Coronavirus: This Army man from Bihar is making and giving away masks for free
At a time when the whole world is fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Sudhir Kumar, a Junior commissioned officer (JCO) in the Indian Army, has gone beyond the call of duty and standing tall to fight problems at grassroots level.
Sudhir Kumar, 43, who is currently posted in Amritsar, Punjab, took a month-long leave to visit his family in Jatwalia village in Motihari district of Bihar, anticipating his daughter’s marriage to materialise. Sudhir had even taken a loan of Rs 4 lakh for the wedding, but due to the lockdown, it did not materialise.
Meanwhile, Sudhir got a message from his unit that his leave had been extended due to the country-wide lockdown. At the same time, Sudhir and his family were constantly keeping themselves updated about the spread of coronavirus in their village.
Sudhir says, while the people in his village had information about the pandemic, they did not know what exactly it was and how it would affect them. However, they were aware of the precautions to be taken. This led to the shortage of facemasks and other essentials in the village.
“When we sent our son to buy masks, he said there was shortage of masks in the market due to high demand. The ones available were very “expensive”, and cost Rs 200,” says Sudhir. But they decided to purchase the expensive mask, fearing the contraction of the virus.
Sudhir says: “After seeing the masks, we thought why not make them at home.”
Serving the nation
According to Sudhir, the Indian Army not only trained him to work in the Army, but also helped his wife in sewing and stitching as part of the family welfare programme few years ago. This helped his wife to make bags, which helped the family make ends meet.
Sudhir says, he got himself prepared to make and distribute masks to the people in his village. A sewing machine at home, raw materials to make masks, and a desire to serve the country in such testing times – he had it all.
Once they decided to start making masks, he found the raw material provider. To begin with, Sudhir bought material worth Rs 20,000, and also pulled out some stuff from his home such as elastic, threads, etc., and along with his wife started sewing masks.
“Our earlier plan was to do this for two-three days, but when I got a message from my unit that my leave has been extended due to the lockdown, I decided to continue this,” he says.
Sudhir adds, “In his 25 years of working with the Indian Army, all he has learnt is to serve the country, and that is his philosophy in life. It’s all about serving people - be it at the unit or in my village,” he says.
Helping the needy
Since the lockdown, the husband-wife duo has made and distributed more than 4,000 masks for free in their village, as well as in neighbouring villages.
Sudhir tells that he got the masks checked with a doctor in his district, who confirmed that the masks are as good as the masks available in Motihari district. The masks are double layered and made with Bihar's local 'astar' fabric with a layer of "sponge jali". He says the masks available in the market at present is being made from single layered 'sponge jali', and he is making double layer masks.
Apart from this, Sudhir and his family are spreading awareness about ‘social distancing’ in their village. The small muddy courtyard of Sudhir is also serving as a care ground for villagers.
Sudhir has also asked people to avoid reusing masks. He has told them: “If you have used it for long hours, you can throw that and take a new one from me.” He doesn’t even advice washing the masks.
He says: “I am keeping a tab on the information, and this time we all need to be extra careful. So it’s better to use new ones.”
“We want to help people in the society. Miya bibi silaai kar rahe hain, saamaan de rahe hain, aap aayiye, lijiye. (We are making as many masks as we can, and will give till we can),” says Sudhir.
While people in his village are aware that coronavirus is a deadly disease and want to take care as per the government’s instructions, they do not have access to many resources.
So, Sudhir has pitched in to help here too. Apart from masks, he is giving away other essential supplies such as salt, soaps, soybean, potatoes, and onions for free to the needy in the village.
Act of kindness
As an officer of junior rank (Nb Sub) in the Indian Army, Sudhir says, his earnings are not much, and sometimes not even enough to fulfil his family’s desires. But at this hour of crisis, he is using the personal loan he had taken for his daughter’s marriage to serve the people.
Sudhir has also learnt to use technology after being in his battalion (515) in Punjab. He says, this has helped him to order all the necessary items over the call, and the wholesaler brings the supplies to his doorstep, and Sudhir transfers the money online. “People who can’t afford basic food or are unable to find it in the market do not need to go looking for it anywhere. They can come and take it from me for free,” says the humble army man.
“I have one philosophy. Whatever I have earned and will earn will be spent on my family and for my country. “Doosron ki madad karne se mujhe paise ki kami kabhi nahe hogi, balki duayein hi milengi (by helping others, I will not have scarcity of money, but will only get good wishes),” says Sudhir.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)