Being at the forefront, trying to save lives from the deadly virus is undoubtedly a daunting job, but a lot of people have been actively putting efforts to extend their support to the needy. Actor Abhishek Banerjee is one of them. He has been using his social media platforms to share relevant information about hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, medicines and ambulances, among other things. Not only this, he joined hands with his friends to help people who are struggling to access basic healthcare facilities.
In a conversation with the Cinema Journal, the casting director-turned-actor opened up on how he stepped up to aid relief efforts.
“As a citizen just like a basic human being I felt that I should do something to help but I did not know the right ways to start helping people...suddenly I started to see on social media people were trying to reach out to influencers or people who can amplify their requests for help and therefore I decided to start helping anyone I can and with the help of my school classmate Vaibhav, we started a small helpline which catered anybody who we knew.
“The first reaction was from the people we knew friends, family, extended family and friends of friends. The cry for help from these people were also high in numbers, so we started a small helpline with five-six volunteers who would work in shifts and we tried to do everything that was in our capacity. We have been somewhat successful with supplying them with oxygen cylinders, concentrators and finding beds... Finding ICU and hospitals have been the most difficult task but yes we have managed to get some of the patients the needful,” Abhishek shared, highlighting how social media is acting as a boon in these hard times.
Even his Twitter account is flooded with posts related to Covid-19 relief. “I think social media is being used the way it has never been used before. Problem with social media is that it is always used for self-gratification. But this time around, in the time of this crisis, people are actually using it to help other people in need. So, suddenly from a ‘selfish medium’ it has become a selfless medium. I am happy to see people coming out and trying to help whoever they can,” he pointed out.
But this is, of course, not fool-proof. “Of course, it also has a disadvantage where people can share their information, which are not verified and just do it for the trend. But that must be the 10 per cent of them, the rest 90 per cent are trying to help and are doing it with their goodwill, and this is something to be happy about and maybe this trend continues post pandemic or post crisis too,” he explained.
Abhishek also pledged to donate to a non-profit organisation, Swasth. “It is basically a not-for-profit initiative that aims to leverage the country's proven clinical capabilities and technology prowess to focus on a large segment of population that does not have access to convenient, affordable and quality healthcare. It is helping set up the backbone for digital healthcare delivery in India,” he added.
However, while trying to help others, there are times when it gets frustrating. It is a road filled with roadblocks and one often feels helpless and the Paatal Lok actor said, “There have been many cases, which made us feel helpless — especially with finding ICU beds in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and other cities in North India. It's always been an uphill task. In fact we tried to call the local ministers, the local administrates... but hardly got any help.”
He recalled one such case that happened recently, which has left him quite shaken. “It was my friend's mother. I remember my friend calling me at 11 in the night... She was nervous and crying and said that her mother's oxygen levels are dropping drastically. We had to find an ICU or an oxygen bed for her. At 11 pm I started making calls and I know somebody in Delhi who is well connected. So, my first call was to him and the reply I got from him was that Delhi is dead. That shook me and scared me. He was hopeless and helpless; and this is somebody who is really one of the most connected sources I have of the powerful people in Delhi. I still tried to make as many calls as possible, my volunteers, the entire team started checking the verifying leads. We kept trying. But when we eventually found an ICU and I called my friend, she informed that her mother was no more,” Abhishek recalled.
The demise of his friend's mother made Abhishek understand the real impact of Covid on the society. “It took an hour for somebody to lose their life and all of us who were connected to different powerful people could not be of any help. That showed the helplessness that we as a society are facing. We have had more cases where we have not been able to help. Losing patients have become a regular thing now. But we have to move and put the same amount of effort and try to save the next patient,” Abhishek concluded.