LOCKED DOWN OF THE MARKETS & VARIOUS FACILITIES; BUT NOT OF HUMAN LIFE AND THEIR BASIC NEEDS (a personal reflection).
INTUTION FOR PREPAREDNESS:
Hearing about a new Virus “Corona” from January 2020 tried to learn something about it . When 19th March a “Janata Curfew” was announced by the Prime Minister on behalf of the same, somehow I felt it is something to take seriously and I was inspired to give information to the Children and staff in our Centre. During the class on the 18th of March collected all the children together in our Centre and tried to explain:
- What is this Virus and how serious its effect is?
- What is the care and precautions that we need to take?
In normal life, the children from the local area do not have a habit of holding a handkerchief or cover their mouth and nose when they sneeze or cough. I focussed on that aspect that from then to come to the centre they need to take precaution and care. Also instructed that they should not touch, hold on to shoulders, or to walk closely, or even beat each other when they fight.
Again on the 20th what inspired me to have a Seminar and meeting for the Staff to give them full details about the origin of the Virus, how it spreads & to whom, signs and symptoms of infection, necessity to take earlier treatment, the seriousness of the infection and how to prevent the infection. Everyone understood it is the question of life and death and so need to care for self and the others. We distributed masks among the staff and prayed for the world.
For my surprise on the very next day the Lockdown stage 1 was announced from 22nd. In fact did not know what is lockdown and how the people are going to be affected with it. Very soon learned that the whole markets, shops, worship places etc were blocked & locked. A few days more the priest came to our convent for we cannot go to the church. During the Holy Week I felt the pain of not having the Holy Eucharist as the priest could not enter our society. The whole area was barricaded and our Society locked from all sides. Began hearing the Ambulances moving on the roads, got a sort of fear hearing cases of Corona +ve cases were found near our places. Since then, whenever the noise of the Ambulance was heard, I only prayed, “Lord bring that person home cured”. Then onwards felt that we too need to be prepared for further days of hardships.
MY FAITH EXPERIENCE DURING THE LOCKDOWN PERIOD
The Universal Church and the SVD centre “Atmadarshan” in Indore and our Diocese, provided us with online services of the Eucharistic Celebration and other prayers, daily and as per the Importance of the Days of the Liturgy. Yes, it was painful to shift to the screen for our spiritual necessities for it was never a practice. I truly prayed that I may be given that much Faith.
However I took to my heart the instruction by the Pope and church leaders: the two words: “Participate with Faith”. So it was not ‘to watch or see’ on the screen for me, but to participate. It really gave me meaning in this crucial period when no other way is available till other possibility is offered to us. Thus began to Participate in the daily Eucharist on Line though unable to receive the Holy Communion. That too was instructed with a special prayer and I did adapt it, though I felt something is really Missing which I long to receive it and long for that day “when it will come”? We were lucky at times to have the Eucharist celebrated at our residence and to receive the Holy Communion which was indeed a privilege.
I really thanked God for granting us the facility even in the lockdown period and thanked for those Institutions and persons who worked hard for the same. All I needed was to ‘change my attitude’ to the given situation.
MY EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL STRUGGLE DURING THE LOCKDOWN PERIOD
The first few days passed and began to see the plight of the slum people hungry unable to resist themselves from running out of their containment homes, just a room of maximum 10/10 sq ft area for the whole family & for belongings. Then the frantic shouting of the Police who are to guard the lockdown regulations.
As we work with the people of the Slums around, my first thought went on that aspect and for not my surprise I see, as long as the police are around with the sticks in their hands, they are contained within their houses. Immediately after the police move aside they all run out of their huts. Then what I fear is, if anyone in the whole slum get infected, it will be uncontrollable, as the huts in the Slums are situated adjacent to one another and the whole area. I could not sleep for many days fearing the situation of the space & facilities in hospitals, hospital professionals, etc. that is required, though much later things changed a bit. Now it has come to a stage that those who have money get the proper treatment in the private hospitals. Others?
Also I was struck by fear of the people and their basic needs. Everyone was by then hunting for food. Could hear some NGOs or government agencies provide packets of cooked food to people in some areas of Bhopal. How to reach to such a vast area of people and how much areas they could cover was a question. I was confused and with pain in my heart to help the people around as the children and women began to flock at our gate for they know we have a heart to help others. But How at this situation? We stay in a housing society and fearing of the spread of the Corona virus as the slum people moving around in the Society the gates too were locked and the people were on watch on us.
Those who have the below poverty line Ration cards were lucky to get some rice of wheat. But there were migrant workers and others who did not have such ration card and they began to feel the pinch of hunger and began to beg. We discussed this matter in the Community, and felt that we must reach out to the people as much as we can. We also felt the limitations of finance in the Community, the required manpower and facilities like vehicles. It was just 29th of March.
