Meet the bikers who are on a mission to help the needy survive coronavirus pandemic
From distributing ration kits and medicines, patrolling traffic junctions, to creating awareness about hygiene practices, many bikers in Bengaluru are working round the clock to assist the poor.
The quest to explore the unknown, take delight in landscapes and experience a boost in adrenaline – riding a bike is all this and much more. For many, it exemplifies freedom and a sense of joy.
However, with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the world has turned a little smaller as more and more geographies impose travel restrictions, leaving bikers with no choice but to keep a tight rein on their junkets.
Nevertheless, a few of them have been venturing out and barrelling down empty streets, not because they are passionate about riding, but to help mobilise essentials for impoverished communities.
The nationwide lockdown has especially hit daily wage earners, casual workers, migrant and contractual labourers the hardest of all. A lot of them have been rendered jobless, and are at risk for falling deeper into poverty because of a lack of income. Hankering to get to a safe space and struggling to secure their next meal has become routine in their lives.
Realising the anguish of such people, a slew of bikers across Bengaluru have been reaching out to thousands of indigent families and doing their best to distribute essential items like medicines, groceries, and hygiene kits. That is not all. The fervent young adults are also stepping up to assist the Karnataka government in managing traffic check posts, patrolling public spots to ensure social distancing, and painting markers for citizens to keep at arm’s length.
SocialStory got in touch with some of the bikers to find out about their journey and selfless service.
Catering to the vulnerable sections
Listening to the purr of the engine and opening up the throttle had become a part of Harshini Venkatesh’s everyday routine. A chocolatier and baker by profession, her tryst with bikes kicked off only about three years ago. But since then, the 42-year-old has been taking long rides and revelling in various odysseys.
Recently, Harshini started ‘She for Society’, a non-profit, voluntary community of bikers in Bengaluru, to uplift and empower the economically weak sections of society. The group now includes 15 women who help her in her efforts.
“We began with organising a 10-kilometre rally for Republic Day this year to raise funds for the families of some of the army jawans who were martyred before 2005. Well, everything changed after that with the outbreak of the pandemic. And, when we noticed the struggles of fellow citizens to obtain some of the most basic essentials, we could not keep to ourselves. As bikers, all of us felt it was our duty to do something for them,” says Harshini.
From the day the lockdown was announced, Harshini, along with her team of 15 bikers, has been distributing groceries and medicines in slums across Bengaluru’s neighbourhoods, including Ramasandra, Kengeri, AGS Layout and Nayandahalli.
“So far, we have successfully managed to deliver ration kits to more than 320 families after doing all the groundwork. This is in addition to the medicines we distributed to senior citizens on request,” notes Harshini.
Nagarathna travelled from the US to India to meet her 80-year-old wheelchaired mother, a couple of weeks ago. Little did she know that she would get stuck here due to the spread of the virus. One of the main challenges she faced while taking care of her mother was the non-availability of medicines.
“The regular suppliers in my area told me that her pills were out of stock. I later learnt that they were procurable from a store that was about 40 kilometres away. However, I was in a fix. Driving all the way there, amidst the lockdown, did not seem feasible. When I got to know of the service being provided by ‘She for Society’, I instantly contacted them. Within a few days, I had them at my doorstep with the supplies. This act of kindness meant a lot to me and my family,” says Nagarathna.
Dashmi Aise is a teacher by profession, but a biker by passion. The 37-year-old, who owns a 650 cc Royal Enfield Interceptor, traversed the distance between Kashmir to Kanyakumari on the beast, all by herself, in just 11 days. Dashmi was involved with social work before the emergence of COVID-19. Being a part of the Bangalore Political Action Committee’s B.CLIP initiative gave her the experience of being a civic leader for her locality in Vijaynagar.
Dashmi decided to extend her endeavour, even during the coronavirus outbreak, by setting out on multiple trips to deliver rations and essential goods on her bike. As many as 50 families, along with 200 women and adolescents, were able to live a little more comfortably owing to her resolve to ride 3,000 kilometres. From Tumkur, Magadi, Channapatna, Atibele, to Bagalur, the journey was not easy for Dashmi.
“I faced quite a few obstacles along the path. I particularly remember my journey from Bengaluru to Davangere, when I had set out to hand over medicine to a kidney dialysis patient. It was a very hot summer morning, and I could not spot any hotels or restrooms to freshen up on the highway. The protective gear I was wearing included hand gloves, a riding jacket, mask, and a full-faced helmet, all of which made the journey even more stifling. Anyway, I made up my mind to keep going considering the urgency of the delivery,” recalls Dashmi.
Joining government efforts
The Karnataka government’s Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) reached out to many individuals and voluntary organisations to help them maintain social distancing and order, as well as distribute essentials to people, during the lockdown. 24-year-old Ronith Sachin was one of them. The young biker not only distributed food packets and ration kits to several construction workers, but also patrolled public junctions and organised awareness campaigns about hygiene.
“Catering to the welfare of people is not only the responsibility of the government, but also the citizens. This is what motivated me to join the state forces and contribute my bit to those in need. I strongly believe that it is important for everyone to pitch in during testing times like these,” Ronith quips.
Edited by Aparajita Saxena