saddened Afsana. She gave him food.
The child belonged to the Banjara community, a nomadic tribe, from Rajasthan. They flock to Shanti Nagar in Gandhi Nagar every year. They pitch in tents for a few days. The child urged Afsana to visit their tents. She along with her husband went there. The sight they came across wrung their heart — 70 tents were crammed with 1,500 people without food, without water.
Afsana’s means were limited. Yet, that hardly mattered. Afsana contacted the members of Muskan. Immediately after getting her call, the organisation plunged into action. They arranged rations for those people continuously for one and a half months.
As it was the month of Ramzan, Afsana kept fast. Her day began at dawn. She had to go to the tents and other places to ensure that every person got rations. She returned to home for Iftaar, although for a while, and then, again, visited different areas to see whether the people had any problems.
One day, she received a call at 10 pm from a Banjara that, a girl was down with fever. She and her husband rushed to the spot, nearly three km from her house. They gave some medicines to her, but that did not work, as she was weak. The next morning, they took the girl to a hospital. She was found corona-negative. Both of them heaved a sigh of relief.
Water is always in scarcity in Shanti Nagar. The residents, however, provided it to the poor. So, the residents soon ran out of water. She says the government advised people to wash their hands to keep the coronavirus at bay, but there was a scarcity of drinking water. Afsana and other women arranged water tankers but with much difficulty. Her family members advised her not to go out, because she might be afflicted with the disease, but her zeal to help others always kept her spirits high.
She, with the help of Muskan, provided rations, milk, and other items of daily needs to the poor. Other than food and medicines, Muskan also provided clothes.
The tents, those 1, 500 were living in, were made of thin saris through which hot May winds containing dust were passing. Because of a lack of proper clothes, they wore woolens. She ensured they had clothes.
Besides that, she, with the help of Muskan, sent 20 people of the Banjara community to their native places. She says as the virus is yet to die, the battle against the disease will go on. So shall continue her work as long as she is.