Pandemic Heroes: Meet the Odisha mountaineer who turned vegetable vendor to help the elderly amid coronavirus
Stepping out of the home to buy groceries and vegetables has become one of the most daunting tasks during the coronavirus outbreak. Not only does the activity increase the risk of getting infected, but it also involves a whole lot of hassle pertaining to sterilising or disinfecting all the purchased items.
This exercise is all the more challenging for the elderly. Many senior citizens across India, who live by themselves, have been finding it difficult to put up with the long queues outside supermarkets as well as follow all the hygiene and safety precautions. According to the 2011 Census, around 104 million people in the country are above 60 years old, and they constitute 8.6 percent of the citizenry.
Nilachala Parida, a resident of Baramunda in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, has made it his mission to help the elderly. The 25-year-old, who is a national-level mountaineer, was about to lead an exciting expedition when the pandemic struck the community. But instead of feeling dismal about his adventure getting cancelled, he decided to help those in need.
In the last week of March, Nilachala set up a small makeshift shack near his house to sell vegetables, with an option of ‘free home delivery’ specifically for senior citizens and people suffering from illnesses.
“Unfortunately, I lost my father when I was very young. But, I have seen my own parents struggling to perform their daily chores due to changes in their body balance and muscle strength. Hence, I really wanted to do something to support the elderly in my locality during these testing times,” Nilachala Parida tells SocialStory.
Going the extra mile
Nilachala has delivered vegetables and other essentials to more than 80 houses in and around his neighbourhood so far. He has put up a bright-coloured board right in front of his kiosk, highlighting the availability of free home delivery along with his mobile number for people to reach out.
“I make it a point to personally go and deliver the provisions to senior citizens. Most of them generally drop me a message on WhatsApp along with the details of their address and requirements. Whenever I am out, my relatives take care of the sale at the shack. In case there is any unsold produce at the end of the day, I simply give it away to the homeless and the underprivileged,” says Nilachala.
The young mountaineer also ensures that his customers are fully compliant with hygiene practices and social distancing norms. He has created boxes which are four meters apart on the ground for people to stand. Also, Nilachala does not transact with individuals who do not have masks on their faces. He also makes his customers use a sanitiser as soon as they arrive and just before they leave.
An old adage goes as: “Real giving is when you don’t expect anything back.” The 25-year-old has definitely stood by this. Nilachala has dedicated all his earnings from the sale of vegetables to the PM-CARES fund, with a hope to uplift the most deprived sections of society during the present crisis.
Though Nilachala is glad to continue doing his bit for the community, he hopes the distress of COVID-19 ends soon so that he can go back to doing what he loves – mountaineering. He already has his eyes set on Mount Elbrus in Russia and of course, the ever-mighty Mount Everest in the Himalayas.
Edited by Kanishk Singh