The Saviours: Ordinary people, extraordinary courage
India Today Editor-in-Chief talks about the Covid warriors who are risking their lives to keep essential services going, in the May 18, 2020 edition of the India Today Magazine.
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The Covid-19 pandemic continues to sweep across the globe, infecting, at last count, over 2.6 million persons, and killing over a quarter million. The disease, a vaccine or a cure for which still eludes us, has frequently seen war analogies being invoked, mainly for the high body count it is inflicting. In the United States, the country most affected by the pandemic, fatalities recently surpassed those recorded during the 19-year-long Vietnam War.
Just as every unexpected crisis produces its own set of heroes, the war against the novel coronavirus too has occasioned extraordinary new saviours. These are men and women who have been thrust into the front lines of this new conflict to try and protect people from the onslaught of the deadly virus. Whether politicians or administrators, doctors or ordinary health workers, airline pilots or railwaymen, they have all put their lives on the line, not just to bring succour to the people but also to keep essential services going. They are our Covid warriors — people who have put themselves in harm’s way to go beyond the call of duty. A threat to life may not have been part of their original job description, but they are unmindful of this new occupational hazard. There are others who are volunteers trying to mitigate the repercussions of the crisis.
India Today May 18, 2020 cover, The Saviours.
Our cover story this issue, ‘The Saviours’, put together by our bureaus across the country, takes note of these remarkable heroes of the coronavirus crisis. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and these corona warriors have shown us how. This is our eighth consecutive cover on coronavirus. It ties with our 1999 coverage of the Kargil War for the most number of successive issues devoted to a single subject.
Where there is disease, there is sorrow. Something a journalist knows only too well. Yet, a walk through the Covid ward of LNJP Hospital, the largest government-run Covid facility in the national capital, was terrifying for both Associate Editor Sonali Acharjee and Group Photo Editor Bandeep Singh. Grief and fear stalk every corridor in the hospital, and emptiness echoes off the walls of the wards and lurks in the eyes of the corona patients who do not know if they will make it alive to the other side. “Getting a glimpse of the environment in which Covid doctors work makes their commitment, maturity and humility all the more commendable. Even though there was a great risk to our own health, meeting the team at LNJP and being able to take their story to the world was worth it,” Acharjee says.
Many of them have to work extended hours in uncomfortable hazmat suits — dripping sweat and running the risk of dehydration. It has also taken a toll on their lives as they have to socially distance themselves from their families. Hugging her young daughter is now a luxury she can’t afford, Kolkata-based pulmonologist Sushmita Ray Chowdhury told Associate Editor Romita Datta. Back at the hospital, she and her team of doctors have named themselves after historical figures. She is Napoleon, her colleagues Alexander and Helen of Troy. Humour is but a means to cope with all the despair around them.
Others have thrown themselves into their work. Truck driver Sarvesh Tiwari from Uttar Pradesh told Senior Associate Editor Kiran D Tare that he has no option but to keep driving his truck all day and through the night to transport foodgrains from Nagpur to Mumbai. Another carrier, of medical samples, talks of how he has to wear stifling PPE 8-10 hours a day as well as an adult diaper. Pilots are ferrying samples for testing and relief supplies across the country dressed in uncomfortable PPE suits. There is also the decorated Kargil War veteran and military doctor Colonel Rajesh Adhau, who now heads the army-run quarantine facility on the outskirts of Delhi.
Bureaucrat or social activist, young or old, they are all playing a part. If HSVP administrator Pradeep Dahiya’s ‘HelpMe’ app is streamlining relief disbursal in Faridabad, Ganesh Reddy’s Citizen Foundation in Ranchi is helping citizens maintain physical distancing. If 25-year-old Megha Jose is feeding stray animals in Coimbatore, 23-year-old Smriti Thakkar from Ahmedabad has become the country’s first plasma donor to save the lives of others. There are many such stories in this issue that will bring tears to your eyes and fill your heart with pride for these human beings.
True heroism is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. No one exemplifies this as much as the 28 men and women we have profiled in these pages. There are, in all probability, many more such people across the country. This is our tribute to all of them.
(India Today Editor-in-Chief's note for the cover story, The Saviours, for May 18, 2020)