Corona Diaries – Prittle Prattle News
Mr. Ashish Modak, a proud COVID Warrior
It was a Sunday 10th May 2020 night 08.45 pm; I was busy on my laptop working tirelessly for my Board Meeting (BM) in Singapore scheduled on 12th May 2020 with no time to breathe. Yes, working on Sunday – there are no weekends and no work timings in WFH. Preeti (my wife) in her usual astonished tone came to me and, in her typical childlike style, checked on me, “Aaashu tullla Mahitye kaaaa?” (Ashu, do you know?). Without taking off my eyes from the laptop (as I usually do), I replied, “No.” Preeti shouted, “Look at me,” I raised my eyes towards her, and she continued, “Sujay is going as a Corona Warrior into red/containment zones.” I heard it out and replied, “That’s great!” and turned my eyes towards the laptop continued my work – like Arjun, who could see only the birds Eye – I could see and think of only the BM coming up. Preeti gave me a look and left.
At around 2 pm in the night, I pushed away my laptop to get some sleep before I start the next day again. As I closed my eyes – Preeti’s words came back strongly: “Sujay is going as Corona Warrior.” With the work thoughts taking a back seat and this thought coming to the fore, I became curious, “What must be this COVID Warrior business all about?” My curiosity kept on overpowering the BM thoughts as one part of me was always struggling with the other that sitting at home is not a solution at all and I could see the country struggling and grappling for manpower, I was feeling for the health workers and police officers.
I went into the Corona Free Thane campaign details, and there was an inner calling to contribute to humanity. My increasing curiosity and my phone calls, Preeti pushed one at me “Tu saang ha tula vel nahi mhanun – office chya kaamat evdha busy astos” (“You tell that you are out of time – you are so busy with your office work”). I could sense the concern for me as she feared that I might jump in this campaign.
Assessing her mood a few days later I said to her, “I am inspired by you, within one month of lockdown, you started questioning me how can we help people in this lockdown, can we cook food packets and distribute to policemen, you started sending in tea and food/snacks to our building watchman as he might be finding it difficult for these necessities. Don’t you think this campaign is a great opportunity to volunteer for the country?” There was complete silence for 2 minutes, and she took a deep breath and said, “Yes, but?” I immediately lapped this up, “They will be providing all PPEs; there will be a three-time full-body sanitization, so the risk though exists has minimized greatly.” Finally, the bravo in her took over, and she said, “YES, I agree,” I could see her wet eyes when she said this. It was my turn to tell my little angels Saiesha (7 yrs) and Sairaa (5 yrs). They heard me out why I am going, and Saiesha instantly reacted – “Baba tu tar Khatron ke Khiladi aahes karan tu tar cockroach pan hataat gheu shaktos, mag Corona kay cheez aahe, but don’t forget to wash your hands now and then” (“Dad, you are a player who takes on FEAR, as you can hold a live cockroach in your hands, then what’s the big deal with Corona, but don’t forget to wash your hands now and then.” Soon I was about to leave for the campaign, Preeti and I were sitting across the sofa, and my angels were busy doing there drawing and writing, looking at them with moist eyes Preeti commented, “Kids are kids they don’t realize where you are going and dangers attached to it, they are so lucky to be stress-free.” I just nodded. As I was getting into my slippers, both ran into me to hug me and hugged me tightly, giving out the letters they had written for me. I could sense that our comment was wrong – their tight hug and tearful eyes made me realize that they understand the danger I was lurking.
The moment where I had to leave – I had the firsthand experience what a soldier must be feeling when he leaves his family behind and what the family must be dealing with while letting him LET GO.
I zoomed into the camp on a bike and reached the School where we housed. There I was in front of the COVID warriors from all spheres of life and logic. Pande Ji, an insurance specialist with his Pandeloji, Nilesh a turbo engineer with his excellent command on safety who trained me on the PPE usage, Palak Mantri (Guardian Minister) Avinash Ji who was too caring to take care of all warriors, Amit Sharma from a business family, Milind a piping engineer, Anil the rickshaw driver, Sanjay a corporate professional, and Amit Singh with a compelling character and loud shouts, Vighnesh a mechanical student his loud speaking and Neel again a young student still. They all made the slightest of fear in me, dissolve in no seconds. And I was ready to take the war ON.
The on-field experience was strenuous than I had imagined. The PPE kit (head to toe), the double layer of the mask (N95 as base mask + new cover mask), goggles, and face shield. There were strict instructions; whatever happens, you will not touch your face COME WHAT MAY (yes it was May month). There we were in a containment zone in Lokmanya Nagar in Thane with Sun beaming 350 C + (feels like 50), we were like a boiled potato, sweat dripping from the wet hair into the eyes right into the mouth, sweat drops on the nose making a tingling/itching sensation but we were helpless, and we told to be dependent for our safety. Extremely thirsty in the first 30 minutes but controlling the thirst! Finding it difficult to breathe under two masks and a face shield. I kept reminding myself, “It’s a War, isn’t it, so fight it, you have come here to FIGHT!”
We were all in a group of 3 with assigned responsibilities, one thermal scanning, one noting down the family details to enable contact tracing, and third administering immunity booster medicines. It was four-day fieldwork, and in a span of 4 hours/day, our group was scanning close to 500 people. One of the days was allotted a 28 storeyed Building by SRA (slum rehabilitation authority), and we had to climb up 28 floors scanning close to 8 houses on each floor. We would go door to door some would give us respect assuming us to be doctors and took snaps; those stuck would request us to issue transit certificate with leaving for their homes, and very few would be rude, but all in all, the community was quite cooperative. At the end of 4 hours, we would be exhausted by praying to lift us like a kid and put us on the bed. But back to the base camp, the support staff would be ready to re-energize us with Jaggery Water and Electral, bringing life back to our aching bodies. Hats off to the health workers who have been relentlessly working for the last 2.5 months in such hardship giving importance to their duty to humanity than their lives.
We now are in quarantine for five days confined to the school classrooms and waiting for our COVID Test to happen and then the results….but the test results do not matter what matters is the Results of our efforts towards humanity and an unfading hope that the world will Win Over Corona. These few days were the most satisfying pages of my life spent for the right cause, calling it the Corona Diaries. KUDOS & SALUTE to Preeti, my angels Saiesha & Sairaa, and my Mom & Dad allowed me this opportunity. KUDOS & SALUTE to the TEAM. KUDOS to RSS to create a well-organized campaign of a lifetime. Ashish Modak is a Chartered Accountant and Senior Finance Professional working with an Indian Multinational Company in a one-on-one interview with Prittle Prattle News.