By Rajkumar Bhavasar
Mysore/Mysuru: There was a sudden dramatic turn world over for the last couple of months with the outbreak of deadly Coronavirus where everything came to a standstill virtually and literally as lockdown was the only mantra that came as a refuge to help contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks to lockdown, while many employees who worked in shifts and those who worked late at night and who did not have the luxury of spending quality time with their families got some real good time to be home, there was another section of working class — the daily wagers and migrant workers — whose lives were shattered.
Lending a helping hand, the District Administration, Mysuru City Corporation (MCC), along with NGOs and individual donors, housed such shelter-less people at various shelter camps across the city. Their basic needs like food, sanitation and shelter were taken care of.
The Nanjaraja Bahadur Choultry Camp – now home for 73 people from different backgrounds — is not only providing meals and shelter to the homeless but is also providing wholesome entertainment like providing a platform for cultural activities to keep the depressed lot in good humour. These cultural activities create a positive energy in gloomy times.
Bringing out talent
It is a known fact that these people, who became unemployed with the lockdown in place, will not get jobs as soon as the lockdown is lifted. Hence, to help them earn some money, they are taught self-employment skills apart from teaching them aspects of culture including theatre training, singing and dancing. This is to keep them stress-free and also be entertained at least till they get back to their regular jobs.
While some are experts in singing folk songs, some are no less than any playback singers. There are also experts in games like Chowkabhaara, carom etc. Some people, who are interested in theatre, have conceptualised a play titled ‘Corona Bedanna’ and are busy practicing the same under the guidance of artiste Santosh.
Creative way to kill time
Dr. M.P. Varsha, Managing Trustee of Credit-I, who is leading this shelter camp, has turned the place into a hub of activities. “Donors are offering breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. But noting the personal interests of these people who are finding it hard to spend time, we thought why not draw them into cultural activities so that they will be physically and mentally active and at the same time healthy,” said Dr. Varsha, speaking to ‘Star of Mysore.’
“There is a TV in the shelter camp and we do get newspapers every day. But as most of the day is spent with no activity, we thought of preparing them for cultural activities. This shelter camp houses 73 people of whom 60 percent are quite educated. Each one is good in different art. Thus, we were able to draw them towards drama and other cultural activities,” Varsha added.
Making paper bags
Speaking about post lockdown, Dr. Varsha said: “Now donors are providing food and clothing. But once the lockdown is lifted, how do they lead their life as there is no guarantee that they would get work as soon as the lockdown is over. At least Rs. 2,000 to Rs.2,500 should be there with them for their immediate needs till they find work. To that end, they have been trained in making paper bags. They make paper bags after breakfast and after lunch, they get involved in cultural activities.”
“Many people and organisations are providing grocery kits to the needy and the kits can be prepared by members at this shelter camp. If the raw materials and food items are provided to make the kits, our centre members can weigh the food and make compact kits. If they are given wages for the same, they too can earn some money, Dr. Varsha said.
Talks on mental health
To keep the physical and mental health of these people, Dr. Raveesh of Psychiatry Department in K.R. Hospital, has been giving talks on mental and physical health. Also, yoga and meditation are taught every morning.
All these housed at the Nanjaraja Bahadur Choultry are waiting to showcase what they have learnt here. On May 2 (lockdown ends on May 3) there will be cultural events at the Choultry. All the inmates are preparing to host various shows. One of the highlights being the play ‘Corona Bedanna.’