They collect charity during the day and deliver it at the doorsteps of the needy in the dead of the night.

As the invisible enemy behind the “Third World War” stormed the valley in the spring of 2020, Maimoona grew fretful.

Mindful of her dried-up ration stock, hungry kids, and no scope of work in pandemic lockdown, she resigned herself to fate. But just when everything looked hopeless, two anonymous aiders appeared at her doorsteps in the dead of night with a ration stock and brought a smile on her battered face.

Two years back, her husband mysteriously disappeared. To her chagrin, he’s yet to show up. What happened to him, she can’t tell. Even the hyper-vigilant lawmen and law-enforcers in town are wondering about his fate.

“When we came to know about her living condition,” Ali, one of the two secret Samaritans of Srinagar, says, “we went to her address and delivered a ration kit at her doorsteps.”

The two friends started helping the helpless when the rampaging novel coronavirus made everyone captives in their home. Conscious of the previous summer’s induced destitution in the valley, escalated by the pandemic lockdown, salesman Ali and clerk Umar walked out of their homes to raise funds for needy sections of the society.

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The duo now recalls some springtime horror hours on the streets of Srinagar manned by the stern cops flexing muscles on the violators. During those troubled times, the duo’s modus operandi won hearts.

The considerate duo mobilised their contacts for aid collection and delivered it anonymously at the doorsteps of the needy people — without resorting to photo-ops or publicity stunts.

But even after bringing smiles on grim faces, the challenge for them remained to deliver ration kits in Red Zone, where many underprivileged families were silently suffering.

“We followed a proper plan and chose the night’s desolation hours for our delivery service,” says Ali, who doesn’t like the idea of talking about their work, for he thinks it defeats the very purpose of their cause.

But after realizing that it might create positive precedence in the community, he starts talking.

“We believe that volunteer work should be done anonymously,” he says, “be it providing ration, or paying for someone’s medical bills.”

Ali, by profession a salesman, came out in the time of a pandemic to help the needy while maintaining his anonymity. / Maroof Riyaz for The Mountain Ink

The duo’s priority in the Covid times is mostly daily-wagers—like drivers and labourers—who’re one of the most affected persons in the community since August 5, when the region’s semiautonomous status was bulldozed on the floor of Indian parliament.

The ensued lockdown escalated the already situational-battered economy. Apart from bringing economic engines and wheels to a grinding halt, the shut shops of Kashmir robbed many of their livelihoods.

“These situation-hit people are being overlooked by some overworked NGOs at times,” Umar says. “This is where we chip in with some support.”

But the welfare work in the curbed community isn’t always easy.

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The duo often runs out of stock and supplies due to the limited number of contributors. This, however, doesn’t stop them.

They often go out of their ways to help the deprived class by following their own protocol.

After collecting charity during the day, they distribute it in the night in a pickup van. Their volunteer transports the ration kits to the given addresses. After delivering the help at the doorsteps of the needy families, he finally heads home for some rest and recuperation—before repeating the process with another sunrise.

The duo says their stringent secrecy stems from the deep-seated stereotypes in the society.

“We’re acting carefully keeping some societal typecasts in mind,” Umar says.

“Openly helping a needy family has its own perils. These families might face slurs after getting some stability in life. Some of us might tease or spread rumours about them that they’re the same people who once lived by the charity.”

Behind this belief is the recent incident wherein a family requested the duo to visit them with help after 9 in the evening because of their ‘prying neighbours’.

“We’ve to make it sure that our volunteer work should not harm or make anybody uncomfortable,” Ali says. “That’s why we prefer night for relief distribution.”

An anonymous volunteer ready to help needy families. / Maroof Riyaz for The Mountain Ink

In order to find new cases, the duo does their own destitution-mapping groundwork.

Apart from troubled transporters, they came to the rescue of a tailor lately who couldn’t work because of severe backache. They also found a Class 7 orphan student earning for his family.

“Someone has employed him for Rs 200 a day,” Ali says.

“But what can he do with that insufficient amount? Will he educate himself, or support his family, including his little brother?”

The friends with a cause are today exploring means and methods to support the kid’s family as well as fund his education.

“We will do anything for the kid,” Umar says. “Helping him is to help our future. We all must come together to help each other and drive out destitution from our community.”


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