Letters to the Editor

BPP – The Positive Corona Experience!

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 Parsis; Volunteers to deliver food, groceries and medicines to so many old people living alone, who were suddenly stranded without any help, whatsoever.

Now, the BPP is 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 in assisting people who were living in and around Bandra, Khar, Santacruz and Juhu. Thankfully, only a handful of people needed help here, but what a positive experience it turned out to be!

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.

There were some callers 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! Old people, living by themselves, had just no way to fend for themselves. The initial days of lockdown were truly overwhelming even for us able bodied people, so just imagine the plight of the old and infirm!

We had requests for help from Navi Mumbai and Kharghar- but had 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 and e-deliver; but for the senior people, who couldn’t use or couldn’t afford Swiggy and Zomato services, 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. Sourcing these was like participating in a treasure hunt!

Thankfully, the roads were absolutely deserted, so it took just 2-5 minutes to drive out to just about anywhere! Driving on these deserted roads was terrific, but there was always a creepy, morbid gloom in the air, with not a soul on the streets. It often felt like driving through a graveyard. Truly creepy!

We met so, so many interesting people along the way. All were full of gratitude for this BPP Home Delivery service, even receiving a tip from an 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, through 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 asked for prayer timings, along with preferred delivery timings during lockdown! 

We got to see some beautiful, majestic Parsi buildings. Buildings that I have driven past all my life, but never once bothered to really look at, left me in complete awe of the beauty the Parsis of yore 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 devil’s 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 of calling me, I had to tell her not to believe such false news. She sounded disappointed on hearing 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, a Masala Dosa delivery, it was! Another lady wanted Tetley tea, but it just wasn’t available anywhere, so I bought Taj Mahal instead. This taught me a valuable lesson – never mess with someone’s choice of tea!

But whilst I had just about a dozen people to look after (not daily), some other volunteers catered to nearly 40 people daily! These supermen would drive throughout Mumbai to deliver food and groceries across all its corners. Truly – supermen without capes!

BPP even started up its own kitchen and started catering for over 200 needy people. It’s no mean feat to set up a kitchen, get ingredients, pack and deliver so many lunch packs to so many people during a lockdown! And, it’s not just food that the elderly were in need of – they also needed medicines, soaps, tea, biscuits and so much more… even slippers! The fab 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 and needy during lockdown was such a blessing. A true 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 the lockdown ends and most volunteers get back to work, it’s time to take this opportunity to Thank BPP!

Keep up the good work, BPP! The old and helpless Parsis are blessed that you all so cared about them. Special thanks to all the lovely BPP staff who went above and 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,

– Zoru Bhathena

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