I hope all of you are well and staying safely home during this lockdown. I believe life is not going to be the same anymore, post our quarantine period which has once again reminded us lessons like, among others, the momentariness of life and the joy of sharing.
For those of you wondering about BRIDGE families, let me assure you that we are all safe and in the best of our health. We have been quite active during this lockdown in helping out not only our BRIDGE family members, but also several stranded daily-wage earners in Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram and parts of Mumbai. We collaborated with Hearts Beats India to reach food packets to stranded construction workers and some senior citizens. I raise a toast to our volunteers who walked out of the comforts of their homes and organised food packets for the needy with support from police who provided lockdown passes to our teams. I want to also acknowledge with gratitude here the generosity of some of our individual donors who opened their wallets to support our cause.
Of course, some of our BRIDGE families have been going through a tough time as they are not able to continue their odd jobs during the lockdown. I am in touch with all our 70-odd families and we have taken care of the affected families to some extent by providing them interim monetary support.
Even as I want to make this mail as short as possible, I must bring to your attention a few cases that were brought to BRIDGE’s notice recently and the help we have extended to them.
A few months ago, December 24, 2019 to be precise, deaths of three manual labourers shocked Mumbaites and others who heard about it. They were roped in by one of the housing societies in Chembur area of the city to clean their septic tank. They entered the 8-ft deep tank through the narrow opening and got trapped inside and within a few minutes all three of them were choked to death due to the poisonous gas inside. The deceased Vishwajeet Debnath from West Bengal (32 years) is survived by his wife, a 10-day-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, Govind Choratiya from Rajasthan (37 years) leaves behind his wife and three teenage children, and Santosh Kalsekar from Maharashtra (45 years) has his wife and two children aged 8 and 10 in distress. All three were the sole breadwinners of their families.
Although they lost their lives working for the housing society, the families did not get any compensation from the Society as a case was filed on the families’ behalf by the reputed lawyer Abha Singh who has fought and won the hit-and-run case against Salman Khan. She has taken up this case on her own interest without charging any fee. While the case is yet to come up for hearing, the families in question have been going through a harrowing time without any monetary source. I spoke to the wives of the three deceased persons after our Associate in Mumbai Prakash Pillai brought their case to my attention. Ever since I have been in touch with these families regularly. They all live in Chembur and Kurla slums and a few kind hearted persons had provided them with some provisions for a couple of months. I asked the building management to provide these families some interim help before the case comes to its conclusion, but they refused in the excuse of it being sub-judice.
However, nothing is sub-judice for BRIDGE as it cannot see these families suffer till the court orders a compensation. We have decided to provide the families a small monthly financial contribution to see through these difficult days. We are also in touch with the lawyer to secure some interim relief for the families. I have also asked the ladies of the houses to start some small business like making and selling some sweets and goodies to make the going less painful. The families are very grateful to BRIDGE and whenever they call me, they say, to quote their words, “Our god is living in Bengaluru”. Of course, it’s you my friends they have to thank for. The three families are united in their grief and we have asked them to talk to one another as often as possible and find relief in one another’s company. I want to thank all the BRIDGE benefactors for your monetary and emotional support because it’s only because of you that we are able to make a difference in the lives of people like these and show them a ray of hope.
I was also introduced to one Suresha’s family from Gerukatte (Dakhshina Karnataka) whose both kidneys have been damaged. He has a wife and two small children and a mother. He was the breadwinner of the family working as a mason. However, for the past several months since he was diagnosed with kidney issues, he has been confined to bed and has had to undergo dialysis. With no one to help, his wife has been forced to work in the field for about Rs 300 a day. She has to take him to hospital near Mangalore every week for dialysis which uses up almost all the money. The family was introduced to me in March and I asked someone to visit their home to make enquiries. The person came back with horrible stories of hunger and poverty. BRIDGE has sanctioned a monthly amount for the upkeep of the family from April 1 this year. Suresha and his wife called me after this and they only had tears of happiness to express. On their behalf, I thank you my friends for turning their sorrow into joy.
Friends, I have many more things to share with you. But let me wind up now lest I take more of your time. Once again, a big thank you to all my friends for your generosity, your faith in BRIDGE and believing and acting on YOUR power to light a candle to dispel at least some radius of darkness from this world.
You know what friends, often I wonder, how do we justify some of our spends when thousands of people out there unknown to us still live on meagre means… Suresha is one such example… The photographs of his family members disturb you for days on end… Let there be no lockdown on compassion…
Take care, stay safe