News of Covid menace were pouring every day. Number of Covid affected people was on increase every day. My mind was numb with every morning news of people dying by Covid. I needed to be positive and therefore, picked up the book “My Life in Exile” by Freedom Warrior Savarkar, but my mind kept on wandering and wasn’t still and I couldn’t continue reading. I was telling myself that I must do something in this Covid atmosphere. Just then, I became aware of crusade “Covid Warrior” undertaken by “Rashtriy Swayamsevak Sangh” and “Janakalyan Samiti”. I was then undergoing Post Graduation and was staying in student’s Hostel of “Garware College, Pune”. I was pleasantly surprised to know that the lodging arrangements for these “Covid Warriors” were made in my Hostel only. I then started to find out about their activities in Thane. Incidentally, my mother, Mrs. Kavita Walavalkar, was then a member of Executive Committee of “Late Wamanrao Oak Blood Bank”. I got some information about the “Janakalyan Samiti’s” work in Thane. I was also getting many updates from many workers of “Akhil Bharatiy Vidyarthi Parishad”. Through these updates, one day, I learned the they are planning to form “Girls Teams”, just like “Boys Teams”, which were working in the field. I immediately decided to join the Girls Team. I took final decision of joining them during the night of 16th May. There was no question of any objection coming from my parents. As a matter of fact, this urge of “Social Service” was instilled in me by my parents only. My father was a full time Volunteer of “Akhil Bharatiy Vidyarthi Parishad”. I was observing acts of Social Services of my parents since childhood and was moulded in automatically.
The third batch of Covid Warriors was being assembled and on17th May all these Covid Warriors were brought together in “Shivasamarth School.” We were then had to undergo some Medical Tests. We attended few information and training sessions. We were trained in many skills, which included activities like “Use of PPE Kits, how to wear, how to un-wear and fold it properly and fill them in Disposal Bags. The Girl’s Team included six girls, namely, me (Surabhi Walavalkar), Namrata Kulkarni, Ankita Desai, Vaishnavi Gujarathi, Mayuri Patwardhan, and Ketaki Pawagi. The Girls Team then arrived at the auditorium of “Bharatiy Streejivan Vikas Parishad” at Thane (East). We were accompanied by Vaishali Taee Bhagwat, who was “Vistarika” of “Rashtriy Sevika Samiti”. Another Team of 15 Boys also came to same Auditorium for lodging. Our field work was scheduled to start on 18th May, but was postponed by three days due to some unavoidable reasons. Thus, our 11 days Camp became a 14 Day Camp. These three days were very difficult and at times we were thinking of dropping out and were about to return to homes. But then at one moment we decided that we will go back home only after executing the field work. Mr. Umesh Deshpande conducted “Vipashyana” training course in the mornings of these three days. This training helped us in stabilising our minds. In the process of Vipashyana we were asked to sit still and close our eyes for 10 Minutes. Once we closed our eyes, our minds started wandering in past. All good and unpleasant incidences of our past were keeping our mind occupied. The real achievement was to keep mind in the present and not allowing it to wander around. We were trained to achieve this objective. We were benefitted by this morning sessions of Vipashyana along with “Surynamaskar” and Yogasans. In the evenings, we recited “Ramraksha” and “Hanuman Strotr” which pacified our minds.
18th, 19th and 20th May was over. On 21st May, Mr. Surendra Champanerkar arrived and we learnt that our actual field work will start in the evening of the same day. I was very happy. It was this moment for which we were preparing ourselves all these days. We had learnt and practised wearing PPE Kit on the 18th May. But now learned the difference between our mock-practice and actual field working using PPE kit.
It was evening hours and the Sun rays were considerably slant. I was murmuring a Hindi film song “kahi dur jab din dhal jaye” in my mind. It took 15 minutes for me to wear the PPE kit properly on this first day. We walked and come near the entrance of a settlement. We were divided in teams of 3 members each. One girl will fill up the sheet containing Name, Nos. of occupants in the house, their Mobile / Contact Numbers, Any signs of illness, etc. The Second Girl was to record the body Temperature using Temperature Gun and third Girl was to distribute “Sanjivan” (Aayush) Tablets. Our two Girl groups, together visited 89 houses on the first day. During work on first day, once I had great difficulty in breathing wearing PPE Kit. I felt like quitting and stopping the work; but at the next moment I gathered myself and the energy started flowing through me and I realised that I can still work and should never quit.
