As Bengaluru struggles to deal with the raging second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens are going out of their way to help those in need. Despite some divisive moments, many people continue to stand with each other.
(Image above of Khasif Pasha, who helped a grieving son cremate his mother.)
Khasif Pasha, a 44-year-old local businessman and resident of Bismillahnagar on Bannerghatta Road, is one such example of a person standing alongside his fellow residents of Bengaluru in their time of need.
On the morning of 10 May, Khasif was fasting after Sehri during Ramzan when he received a call from his friend M Nanjundaswami, the Inspector General of Police, Ballari Range.
“At around 6.45 am, my friend Nanjundaswami Sir called me to explain the situation and asked whether I was in a position to help,” says Khasif, speaking to The Better India.
What was the situation about? Nanjundaswami needed help cremating his friend’s aunt who had passed away because of the virus. While his friend lived about 2,000 km away from the city, the deceased aunt’s young son who lived with her in an apartment complex in the Rayasandra area near the Parappana Agrahara Jail, was helplessly stricken with grief.
“Only the two of them (mother and son) lived in the apartment…The saddest [part of the] story is no one in the apartment complex, no one from his office, no one from his caste, no one from his linguistic group, no one from his class, no one from the bunch of his relatives who live in Bengaluru, no one from the temple where he regularly goes to perform puja, no one from the group of the priests who performed Satya Narayana Pooja in his house, none of his friends who attended parties arranged by the man in good old times came forward to help him to cremate the body of the departed soul (sic),” notes Nanjundaswami in his heartfelt social media post.
That’s why he decided to reach out to Khasif for assistance.
“Initially, I approached the people at Mercy Mission, who are very actively involved in COVID-19 relief work in Bengaluru. Unfortunately, they were overburdened with work and there was a long procedure they had to follow. Since I thought this was not the time to wait, I decided to take up the task myself. I noted the distressed gentleman’s contact number and address from Nanjundaswami Sir and drove my car to his apartment complex during the lockdown. After meeting the son, he told me what needed to be done—like getting an ambulance—which I helped arrange,” recalls Khasif.
At the apartment complex, Khasif helped organise a decent puja together with the grieving person’s mother, consoled him, and led the ambulance to an electronic crematorium near Kudlu Gate, where there was a long queue of grieving families and their deceased loved ones. At the crematorium, he ensured all the Hindu rituals were performed. When their turn came, he handed over the body of the deceased mother, collected a receipt and took care of all the dues.
“Finally, two priests performed the final rites, before we handed over his mother’s body for cremation. Once the body was cremated and the receipt collected, we left the crematorium. I also asked the grieving son to call me up with anything else he needed,” he says.
Not a One-Off Assistance
This isn’t the first time Khasif has extended a helping hand to people in need during the pandemic. He is part of a few groups of friends and fellow local businessmen who have done their bit to serve those in need.
During the first lockdown last year, he was a part of a group that helped arrange ration kits for the poor who had no food to eat. This year, he is working with friends and fellow businessmen to distribute oxygen cylinders or refill oxygen free of cost to those in need. Besides oxygen cylinders, they are helping people find hospital beds, delivering critical medicines and offering any other assistance over the phone.
“For example, in Bommanahalli, there is a friend of mine called Shamir, and Abrar from Siddapura, who along with our group of friends, have arranged oxygen cylinders. We are refilling them in Hosur and distributing these cylinders to anyone who needs them free of cost with a nominal deposit for the cylinder itself so that people don’t run away with them. Once they return the cylinder, we return their deposit. There is a lot of demand for oxygen cylinders that usually cost about Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 in the market but are now going for Rs 25,000 or more. Similarly, there are many other self-motivated people I know who are helping people. I’m a resident of Bismillahnagar on Bannerghatta Road, and one of my other friends in the area is organising oxygen cylinders just outside the local mosque free of cost, only after they submit a prescription from a doctor,” he claims.
So, helping Nanjundaswami’s friend was just another day in the life of Khasif.
“When Nanjundaswami Sir called me about his friend’s aunt, I felt terrible for her son, who was now all alone in this world. Watching his mother pass away because of COVID-19 must have been so traumatic for him. If we don’t help fellow citizens in such situations, then when will we? We keep talking about stuff on social media, criticising this one or the other. But it’s about what we do now. If we start taking initiatives ourselves, the world would be a better place. It didn’t matter what the person’s caste or religion was then. I did what I felt was right at the time. To be frank, I didn’t even know about the social media post about me that has gone viral until this interview. Others should come forward to serve in this manner, although there are people who already do like Dr. Nazar from the United Kingdom. He is assisting patients over the phone, while Vinay, a friend from Mumbai, is contributing money to our oxygen cylinder initiatives,” says Khasif.
Like many other business owners in the city, Khasif has suffered because of the pandemic. With his construction business, Khasif also owns a wedding hall, which has also suffered massively.
Dependent on him is his large family of ageing mother, father, uncles, aunts, siblings and children. There are also several workers and staff who are also dependent on him. Despite having to look after so many at home and work, he finds the time to voluntarily help those grieving and in need of assistance. When all support systems fail, it’s the kindness of ordinary citizens, like Khasif, that is helping people overcome horrific tragedies.
This is after all what defines the spirit of any city.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)