Normal life came to a standstill when the 21-day lockdown was announced with people scrambling to adjust to the restrictions the lockdown brought. And the residents and staff of the Godrej Woodsman Estate (GWE) – a residential complex in Bengaluru, faced the same set of problems that many are facing in the current times.
Schools and offices shut, senior citizens not being able to step out, children forced to stay indoors, the grocery stores running out of supplies and the security staff worried about losing their livelihood.
Naturally, the residents had to make quick decisions to make homebound life as easy as possible for all. And they have set a unique example for many others to follow, on how best to cope with the situation.
From getting nearly 700 kg of produce directly from a farm to ensuring their staff members are paid and well-fed, the residents have gone all out in taking amazing initiatives during the COVID-19 lockdown period.
A Healthy Staff is a Happy Staff
On one hand, the GWE security and cleaning staff were worried about their jobs. And on the other, the residents had concerns about security and the daily problems their workers would be facing during the lockdown.
Sweta Makhecha, who is a member of the GWE management team tells The Better India (TBI), “About 45-50 of the total 130 critical staff members decided to continue coming for duty during these days. In turn, we shut down the in-house canteen in our complex and turned it into a kitchen solely for the staff members. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are cooked and served here so they have to worry less about daily groceries.”
Sanitising stations and masks are arranged at the gate of the society following the hygiene norms set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Meghna Agarwal, a resident, informs us that the staff members are also given an option to stay back at the society quarters instead of commuting to and from home every day. Several security guards and cleaning staff have taken that option.
Helping Bengaluru Farmers while Stocking Food
Another issue that everyone was worried about was the supply of vegetables and fruits. Neighbourhood grocery stores were fast running out of supplies and whatever was available was not fresh. On the other end of the spectrum, the farming community became one of the hardest hit amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.
To mitigate this crisis, the GWE management committee got in touch with a group of farmers living some 70-odd km away to buy their produce directly. “Many residents purchased vegetables and fruits worth Rs 31,000 in total. The first batch of 305 kg came in on the 3rd of April and the second batch of 400 kg came on the 7th. We’re paying a little more than market price but we get fresh produce and the farmers earn a decent amount so everyone is happy,” says Sweta.
Once the truck arrives, the residents take turns to pick their bundles, mindful of social distancing. To keep up with the requirements of the entire society, vans from the Horticulture Produce Marketing Society also come to the premises regularly so residents don’t have to step outside the gates for essential produce.
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Food Kits for Labourers
The GWE residents also took the opportunity to help several daily wage earners and their families living across Bengaluru. GWE residents contributed Rs 85,000 to prepare food kits with rice, oil, salt, milk, tea, sugar, potatoes, onions etc to send to the needy families whenever they are informed of them via social network.
“In addition to this, one resident who works at a high position in a flour mill contributed 50 packets of 5 kg flour each. Each food kit we curated has sufficient amounts to feed a family of four for over one month,” Meghna tells TBI adding that when they are informed of a needy family, the team does basic verification before delivering the kits. “We have a total of 100 kits of which 70 have been distributed so far,” she adds.
Bengaluru Comes Together During the COVID-19 Crisis
Among the thousands of residents at GWE are elderly couples who are advised to not step out. When it comes to senior citizens whose children live away, life could become very difficult in the lockdown. To help them out, the other residents have formed a COVID-19 help team. This team keeps in touch with vulnerable residents and runs errands to ensure they are well-provided for and are safe.
Sanjay Bhatt, who is overseeing these initiatives shares with TBI how the residents have been proactive from Day 1. “We had started the initiatives a few days before the nationwide lockdown was announced. We are lucky that many well-intentioned volunteers stepped up so we could move quickly. Within a matter of days, they managed to get cooks, supplies and staff members ready. Now with everything in place, we can identify and help people in the most vulnerable situations. Certainly, a few nice things are coming out of the lockdown,” he adds.
A Network of Friends
One of the GWE residents is Manoj Chawla, a techie who has developed a network system to enable people to enjoy a fun session of Zumba or a relaxing session of yoga together every day. Think of this as an exclusive virtual club with special login IDs for every apartment. A schedule is set for the club every day with Zumba or yoga classes, antakshari competitions, business talks and inspirational talks for kids. If a resident wants to take a dance class they request a time slot. Once approved, the class is scheduled and is open for all.
“I have kept the system completely free of charge for the organisers as well as attendees. Only one class is scheduled at one time so residents don’t have to lose out on anything. So far, we have conducted family antakshari competitions, live dance competitions, talks by business people as well as sportspersons and classes for yoga, Zumba, art and craft etc. About 300-350 flats have attended at least one session,” Manoj tells TBI.
In unity, these Bengaluru residents have found solace. While social distancing is a must when the Coronavirus pandemic is in full strength, we need not lose out on social relationships. The people at GWE are definitely doing things right!
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)
Feature image courtesy: Sweta Makhecha
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