We worked with increasing zeal on 22nd, 23rd, and 24th May. Our capacity and efficiency to work was also increasing. We had gone to field on the 1st Day in evening hours and were not bothered by the Sun on that Day. But next three days were very difficult. The hot afternoon Sun, profuse Perspiring in the PPE Kit, breathing difficulty due to wearing double masks, fogging and water drops our Sun Goggles and thereby impaired sight. We used to be without water for those five hours. Throat used to be very dry. Gloves were creating difficulty on the grip and writing was difficult. But we kept on and made huge efforts in collecting information from locals. We conducted survey of 189, 222, and 276 houses in these three days. Fortunately, our group didn’t find any Patient in first two days. Our second group found Patients on the 2nd day itself. It was a real test to exp-lain the situation to the residents. People were panicking if the recorded temperature was high. We used to tell them to keep their calm and to visit Doctors for further checks. Few people tried to hide their temperatures but in overall people were positive and responded well. Some houses offered us water to drink, some offered my beloved Tea. Our 2nd group was given a standing ovation in one lane and people clapped their hands in appreciation of our efforts. This encouraged us and we were ready with double vigour. We were helped by Mr. Nishikant Mahankal and other residents of Thane East. Mr. Uday Lele, Mr. Sanjay Prabhu Ghate, Mr. Mahesh Joshi, Mr. Sachin Lele, Mr. Tanay Dandekar from RSS helped us, guided us in achieving our goals.
We learnt on very first day that breathing becomes difficult, painful and troublesome when you are talking with wearing PPE Kit. So, on next day we kept on changing our roles after every interval. Most troublesome job was of that warrior, who was distributing Tablets. He had to explain to all residents individually, about how to take the Tablets, how many tablets at a time and when to take them during the day. Then there always used to be counter questions and they will also have to be answered. The warrior who was checking and recording Body Temperatures was at least botheration. Initially, during First two days we didn’t come across any Covid affected patients and we thought that there are no Covid patients. But on third and fourth day we found some patients with high body temperature, we felt bad. Especially, we felt bad, thinking about other members in the family. The worst painful experience was when a fifteen-month-old child was having temperature as high as 104 Degree Fahrenheit. We found 2-3 senior citizens above 65 years of age having temperatures as 102 Degree Fahrenheit. Their homes were very small and problem was compounded with 10-12 people living in a room. In such a condition, how one can expect them to maintain social distance? Above all, they were having a common Latrines and Toilets. Thane creek was also very nearby. These were the main reasons for spread of Covid pandemic. All these situations were beyond imagination for us, born as middle-class citizens. We had earlier, some experience of working in Tribal areas, but we were aghast looking at the such poor establishment in a progressive city like Thane. We felt that this vast gap between us urban citizens and these hutment dwellers must somehow be reduced.
We were under severe tension as we started finding patients with high temperatures. We had to hide our emotions because it wasn’t advisable to show our emotions, fear and tensions to the patients. I was trying my best to console every person coming across and was advising them to take due care. Once we finish our day’s field work, we used to go the designated Municipal School to dispose of the used PPE kits. We had to remove our PPE kits, fold them properly and put them in the “disposal” bag. Used PPE Kit were classified as “Solid Medical Waste” and were required to be sent to “Medical Solid Waste Management Centre” of an institute, namely “Enviro Vigil” at “Kalva, Thane”.
These four days of field-work were full of huge tension and fear, but we were also charged with indomitable energy and deep intention of working in any adverse situation. We never realised that how these days were over in the midst of human mind turmoil. We also realised, that if due care is taken, you will never be infected by Covid-19.
One more thing I enjoyed along-with this field-work was the excellent food offered in our Camp through efforts of Ketaki Taee Marathe. In my School days I used to go to Ketaki Taee for learning to play Harmonium. Now, I was meeting her after so many years and I cannot describe how satisfying was this meeting. Ketaki Taee and her Ladies Group pampered us with very healthy food with excellent taste. This healthy, tasty and delicious food gave us the required energy to our Field task in best manner. I heartily thank Ketaki Taee and her Ladies Group.
By 23rd many of my friends, my parents’ friend groups and relatives knew about my joining this activity. That followed many encouraging messages and phone calls filling me with more energy and determination to complete the task. But the best thing I liked was the testimonial given to us by Vaisahali Taee at end of the fourth days field-work. That was an unforgettable Testimonial. It said………………
“Exhausting body, mind and wealth
will complete this Social Life Task
will take my India to highest peak of fame
this is the resolve and is the determination
Crores are singing songs of “Hail India”
Proud of you
Three Salutes to your Patriotism”
We were very happy with this testimonial and felt that our efforts were meaningful and useful to the Society. As a parent, Vaishal Taee is best but more than that she is best human individual. Vaishali Taee and our group of six became instant friends. It is true that friendship happens naturally when minds with similar thoughts, similar objectives come together.
Experience acquired in these four days taught us many things and gave a new direction to our lives. Covid-19 patients are increasing continuously and it is requirement of the day to stand unitedly against this deadly virus. There is a need for many Covid Warriors and I request you that if you have an able body and spirited mind and if you wish to do something for the Society, then please join this movement. Country needs you. We the young generation of India should rise and march towards our goals and never stop at anything………….
Prayvaran Dakshata Mandal, Thane
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