In this period of crisis, many amongst us have tapped into their compassionate side and become good samaritans for those in need. But if you speak to anyone in Kerala’s Kanjirappally village, they will tell you that Najeeb, a fish vendor and one of its residents, has always been one.
A former bus driver, Najeeb returned to Kerala a few years back to take over his brother’s fish business as he had fallen ill.
Alongside all his work, he always made time to help his villagers whenever they needed any help–whether it was providing water to those experiencing a shortage, palliative care to elderly patients, or distributing food to the hungry.
So, when he saw the number of COVID-19 patients escalating in the state, he immediately volunteered to help.
“I knew I had to do my part. And when I heard that soap was the best way to tackle this problem, I came up with a plan,” says Najeeb, who made a portable hand washing unit attaching a water tank and a set of taps to an auto. Along with this, he distributed liquid hand wash soap to people.
“I went around almost the entire Kanjirappally town with this portable setup, so that people could understand the gravity of the situation and the importance of washing hands”, he explains.
Besides encouraging people to wash their hands and maintain proper self-hygiene, Najeeb also decided to clean all the vehicles passing through Kanjirappally town for free!
“After enquiring with the health officials, I created a disinfectant using bleaching powder, antiseptic lotion and lemongrass oil. After making this in bulk, I got some volunteers to help out, and we went around spraying it on vehicles, roads, stores, bus stands and other public areas,” he says.
Along with these activities, Najeeb also distributed pamphlets and conducted awareness programmes on COVID-19 for people to get a better understanding of the pandemic and its effects. His wife Beena and two children are his pillars of support and strength, and actively involved in all of his voluntary activities.
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“A lot of people criticize me saying that I do all of this for publicity, but for me, it’s solely about the satisfaction of doing my part for the society,” he explains.
Najeeb also has a deeply personal reason as to why he helps the needy.
“Almost a year ago, I was hit by a lorry. The doctors had said that there was no hope, but after eight months of treatment, I can walk and do all physical activities without any assistance. So when you get a chance to live again, you might as well help save lives.”
In the past few days, several people have offered monetary help to Najeeb, but he insists that he is happy doing this work, and has no regrets in spending his own money for that purpose.
“I’m a small-town guy, and there are a lot of limitations to what I can do to help stop the spread of this pandemic, but I want to try my best,” he concludes.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)