Bhopal: Twenty-year-old Rishav Raj Singh lifted his gaze and smiled. Through the window of his rented room, he could see the kites gliding across the afternoon sky. Here and there, he caught the sight of trees standing still on the side of empty roads. He was one of the members of a band of students who were sitting in the room with nothing to do. The corona-induced lockdown kept them indoors.
An elderly couple suddenly came in his sight. They were sitting under a tree and looked hungry and exhausted. At a time when a morsel of fare was in scarcity, Rishav and his band of boys had a few packets of Maggi and a few eggs to quell the wolf in their stomach. Being confined to the room for a couple of days, a strange ennui engulfed them.
He and his friends decided to follow what they had read: Life is ten per cent what happens to you and ninety per cent how you react to react to it. No sooner had Rishav sighted the couple than he conjured up both must have been famished. Scarcely had discussed the incident with others when two members of the band Navneet Kumar Jha and Vishal Yadav packed the Khichhidi (rice mixed with pulses) they had prepared for themselves. They went out and gave it to the hungry couple.
The couple’s lit-up faces gave them a motive to spend the lockdown with. When they were returning home with a glint of pleasure in their eyes, they spotted a colony of estranged families behind the huge but po-faced building of Allahabad Bank. Their ecstasy soon turned into agony. For the first time, they had witnessed so much of pain centered at one locus.
After all, they were in their salad days. Sleepless the night was. They stared at social media posts throughout the night about how some privileged people were distressed by the disease, but happy about having some time to spend with their families. Fatigued, the students, away from home, dropped off to sleep at daybreak. As they woke up, the power of social media struck them.
The next day, when the sky was aglow with the twinkling night lamps, they designed a few posters. The message was: None should sleep hungry. They asked the social media users to contact them if they find such people around them. So began a movement. Being the students of journalism, they know who to reach. They had coughed up the little savings they had. Instead of another packet of Maggi, they snapped up rice, flour, oil and salt.
They found a couple in the neighbouring slums. They were labourers but the lockdown left them jobless. The couple, Pappu and Anu, agreed to cook food in exchange for a menial payment. They wrapped ‘Rotis’ and ‘Aloo Bhaji’ in papers and went to roadside dwellings to feed those living there.
In the meantime, the social media movement had picked up pace. Their flat rang like a clocktower with the calls for help. Those calls were not a hurdle in their way, though. All their savings soon dried up, and they realized if they had some savings, other similar people, too, would have. The social media had played its part, and help came streaming.
The green horns fed over 300 families they had identified in their vicinity, besides helping Pappu and Anu to get more customers for their tiffin service. A member of the group Vishnukant Tiwari says helping the needy helped them survive. The lockdown was being extended, but it failed to quench the fire in their belly.
As twilight fell, those visor-clad boys went to slums and provided as much help as they could to the people there. The tasks they had were so extraordinary that the fright of corona turned into an ordinary affair. A member of the team Jalaj Mishra says God renders troubles, because He knows He has made His children strong enough to fight and pull though.