Tisca Chopra is one of the frontrunners among the Bollywood brigade who has been helping people during the pandemic. She has been leaving no stone unturned to make sure that no one sleeps hungry through her initiative, Tisca’s Table. She recently partnered with Chef Vikas Khanna’s Feed India and India Gate to maximise her Covid relief efforts. Not just this, Tisca is also a part of #IndiaForMothers to help widows and transgenders in these trying times.
Speaking about #IndiaForMothers, Tisca says, “Vikas Khanna and team India Gate have been doing great work since the onset of the pandemic last year. When they approached me for #IndiaForMothers to support widows and transgenders in India, who have lost their livelihood due to the pandemic, it was an instant yes from me. These mothers are not just nurturers, but also providers and many have been left jobless and even homeless in the past one year. Similarly, the transgender community is also in need. Many are currently unemployed and in desperate need of support. The on-ground work for this initiative was on for weeks, but we chose to announce the campaign on Mother’s Day as it seemed symbolic to do so. We will have supplies reaching out to mothers in Vrindavan, Varanasi, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore soon.”
Talking about collaborating with Chef Vikas Khanna, Tisca says, “Food is the most basic need, and the pandemic has been brutal for daily wage earners. I can’t think of a better way to be of assistance than offer food, at least the family will be fed. Vikas Khanna’s Feed India and India Gate have really been at it from the last lockdown. I couldn’t have asked for better partners!”
The actor further reveals how she reinvented her initiative, Tisca’s Table, for the pandemic and the role it's playing in #IndiaForMothers initiative. “Tisca’s Table is a monthly table where we bring creative minds to facilitate conversations. We have been doing this since last year with a table at ITC Grand Maratha and another at Indian Accent Delhi. We reinvented the Table for the pandemic seeing that it is what is most needed right now. It started with us sending out food to nurses and ward boys at Covid wards at Nanavati and Cooper hospitals. Now we have started sending food to the transgender community, widows and mothers who are unable to work at this point.”
Tisca Chopra says she also has plans of finding employment for these women. “For now, it is food, but my team is also working on some ideas for employment. But it’s early days yet.”
Apart from the daily wage earner and migrant workers, marginalised communities like the LGBTQ have also been severely affected by the pandemic. Talking of taboos around transgenders, Tisca says, “Despite progress in the approach towards the LGBTQ community and inclusion at all levels, much work still remains to be done to bring them into the mainstream. I hope that some of our work can help the community and give them at least food on the table for now. I think by respecting differences in each individual, we can help transgender people live lives filled with dignity and satisfaction,” Tisca Chopra adds while talking about the steps that need to be taken to get the taboo off people's minds.
And, Tisca is not alone in her endeavour. She has helping hands in her parents. “They are educationists and are very aware of the danger of stepping out. But, when they heard of this initiative they were keen on being a part...I can’t stop them, that is the kind of people they are and I am proud of them. We follow all safety protocols. ”
Last month, Tisca's family tested positive, and despite having symptoms, the actor had tested negative. But, that hasn't hampered her spirits. “My whole family had Covid. We are now antibody-rich,” says the actor who is not letting her guards down yet. “We are wearing a mask, not going out unless needed, and maintaining social distancing while stepping out for food distribution,” she says.
Lack of infrastructure, education, and preparedness for disasters... all these need a long hard look. It’s not like we are short of oxygen or food or manpower, what we were short of is political will and vision.
Currently, her work is concentrated in the metros. But, the actor is trying to reach out to rural areas as well. “We are aligning with a few corporates and NGOs to see how we can make things possible. But rural areas and small towns are a real challenge at this point. We have no ready answers,” she says.
Even after doing good work, celebs often become soft targets and are criticised for either not doing enough, or showing off their good work. “I think people can see the intention of any person. Social media has made things clearer — your voice goes straight to your audience. They know who they can and can’t trust. It’s been my experience that they love the honesty of one’s intentions. One may not always deliver 100 per cent, but they love you even for trying hard,” Tisca adds.
The actor is known for not mincing her words; ask her about her thoughts on the state and central governments' efforts to help and protect people during the second wave and she says, “It’s been too little, too late. India is not an easy country — there are deep fault lines that become clearer at times like these. Lack of infrastructure, education, and preparedness for disasters... all these need a long hard look. The loss of life and the stress the people of the country have gone through could have been avoided had there been a Covid Think Tank made up of scientists, doctors, logisticians and economists who could have planned for a better response to the crisis. It’s not like we are short of oxygen or food or manpower, what we were short of is political will and vision. My heart breaks at this thought,” she signs off.
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