As India prepares to open up after its two-and-a-half month lockdown called to combat the coronavirus, it is remarkable how the pandemic has drawn out the best in us along with the worst, just as psychologists predicted. Not only has the crisis exacerbated and amplified our faults, flaws and neuroses, both as individuals and as a society, it has brought about displays of acute compassion and extraordinary courage.
These new Indian heroes did not content themselves with armchair activism on social media, ghosting rivals and choosing safe bets to comment upon. They stepped out of their comfort zones and put their money where their mouths are.
The Jharkhand government was not the only one to fly home stranded workers. Actor Sonu Sood arranged aircraft for 177 workers stuck in Kerala and helped them reach Bhubaneswar. He bought railway tickets for a thousand other guest workers. Sood is providing free accommodation in his Mumbai hotel to Covid warriors. Shah Rukh Khan’s NGO Meer Foundation has come forward to help the baby whose video of trying to awaken his dead mother at the Muzaffarpur railway station went viral. Tamil actor Vijay has donated Rs 1.30 crores.
But not all humanitarians are celebrities. Take the instance of Baba Karnail Singh Khaira, head of Dera Kar Seva Gurdwara Langar Sahib. It is located on a lonely stretch of a Maharashtra highway. Since the lockdown began, the langar has fed over 15 lakh people, mostly labourers.
Then there are feats of incalculable human resilience. Left without food and work, Rajesh Chouhan and his 10 friends walked and hitchhiked 2,000 km from Bengaluru to their UP homes. Chouhan lost 10 kilos in as many days. Days after reaching home, one of the men died of snakebite.
The question, however, remains as to whether one can expect the government one has elected to deliver on services and assurances. While the rich taking care of the poor, as advocated by the Prime Minister in his second address to the nation during this period, is the old Indian political philosophy of society maintaining itself, whither governance if duties remain unfulfilled? The masses having to depend on charity to sustain themselves isn’t exactly self-reliance.
Where the government faltered, citizens tried, if limitedly. May the force be with these heroes....