While 2020 brought us the first-ever pandemic in our lifetime, many individuals, communities and organisations expressed their love in ways to heal the physical and emotional scars
This time last year none of us knew about the tiny Coronavirus. Today we are all fighting the invisible enemy together. The health crisis has perhaps taught us to love a little more and shown how human behaviour can help to face the toughest of times. Best known for his concept of the five love languages, American author Gary Chapman says that everybody expresses, receives and enjoys love through one of these ways. We look at how they are being used to keep the world going.
Words of affirmation
Neeta Duggal, English teacher at Shiv Nadar School, Gurugram, started taking online classes from March 19. Within a month she noticed that the initial level of euphoria, enthusiasm, and energy of her ninth and tenth graders was sapping. “I needed to connect and communicate better and consciously changed my conversations with them,” she says. The first step was to request and not ask the students to do something, whether it about switching on the camera, submitting assignments or following screen time etiquette. Her thank-yous also increased to express gratitude for every small or big task they did. “Many of us are feeling lonely now and when we appreciate or use more kind words, it is valued as a positive feeling to remain motivated,” she says.
The biggest change Shraddha Kapoor, who teaches Human Development and Childhood Studies at Delhi’s Lady Irwin College, perceives is the relationship with her students. It stretches beyond teaching hours now. “Earlier I never shared my phone number, but now I am on WhatsApp texting and chatting with them,” she says. Shraddha makes herself available for mentoring her students 24X7, most of whom come from backgrounds where they may be the first generation learners and live in one-room tenements. “The pandemic lockdown has thrown them into verbal domestic abuse situations and in spite of screen time fatigue, they look forward to the interactions,” she says. There is more openness and many students have told her how she has taught them more than their mothers could or did. “The essence of quality time with them is to empower them,” she adds.
With the closure of their most successful business model, the Sheroes Hangout Cafes in Agra and Lucknow, run by acid attack survivors, the Chhanv Foundation, Noida, UP, has suffered a setback during the pandemic months. The revenue from the cafes went towards awareness, treatment, rehabilitation and empowerment of many women from rural interiors who survived acid attacks. But not to be bogged down, Alok Dixit, who heads the foundation came up with an innovative concept called Gift a Story — an online platform for selling goods made by the acid attack survivors. It was put on a trial run during Diwali and did moderate business with candles, handicrafts, and statues. “It is an alternate venture. Every woman who creates a product for the market has a poignant story to share as a reminder to people to put an end to acid attacks,” he says and adds, receivinga gift that comes out of struggle of another person’s life acquires a different and purposeful meaning.
(Chhanv Foundation, U.P, is one of the winners of NCPEDP-Mindtree Helen Keller Awards-2020 for role model organisation from the disability sector or outside who have shown their commitment towards promoting equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities)
Acts of service
At 34, the life of Kiran Nayak. B, the recipient of this year’s NCPEDP-Mindtree Helen Keller Award for rolemodel person with disability isnothing short of an amazing journey. Before he was 18, he had suicidal thoughts thrice: when he protested his sister’s marriage at the age of 12, when he was confused about his sexual preferences and was teased in school, and when he understood the struggles of being born in an Adivasi family in a remote village in Andhra Pradesh. Rescued by a Bengaluru NGO, Kiran the transman afflicted with polio, chose to work on sexuality and disability issues in villages around Chikkaballapura near Bengaluru by reaching out to transgenders, individuals with disabilities and members of the Dalit community. He founded Nisarga and in the last eight years has helped more than 1,000 people with jobs, assisted candidates in obtaining subsidies and grants for self-employment under relevant schemes, offered vocational training, counselling, medical treatment, financial aid or food to the 4,000 members. Alone in his wheelchair, Kiran believes luck and time are never permanent companions. He says he is in a hurry to help as many as he can.
We all need a comforting and reassuring hug once in a while. But the pandemic has cut us off from friends and families even as we yearn for the warmth of a touch. The Hug Bubble in Europe and the West allows people to cuddle during COVID-19, especially senior citizens in care homes, who have been isolated from the outside world. They can now hold hands and embrace visiting relatives, separated by a plastic sheet.
Also during this festive season, the hug bubble is turning into a Christmas bubble to allow limited social mixing in the UK, Ireland and Scotland for a day on December 25. Up to three households will be permitted to form the social bubble in order to celebrate with their loved ones. To take all safety precautions will be the responsibility of each member. Says Jesse Jospeh Tincher, “We have been craving for social contact and will be extra cautious before my wife and I drive 3.5 hours from Devon to London to be with our kids and grandkids.”
The couple is following the protocols of avoiding crowded places, wearing masks, regularly cleaning door handles and surfaces, keeping rooms well ventilated, frequently washing hands. “We will continue to follow the same wherever we go,” he says.
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