However we began with the stock we had kept for our Remedial class children who were coming to our gate. Then contacted our Provincial Sr. Zita and explained to her the situation and our plan for her permission to move out during the Lockdown. She supported and said to go ahead with the plans but with care.
Then met the local Corporator (Government Councillor) who was very cooperative and offered us help that we lacked as he said for such a good purpose. Together we moved to collect the stock as there was shortage due to shut down. But with the help of them we did collect the material needed to distribute so that the people can cook immediately and eat in the family. With the involvement of the Corporator we not only got more material , the neighbourhood Hindu Temple authorities generously gave us the Hall, to gather all the items and sit and pack which too was a sign of Solidarity and concern. Some of our Staff too cooperated with us for packing though with fear of contacting the virus.
We packed it in four days for about 1000 families. We Sisters, Kusum, Betty and myself (Grace) prayed for the accompaniment of the Lord and trying to be as per the instructions of the authorities as well as the help of the Corporator and His team of young volunteers with their vehicles tried to reach the packets to the doorsteps of the families so that the really needy families get including about 18 held up migrant construction workers’ families (who need continuously our support). We still have to find ways and means for that. We reached to four large slums to those in need. We were lucky that the day we completed the distribution of the items we had packed, the whole country was put on complete lock down. People who are really hungry still find the ways to come to our gate to plead for some wheat flour, some rice, some dal etc. We attended to them as we can. Also spend some days to collect and send some old footwear for those migrant workers who were struggling walking on road to go to their native places. All these little works of Satyadeep Jagruti Kendra, like a drop of water in the entire Ocean , gave us some satisfaction as Missionaries who are also struggling in this given situation.
Later on applied for an EMERGENCY FUND to Manos Unidas and helped out more than 1000 families and also goes on helping till now with the funds received from our families. Sr. Tresa and Sr. Wilma too reached to help out before the lockdown again. What we have, we keep sharing with the people who come to our gate. Still today the 31.7.2020 is lockdown in Bhopal (till the 4th Aug as announced) we have not run short of food.
There was a lot of pending work which I was unable to carry on with and had been repeatedly informing my Superiors. So I tried to look into them and tried to do something with it. Then, of course, from December we do not have any project in reality. So the worry & planning how to go carry our Mission ahead. Because when our New Project Proposal was on the way to be approved by Manos Unidas, Spain too was stuck with corona Virus badly. This lockdown completing the Emergency fund activities I believe God will provide.
What is more confirmed in my life now, is that whatever be struggles, God do not leave alone any of us committed to Him. We are provided with every need; be material, Spiritual or any other support system. God provides the best and there is no doubt about it. Even the people around tell us, Sister if you need any help just call and they really do come to help. “Wonderful assurance of God’s presence!“ We are so very grateful to all those who came in support of us and help us. There is my Faith sure, “If God is with us, who will be against us?”
MY LIFE ADJUSTMENT DURING LOCKDOWN
As usual I used to begin the day at 5.30am. I begin the day with some exercises and then, participating in the Online Eucharistic Celebration, then Community Prayer and continued with the life busy. There was no occasion for me that I was Bored, tired even if worked till the 5.30 pm continuously between short break for a bit of extra prayer and meals. Thus did not realize how the days passed. In between some time spent to attend to the people who come pleading for food, grains etc. Community prayers and some time together too are helping.
THE REFLECTIONS OF MY EXPERIENCE OF THE RISEN LORD IN MY LIFE AND DURING THE LOCKDOWN PERIOD
When I used to pass through very dry days in my Religious Life and had no interest in my life: He has motivated me to go to Him and pour out to Him, shout at Him, fight with Him and calm down to Listen to Him.
When I was shocked, blocked and found no way to be out to normal life: Jesus took me for a ride during a retreat and took away the block from front of me leading me ahead without fear.
When I was helpless and found no one to help me or to share with in pioneering times of the Missions and I had been shedding my tears: Jesus suddenly sends some angels to be at my side, help me and push on with the life and work with enthusiasm.
When I was confused and full of questions within me about my life, vocation and His own presence: the Lord always has come slowly to walk with me holding on to my shoulder and clarifies all my questions as on the way to Emmaus.
Whenever I know I have failed and gone astray: He has motivated me to retreat, reflect and realize; then to a good confession where I met Jesus to bring me back home.
When I had been without friends and lonely: Jesus had come to me and continues to come to me through various persons whom I know and do not, to make my life interesting and celebrative.
When I am made aloof due to criticism, sarcasm and ego of persons: the Lord used to come to me and continues to come to accompany me to stand up for TRUTH always, without fear.
When I had been tensed, anxious worried and sleepless: Jesus used to come and come always sooner or later to meet me and help me relax.
Many more experiences with the place and situation in order to thank praise and trust in Him. Each time when I have such experience I sing the HYMN M 15 (with Joyful Lips : Jesus you are my Salvation, Inspiration….)
Sr. Grace O.P.
Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.