Kashmir’s community concern and crisis management is once again becoming a silver lining amid the gloom created by the second Covid wave.
As pyre-lit crematoriums are running short of spaces and JCBs digging ‘mass graves’ in cemeteries, a Kashmiri trader is firefighting for life amid Delhi’s deadly wave.
Mushtaq Khan is mobilising welfare support for “his brethren” gasping for breath and running short of stock in India’s capital.
Recently, when a Kashmiri student ran out of her lifesaving drugs, Khan, who runs a carpet store in Delhi, alerted his contacts to tackle the critical situation.
“We Kashmiris are schooled in the crisis situation and therefore crisis managing comes naturally to us,” Khan says. “But since we’re still in the middle of the crisis, we must support each other.”
This ‘helping hand’ gesture in a pandemic is making many believe that even in the apocalypse, the fight for life is worth it.
And Kashmiris facing a tough situation in their homeland for years now are only making full use of their lived experiences to deal with the invisible enemy.
Last year when entire India and the world were grappling with the pandemic lockdown, many Indians took to their Twitter handles: “Kashmiris, how should one deal with this lockdown?”
This social media runaway commentary only underlined the resilient lifestyle of Kashmir, which according to chronicler Zareef A. Zareef, has been helping Kashmiris to cope with the foreign curbs and control since the invasion of Mughals in the valley.
But now, as Covid has returned with vengeance, Khan’s tribe is only growing, with the amplified social media support.
On April 29, an SOS came from Delhi, where 26-year-old Kashmiri student, a Covid positive, urgently needed oxygen. She was alone with her mother in Chattarpur Enclave, and wasn’t familiar with Delhi much.
“Her mother was in tears when I received the message regarding her critical condition from Kashmir,” said Ashish Pandita, a Kashmiri Pandit living in Delhi NCR.
“I immediately contacted my doctor friends who visited the patient and gave her medicine and oxygen cylinder.”
Pandita said that he’s ready to help anyone from Kashmir in Delhi NCR. “They are my kids, my family,” he said. “Together, we can and we will win this battle against coronavirus.”
What’s equally sustaining this support system is Kashmir’s natural bent for community commitment. This synergy also stems from Kashmiris studying or working in different parts of the world.
“Let’s help each other,” Abdul Qayum Hamid Changal, a doctor practising in Saudi Arabia, said. “If anyone requires medical advice/assistance or counselling, you are free to contact me. May Allah help us in these testing times to come. Though far away, I’m with you. My duas are with you. Kashmir Zindabad.”
Apart from such faraway welfare engagements, the helpers on the ground are firmly holding the fort.
Lately, Kashmir’s ace welfare body, Athrout received an SOS from Kangan, where an 18-year-old girl was suffering from Crohn’s disease.
She was in urgent need of Remicade—a medication used to treat a number of autoimmune diseases—costing Rs 31,500.
“The needy family had exhausted all their resources and couldn’t afford to buy the necessary doses for their patient,” an Athrout executive informed the public through social media post.
“The doses were out of stock due to Covid-19, but Athrout ordered the medicine from Punjab and delivered them to the needy patient.”
This timely aid saved a precious life in Kashmir. And what’s also cheering is the fact that many of these welfare bodies now work in a league to mitigate the crisis.
Terming Athrout and SRO-Kashmir as “two bodies, one soul”, Mohammad Afaaq Sayeed, a social activist from Srinagar lately informed that the two welfare bodies recently averted an oxygen crisis in Kashmir.
“Athrout recently received a call for Oxygen Concentrator from a distressed family late in the evening,” Sayeed said. “But due to spike in the COVID cases, like SRO, Athrout has also exhausted its stock of Oxygen Concentrators.”
Since family could not be left unattended, he said, volunteers at Athrout sought SRO-Kashmir’s cooperation in helping the family the way SRO seeks cooperation from Athrout when required.
“At 10.30 PM, team Athrout reached Batamaloo and team SRO loaded the Oxygen Support Equipment into Athorout ambulance for the family waiting desperately to be helped,” Sayeed said.
“Alhamdulillah, help reached them. Salutes to the volunteers of Athrout Kashmir. Together we can always work wonders. Coordination and cooperation are in essence of selfless social work. We are one and shall remain one, always. Kashmir will prevail over this pandemic with your supplications. Insha’Allah.”
This support becomes significant when medical experts are predicting more cases by mid-May—when the second wave is likely to peak.
But as the cases are already escalating, a visit to Covid-designated hospitals is now being spared by Kashmiri doctors with online consultation.
Recently, Sohail Jibran, a native from Kulgam posted in Coronavirus Watch—a group of around 22000 members where doctors and patients interact with each other—“Kindly guide whether we need to admit the patient. RAT is negative but the patient has chills, cough and occasional fever.”
On this, he curtly received a medical advice: “He needs admission in hospital first, then we can do RTPCR and HRCT chest….Don’t waste time…consult your nearest health facility.”
The frontline workers posted in Covid-designated hospitals are equally going extra mile for patient welfare. Among them is Dr Pervaiz Sajad Shah.
Since the day coronavirus made entry into the valley, Dr Shah along with his team is on toes — taking care of Covid positive patients and the persons under quarantine besides his own routine assigned duties.
“He leads the team from front visiting all the affected areas to trace contact and source of the virus. The tireless efforts help in breaking the chain in red zones,” an online post on Dr. Shah reads.
“Spending several days and nights at stretch in the office studying the pattern of spread, Dr Shah and his team worked in such a friendly atmosphere in the office that helped them keep going despite physical fatigue.”
But amidst this Samaritan support system, medics warn against getting complacent with Covid.
“We Kashmiris may be crisis-managers,” says Dr Arshid Yousuf, a physician from Srinagar, “but Covid is the bigger crisis at our hand today.”