Within a week of the first lockdown, I came across an appeal by the BPP (Bombay Parsee Punchayet). They were looking for volunteers to assist old and needy Parsees. Volunteers to deliver food, groceries & medicines to so many old people living alone, who were suddenly stranded without any help whatsoever.
Now, the BPP are quite famous for all the wrong reasons; infighting, silly exchange of emails, and general acrimony over mostly everything they do. But we were sitting at home and quite bored…., so we decided to volunteer to assist people living in and around Bandra, Khar, Santacruz & Juhu. Thankfully only a handful of people needed help here, but what a positive experience it was!
The BPP set up a Volunteer Whatsapp group, with over 60 people!
Anyone who needed help could call the BPP Helpline numbers and the BPP staff would post the request onto the Whatsapp group; and the closest volunteer would do all he could to assist the needy person.
We had some people who hadn’t eaten properly for days, because they had no help, no maid, no cook, no tiffin, no way to buy stuff, no way to get out of their homes….. the list of helpless people was endless and quiet overwhelming to start with. Old people, living by themselves, had just no way to fend for themselves. The initial days of lockdown were truly overwhelming for us able bodied people. Just imagine the plight of the old and infirm!
We had requests for help from Navi Mumbai & Kharghar- but no way to get there and no one available close by to help. Thankfully many e-food delivery agencies were operating and we were able to order home delivery of food to their building gates for a few days. Lockdown wasn’t so difficult for people who could e-pay & e-deliver; but for old people, who couldn’t use or couldn’t afford swiggy & zomato it was real real real hard.
We even had well to do people who were stuck in their posh flats, but with no access to food nor access to e-deliveries. Having had the privilege to assist one lady (to e-order for her), she was most excited to hear that Nanking (the famous Chinese restaurant) was home delivering. But it turned out to be a name rip off Chinese Dhabha delivering from the BDD Chawls! Ooops!
People were unable to get out of their homes for anything. Finding simple things like butter and biscuits was difficult. Finding medicines was even more difficult; and then there were a few who relied on only homeopathic medicines. Finding these was like participating in a treasure hunt!
Thankfully the roads were absolutely deserted, so it took just 2-5 minutes to drive just about anywhere. Driving on these deserted roads was terrific….., but there was always a creepy death-filled gloom in the air, with not a soul on the streets. It often felt like driving thru a graveyard. Truly creepy!
We met so many many interesting people along the way. All were full of gratitude for this BPP home delivery service. Even got a tip from one extremely grateful lady. Having never been ‘tipped’ before in my life, I didn’t know whether to feel offended or feel happy. So we smiled graciously, accepted it, thanked her and drove off wondering whether it was right to accept the tip, or whether it would have been rude to refuse it!
But, not all people were happy with our assistance. One gentleman yelled his head off at me for delivering his food, thru his building watchman, in the middle of his prayer time. Assuming that everyone was sitting at home, idle, was just wrong of me. But we learn quickly, and now ask for prayer timings, along with preferred delivery timings during lockdown!
We got to see some beautiful majestic Parsee buildings. Buildings that I have driven past all my life, but never once bothered to look at. Completely in awe of the beauty the Parsees of yore have left behind in charity. Now, how to fund and maintain these majestic complexes is an issue we have been using our idle time to think over. And everyone knows an idle mind is the devils workshop, so BPP beware!
Our elderly friends also took extra trouble to look out for us. Like this lovely lady who telephoned me in a panic to ask me to shut all my windows as a swarm of locusts had attacked Mumbai. Though I was touched that she thought to call me, I had to tell her not to believe such false news. She did sound so disappointed to hear this.
Oh! And how can I forget an elderly lady who was craving for Masala Dosa. Butter was difficult to find, but thankfully masala dosa was not. So Masala Dosa delivery it was!
And one lady wanted Tetley tea, but it just wasn’t available anywhere, so I bought Taj Mahal instead. This taught me a valuable lesson….., never to mess with someone’s choice of tea!
But whilst I had just about a dozen people to look after (not daily), some other volunteers had 40 people (daily). These supermen would drive throughout Mumbai to deliver food & groceries to all sorts of places. Truly supermen without capes!
BPP even started up its own kitchen and started catering for over 200 needy people. No mean feat to set up a kitchen, get ingredients, pack and deliver so many lunch packs to so many people during lockdown. And, its not just food that the elderly needed. They needed medicines, soaps, tea, biscuits and so much more, even slippers! The BPP Volunteers went out of their way to ensure every need was catered to. Even picking up medicines from one end of mumbai and delivering to the other end. Watching other volunteers on our whatsapp group taking care of every request posted was itself a treat. What a positive vibe and what positive spirit!
BPP’s decision to set up a helpline for the old & needy during lockdown was such a blessing. Blessing for those who were helpless. And an even bigger blessing for all the wonderful volunteers who could step up, step out, and help.
As lockdown ends & most volunteers get back to work, its time to take this opportunity to Thank BPP!
Keep up the good work BPP. The old and helpless Parsees are blessed that you’ll so cared about them. Special thanks to all the lovely BPP staff who went above & beyond to coordinate all this. Thank You everyone at BPP!
In gratitude for being able to be a small part of this Positive Corona Experience,